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Israel: Joint List boycotts first Knesset session and joins strike over police neglect

The Arab and Palestinian community in protest against the growing violence within the community and the neglect of the Israeli police towards it

The Arab and Palestinian community in Israel is holding a general strike today in an effort to protest against the growing violence within the community and the neglect of the Israeli police towards it, with the Joint List announcing that it will participate in the strike by not attending the Knesset’s opening session.

In a tweet posted yesterday, Member of the Knesset (MK) Dr Yousef Jabareen announced: “Tomorrow the Arab community in Israel will hold a general strike. As part of this protest, we in the Joint List will not attend the Knesset opening session.” The Joint List’s decision to boycott the Knesset session is to show solidarity with the Arab community it represents, as “We can’t engage in ‘business as usual’ as blood continues to flow in Arab cities with the police refusing to lift a finger.”

Jabareen also said in a statement that “Today, during the opening session of the Knesset, I will faithfully represent my constituents as a participant in the demonstration in the Galilee. We will be protesting rising crime and violence in our communities and the weak response of Israeli law enforcement agencies. The state is obligated to protect its residents, Arabs and Jews alike, however 95% of shooting incidents are in Arab localities.”

In response to the protests and strike by the Arab community, Minister for Public Security Gilad Erdan said that he had agreed to a request from the Joint List – a coalition of four parties mainly consisting of Arab Palestinian ministers – to meet with him on Sunday to discuss the situation. A command-level emergency meeting will also be organised by Erdan with the Israeli police force today.

Erdan acknowledged in a statement that “The crime situation and violence in Arab society is unfortunately intolerable and dealing with it is at the top of our priorities…This involves an emergency situation and it must be fought through all-out war as we fight terrorism.” He added :”I also call upon the Arab leadership to take an active part in the fight, to lead to historic change together and to bring security to Israel’s Arab citizens.”

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The Knesset’s opening session that the Joint List is not attending today consists of the swearing in of the new Knesset following its election on 17 September, which was the original date of the strike in the Arab community. During today’s one-day strike, the local governments within Arab communities will not be providing any municipal services and schools in the areas are to stay closed.

The strike and the Joint List’s participation in it comes amid a sharp rise in violence and gun crime within the Arab community in Israel throughout the past few months. In September alone, 13 Arab citizens were killed; four on the same day. Israeli police claimed that the main reason for the high murder rates is the “vendetta culture”, referencing the shooting that was allegedly committed between two men from different families in an ongoing dispute.

Police also accuse the leadership of the Arab Israeli community of preventing police stations from being built within their areas and of failing to sufficiently have criminals turn their guns in as part of an initiative 2017 when only three guns were surrendered. The same initiative is to be set up next month by the police, but there are fears that the result would be the same.

Leaders in the Arab Israeli community, however, reject the claims that those are the primary reasons, instead saying that the increasing murder rate is due to the inaction and negligence of the police and the fact that the state see the issue of Palestinians fighting amongst themselves as convenient and unimportant.

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