Israeli Arabs go on strike to protest deadly crime wave

Israeli Arabs protest against violence, organized crime and recent killings among their communities, in the Arab town of Majd Al-Krum in Northen Israel on October 3, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 03 October 2019

Israeli Arabs go on strike to protest deadly crime wave

  • Israel’s Arab citizens make up 20 percent of the population and are descended from Palestinians who remained in the state after its creation in 1948

JERUSALEM: Arab citizens of Israel observed a general strike and held protests on Thursday over a wave of deadly violence within the minority community.

Schools and businesses in Arab towns and villages were closed following a call by local and national Arab leaders, and newly elected Arab members of Parliament skipped the official swearing-in out of solidarity.

Police say there have been more than 70 killings in Arab communities this year, nearly as many as in each of the past two years, when Arabs made up more than half of all murder victims nationwide. Earlier this week, two brothers and a third individual were killed in a brawl involving guns and knives in the northern town of Majd Al-Krum.

Arab leaders say Israeli police largely ignore the violence in their communities, everything from family feuds and mafia turf wars to domestic violence and so-called honor killings. Israel’s Arab citizens make up 20 percent of the population and are descended from Palestinians who remained in the state after its creation in 1948. They have the right to vote but suffer discrimination and say authorities treat them like second-class citizens.

An Arab coalition made major gains in last month’s parliamentary elections, and has made improving public safety one of its top priorities. The 13 newly elected lawmakers did not attend the swearing-in at the Knesset because they were taking part in the strike.

“A racist government has neglected us and the police have abandoned our neighborhoods to gangs and criminals,” Ayman Odeh, the head of the Arab parliamentary bloc, tweeted. He said the strike was to demand weapons searches, tougher action against organized crime and higher budgets for education.

“If there is no other choice, we will block streets to return safety to the streets,” he said.

The police adamantly reject the allegations of indifference and say they are doing everything they can to stem the violence.

“Police are continuing to speak to the leaders of the communities in order to try and prevent the incidents from taking place, but at the same time also working inside the communities, patrolling more,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

He said seven new police stations have been opened in Arab communities this year and there are plans to open eight more in the coming months. This year alone, police have confiscated 4,000 weapons and arrested some 2,800 people on weapons-related charges, according to Rosenfeld.

But he said local leaders need to do more to cooperate with police and to prevent violence.

“It has to come also from inside the community,” he said. “They can’t just, you know, decide at a wedding to open fire and shoot in the air. These are basic issues that have to be dealt with by the leaders of the communities.”

Thabet Abu Rass, the co-director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, a group that promotes coexistence between Arabs and Jews, says he has personally worked to improve relations between the police and Arab communities as part of the group’s public safety program. But he said there is still a security vacuum in many Arab towns and villages that allows criminals to thrive.

“In terms of public and private safety our Arab towns are kind of ex-territorial, it’s kind of outside of Israel,” he said. “While we are citizens of the state of Israel, the state is not here, not in our towns.”

He said there’s a high level of mistrust between police and Arab citizens that makes cooperation difficult, and that the lack of a police presence inside the communities makes people reluctant to come forward with information for fear of violent reprisal.

“We are willing to cooperate with the police in issues related to combatting violence and crime in our community,” he said. But “before cooperation, we would like to see a police presence in our towns.”


Egypt arrests alleged serial sexual predator

Updated 04 July 2020

Egypt arrests alleged serial sexual predator

  • Allegations have been widely circulating on social media detailing horrific sexual abuse and related blackmail suffered by women at the hands of the same man
  • Trending hashtags carrying the alleged abuser’s name widely circulated on Twitter and Facebook, urging government action

CAIRO: Egyptian authorities on Saturday arrested a man who allegedly sexually abused dozens of girls and women, in a case that has sparked outrage online, a security source said.
Allegations have been widely circulating on social media since Wednesday detailing horrific sexual abuse and related blackmail suffered by women at the hands of the same man.
One allegation claimed that he attempted to abuse a 14-year-old girl.
“The person accused of harassing the girls has been arrested and will be facing the prosecution following the allegations carried on social media,” the security source said.
“Those affected should submit formal reports of the harm they endured,” the source added.
The source did not identify the suspect.
According to the social media reports, the first of which was published on an Instagram account, the abuse had been going on since at least 2018.
Trending hashtags carrying the alleged abuser’s name widely circulated on Twitter and Facebook, urging government action.
Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW) lodged an official complaint with the public prosecutor to investigate the allegations on Saturday.
“The NCW has followed the social media account on Instagram, which was launched by girls and women complaining that a man raped some of them and sexually assaulted and harassed others,” it said on Facebook.
It also said that several victims, who reached out to the council, recounted that the man “blackmailed and threatened to defame them using photos and clips documenting his heinous crimes.”
The council urged the women to submit official complaints to the prosecutor.
Some online reports suggested the perpetrator was a university student.
The American University in Cairo acknowledged the suspect had studied there but said he left the university in 2018.
He “is not a current student at the American University in Cairo,” a statement said.
Sexual harassment is highly prevalent in Egypt.
United Nations surveys have found that most Egyptian women have been subject to harassment, ranging from catcalling to pinching and groping.
Egyptian authorities have criminalized sexual harassment since 2014, but many women complain that the problem remains rampant.