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Do Palestinian supporters really understand what’s going on in Israeli/Arab communities?

Pro-Palestinian protest Edmonton, Canada, December 31, 2023. (Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto)

Anti-Israel protesters in just about any city around the world have declared their loyalties to the Arab communities, both within Israel’s Green Line, as well as beyond it, including Gaza and the West Bank territories of Judea and Samaria. But do they really understand the dynamics of what goes on in those communities?

Protestors focused on the lives of the displaced Gazans, are very sympathetic to their plight as they see them in the crossfires of this battle. Yet they seem to forget who put them in that position. Of course, almost any compassionate human would also agree that it’s heartbreaking to see the kind of bleak future that Hamas has imposed upon the people of Gaza – all in the hope of conquering Israel.

But while death and homelessness are the fruits that always accompany war, other factors also contribute to the suffering of Israeli Arabs. It’s not something widely known, but throughout 2023, Arabs were being killed every week, sometimes even daily, but not due to war. It was, instead, the result of Arab-on-Arab crime.

A staggering number of 244 Arab Israelis were killed in the last year alone in what has been described as a “crime wave” with the “highest death toll in the Arab sector, due to crime, ever since the establishment of the State of Israel.”

It makes you wonder how, in just one year, the number actually doubled. It’s even worse when you realize that the number in 2019 was only 89 – still too many, but nothing like today. Why are we seeing such an exponential increase each year? 

There are a number of reasons but here are a few. Police reports state that about two-thirds of these deaths were the result of murders that took place because of warring criminal organizations or individual criminals – mostly connected to family or tribal skirmishes. Another 7% were said to have been spontaneous outbreaks of violence and 4.5% were infighting within families, relating to matters of gender or sexual identity. A further 11.8% is unknown.

Sadly, the largest majority of these deaths were in the age group 18-30, representing nearly 50% of those murders. For those who mourn over the loss of Arab/Palestinian children, who are found dead in Gaza (although no one can be sure how they died since thousands of Hamas misfired rockets also resulted in the deaths of their people), it would interest them to know that nearly 5% of the 2023 deaths also involved children under the age of 17, likely accidental casualties of these tribal wars.

There was a time, not too many months ago, when not a day went by that our newspapers weren’t filled with these truly horrific stories of gratuitous Arab deaths, for which no one had a solution, given the nature of the fights and their often-spontaneous outbreaks. Political leaders and law enforcement were in a quandary as to how to handle these frightening and demoralizing events which were happening at a frenzied pace.

The situation was also especially troubling since these murders were mostly within Israel’s Green Line – meaning that they took place in such well-known cities as Lod, Haifa, Ramle, and in the Galilee and the Negev, as well as other smaller Arab areas. All of these major cities also contain sizable Jewish Israeli populations, and the concern was that they, too, would get caught up in these warring factions and become part of the deadly statistics. 

But the problem continued as unprecedented numbers of murders kept skyrocketing. Unable to control the crime, police complained that “Arabs do not provide the information necessary to identify members of their community who might be involved in committing these crimes.” And why would they, knowing that they could easily become the next victims as a result of outing their violent neighbors who wouldn’t hesitate to take out the informants in their communities?

This is the problem: When there are elements within a society who live by their own standards and code of behavior, almost anything could be seen as a justification for taking the life of another. Whether it’s honor killings, usually over the daughter or sister of the killer, or just a turf war or business deal gone wrong; for these residents, solving disputes through legal channels is not a normal option as it is for most others. It takes too long and it might not result in the kind of justice they are seeking – hence, they take matters into their own hands.

These troubling statistics are, sadly, not known by pro-Palestinian supporters who, more than likely, believe that all the ills of the Arab people are due to the Jewish nation which is suppressing them and keeping them from living good and productive lives. However, too many of them have ended up losing their lives at the hands of their own people. 

Unfortunately, no one in London, Paris, Germany, Australia, New York or Los Angeles demonstrated over these tragedies. Perhaps, because it didn’t advance a specific narrative that prefers to look at Israel as the enemy of the Arab people. 

Surely, in each of these cities, there are Palestinians who are regularly in touch with family members or friends living inside of Israel. So it can’t be that they were ignorant or uninformed of the bloody events within these Arab communities prior to the war that began on Oct. 7.

Are Arab lives only precious and not expendable when Israel can be connected to their demise? Undoubtedly, the war, which despite having begun as an unprovoked massacre of Israeli innocents, provided a convenient and opportune justification to heap anger, hatred and total blame upon the one country that, ironically, has done more to accommodate and help Arabs than any other Middle East nation. 

If we’re honest, today’s preferred political narrative takes precedence over all else. It’s a bit reminiscent of U.S. black-on-black crime, which gets almost no media attention or coverage until the crime turns to a black American dying at the hands of a white person – especially if it’s a police officer. Such an incident is not only widely reported, but it is declared as the worst of all injustices, adding another nail to the coffin of racial injustice claims which, to them, remain rife in American society.

Change the ethnicities, and now you have the same struggle, but one which is also being ignored here. But these growing numbers must not be swept under the rug. Those 244 lives, which were cut short, in the year 2023, at a time when a war with Hamas was not being waged, also need to be acknowledged so that a fuller context can be understood to bring a much more comprehensive picture to what is happening in these Arab communities.

Unfortunately, these facts may not change anything for politically-driven activists, who are adept at using distressing statistics when they hope to further their cause, but there also needs to be an honest reckoning of what is happening within the Arab community, because without that kind of critical information, anti-Israel activists will continue to believe the false claim that Arab lives don’t matter to Israelis. 

A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.

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