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‘March of the Dead’ protest by Israeli-Arab community calls for police to crack down on violence

Peaceful protest was aimed at drawing attention to dramatic increase in Arab deaths in 2023

Protesters carry objects representing coffins as Israeli-Arabs stage a mock funeral march in demonstration against what they say is the government's failure to address soaring levels of organized crime, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Aug. 6, 2023. (Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

Thousands gathered in Tel Aviv on Sunday evening to protest the growing number of murders in the Arab sector.

The “March of the Dead” demonstration was organized to draw attention to what the Israeli-Arab community is calling an ongoing problem being ignored by the Israeli government: The need for more Israel Police to be stationed in Arab towns and villages.

Since the beginning of 2023, some 141 Israeli-Arabs have been killed in criminal acts in Israel. That number is a significant increase from the same period the year prior, when there were 66 deaths reported in the Arab sector, according to the non-profit anti-violence group, Abraham Initiatives.

In contrast, the number of Jewish Israelis killed has stayed around two dozen deaths per year for several years.

Sunday's march was composed of three sections. In the first section, a group of boys were seen carrying 140 coffins, representing the number of Israeli-Arabs killed so far this year. The coffins had descriptions of what each person could have accomplished had they not been murdered.

The second group featured a parade of girls wearing white robes and holding signs that read: “Crime has no place in our culture” and “Security is achieved through actions, not slogans.”

The third section consisted of women dressed in black, carrying pictures of those who had died.

One of the march directors, Suleiman al-Amor, co-executive director of the AJEEC Institute of the Negev task force, said: “What is happening in Arab society is not happening in any society in the world, and we are asking for a correction to the neglect that existed for years.”

“It doesn't matter if the murdered person is Jewish, Arab or Druze,” said the chair of the Institute for Druze Studies (IDS), Amir Khnifess.

Khnifess accused the government, especially National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, of not caring for the Arab sector.

“The minister of pita and TikTok doesn't count victims. He's only interested in praising a policeman who breaks protesters' bones. He's in favor of Jewish terrorism," the Druze leader said about the lack of visible police response to the violence.

Ben Gvir recently requested the involvement of the Israeli Security Agency (ISA), or Shin Bet, to help fight against crime in the Arab community, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordering Shin Bet to help fight against violent crime.

However, many Arab leaders say involvement by Israel's security agency is not the solution, saying it would harm individual rights.

The Shin Bet itself opposed its involvement, arguing that it didn’t have a clear legal basis for investigating citizens. In addition, security officials said it would detract from the fight against terrorism, warning that agency sources could be compromised. 

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara also opposed the security agency’s involvement, saying it violates existing law. 

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

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