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Anti-government protests shift focus to spiraling crime violence in Israeli Arab community

Government criticized for discrimination in dealing with crime

Israelis protest against the government's judicial overhaul and handling of crime violence in the Arab sector, in Nahalal Junction in northern Israel, Aug. 26, 2023. (Photo: Anat Hermony/Flash90)

Protests against the coalition government took place in various locations across Israel for the 34th weekend on Saturday night. 

With the Knesset in summer recess, the focus of the demonstrations has shifted from the judicial reforms to other issues, such as the increasing number of deaths due to criminal violence in Israel's Arab sector. 

Tira Mayor Mamoun Abd al-Hay spoke at the main protest gathering on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv, just days after Tira Municipality Director Abd al-Rahman Kashua was killed

The day after Kashua’s murder, four Druze men were gunned down in the town of Abu Snan, leading Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to create a special committee to address the wave of violence in Israel's Arab sector. 

In his speech, al-Hay blasted the coalition government’s handling of the crime wave. 

“Blood is flowing in our streets, and what do the governments of Israel do? Dismantle the police, halt budgets that are supposed to go toward education,” al-Hay said, in an apparent reference to Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s decision to freeze funds to local Arab authorities that were approved by the previous government. 

The Tira mayor accused the government of discrimination. 

“I have been mayor for 15 years; the Arab community has suffered from discrimination and abandonment for a long time, yet this is the worst government that has ever been.” 

Al-Hay also blasted National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, saying he “doesn’t want to keep us safe.” 

“Whoever appoints [National Security Minister Itamar] Ben Gvir to keep us safe, doesn’t want to keep us safe. A minister who doesn’t want us in the country will protect us? A minister who hates Arabs will protect Arab children?” he argued.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid addressed a protest in northern Israel, where he called Ben Gvir a “despicable racist and a complete failure” in response to remarks that Ben Givr made in an interview with Channel 12 news. 

Some protesters carried signs which read, “Sorry Mohammad," a reference to Ben Gvir’s comments to Channel 12 news anchor Mohammad Magadli, regarding his family’s right to freedom of movement. 

After making the comment, Ben Gvir turned to Magadli, an Arab Israeli, and said, “Sorry Mohammad, but that’s the reality.” 

Opposition member Avigdor Liberman, head of Yisrael Beytenu party, and former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon – who served in a previous Netanyahu cabinet – also slammed the government’s handling of the Arab crime wave. 

“There is a loss of control. Every day something happens," Liberman said.

Ya’alon attacked Ben Gvir and Smotrich for being racist, saying that their leadership “will be bad for the Arabs.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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