Opinion |

An Atmosphere of Terror, With Israel's Arab Community Caught in the Crossfire

חנין מג׳אדלי - צרובה
Hanin Majadli
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Israeli Arabs protest against violence, organised crime and recent killings among their communities, in the Arab town of Majd al-Krum in Northen Israel on October 3, 2019.
Israeli Arabs protest against violence, organized crime and recent killings within their communities, 2019.Credit: AFP
חנין מג׳אדלי - צרובה
Hanin Majadli

A month ago, the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee announced that it had formulated an agreement for managing sulhas as part of the effort by the Peace and Reconciliation Committee to fight crime in the Arab community. (The original initiative came from Sheikh Raed Salah.) The agreement, signed by all the local sulha committees, contains 21 binding clauses. Three of them are especially notable: One that says relatives of the perpetrator of a crime must not be brought into the conflict; one that says that families must disavow a family member who commits crimes and ostracize criminals; and one that says that a person who commits a crime shall alone be banished from his town (and not along with his entire family as was customary).

On the face of it, the committee wants to do its part and put its ties and social influence to use, especially since it is better acquainted with the Arab social fabric than any other entity involved. Perhaps it won’t be able to stamp out the crime and violence in place of the Israel Police and security forces whose failure in this regard is well-known, but it is trying to minimize the damage at least.

In fact, these unprecedented rules have turned out to be particularly important since in recent months there has been a growing trend of crimes of vengeance being committed against innocent people, against family members and other relatives who were not involved in the original crime.

Israeli police deploy as protesters demonstrate against community violence following the murder of Arab Israeli journalist Nidal Agbaria, on Monday.Credit: AHMAD GHARABLI - AFP

For example, this week, Manar and Khadra Hajaj, a mother and her 14-year-old daughter, were assassinated right in front of their home in Lod, and journalist Nidal Agbaria was shot to death in front of his home as well. People who know them and their families say that the mother (and certainly the daughter) and the journalist were all regular people who never hurt anyone, were not involved in any disputes, didn’t do anything bad – nothing at all for which they would “deserve” to be killed.

But the preliminary investigations revealed that all three have relatives who are involved in conflicts in the world of crime. It is suspected that the mother and daughter were murdered as an act of revenge on the husband and father who lives abroad and has entanglements with underworld figures. Agbaria appears to have been murdered because of a conflict involving his brother, something that has nothing to do with him. So in just one week we have three innocent victims who evidently were not shot by mistake or hit by stray bullets after getting caught up in a gun battle, but who were deliberately and premeditatedly murdered in order to hurt their family members.

The new strategy being used by criminals is to commit revenge assassinations of uninvolved persons, all the better when they are well-respected figures with high social standing, as many people have described Agbaria. A brother, cousin, spouse, even children – it doesn’t matter. They prey on those who are easiest to reach, and who will likely not return fire.

This is an atmosphere of terror. Anyone can be in the assassin’s sights. These terrorists who violently take people’s lives and break apart families and are destroying Arab society, which is being abandoned to these gangsters.

Much has already been written and is yet to be written about the police’s deliberate haplessness and lack of interest in genuinely and thoroughly addressing the issue of crime in the Arab community. In the meantime, until they find an effective way to solve the problem of organized crime, with no solution or effective methods on the horizon, the question arises: What else can Palestinian society in Israel do but make a direct appeal to the organized crime groups and the criminals who operate independently: Women, children and innocent bystanders are off-limits. So many of their disputes are over honor and ego, but there is no honor in murdering innocent people.

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