Israel’s two million Palestinians are regularly reminded of their second-class status in the Zionist state. This message has often been conveyed by those holding the highest office in the country including the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who incited racism against Palestinian voters with an election message that vilified 20 per cent of the country’s citizens. “Arabs want to annihilate us all – women, children and men“, he said last month appealing to Jewish voters. Facebook deemed the message to be in breach of its conduct and suspend the page of the Likud leader for inciting hate and racism.
This kind of anti-Palestinian sentiment has become a feature of Israeli politics. The latest in the ongoing vilification of Palestinian citizens of Israel were comments made by another right-wing minister, Gilad Erdan. Israel’s Public Security Minister dismissed the concerns of Palestinians citizens of Israel over the rise in violent crimes in their communities, by suggesting that Arabs were naturally violent and increasing police numbers, which is a key demand of the Arab population, would not solve the problem.
Erdan made the controversial remarks during a radio show in which he claimed that Jews resolved their problems through courts but Arabs pull out a knife. The root of the problem, he said, “has to do with the culture there, where many conflicts that here would end with a legal charge, there they would pull out a knife or a weapon. It has to do with how a mother can give an approval to her son to murder [his] sister because she dates a man the family doesn’t like.”
The comments have caused fury. A meeting between Erdan and leading Israeli Arab politicians on Thursday to tackle the rise in gun violence in the Arab community, is under threat. Senior lawmaker Ahmad Tibi said his peers are reconsidering the meeting over the minister’s racist remarks.
Ayman Odeh, chairman of Joint List of four Arab-majority parties, is reported in Haaretz saying that Erdan “prefers to hide behind racist claims and throw responsibility on the victims” instead of “claiming responsibility over the security of all citizens.”
Odeh accused Erdan of “dodging the facts,” and attributed the rise shooting incidents in recent years to a policy of “abandoning our streets. [Violent] crime in the Arab community is not the product of Arab culture, but of state racism; a ministry who sees us as enemies and refuses to protect us from crime organizations.”
Joint List lawmaker Yousef Jabareen also denounced Erdan over the remarks saying that the Israeli minister was “evading responsibility by blaming the victim.” He described the statement as “racist and patronizing” before insisting that “if the police had fulfilled its duties and handled crime as it does in the Jewish society, we wouldn’t reach the current levels of crime.”
Erdan is evading responsibility by blaming the victim. His statement embodies racist and patronizing attitudes. If the police had fulfilled its duties and handled crime as it does in Jewish society, we wouldn't reach the current levels of crime. Erdan should apologize and resign. pic.twitter.com/UpGvCdDaSu
— Yousef Jabareen (@DrJabareen) October 7, 2019
This month, Palestinian citizens of Israel began protesting against the lack of action by the authorities to stem a tide of violence in Arab towns and villages. Their major complaint was that the Israeli police was failing to demonstrate an equal level of concern and distribution of resources as when the safety of Jewish citizens is at stake.