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Exposing Israel’s neglect, Arab mayoral candidate drops out of race after being shot

September 18, 2023 at 3:09 pm

Israeli policemen scuffle with Arab Israelis during a demonstration held by Israeli right-wing protesters (not pictured) near the family home of Nashat Melhem, an Arab Israeli who killed three people in a Jan. 1 shooting attack, in the northern Arab Israeli village of Arara September 19, 2016 [REUTERS/Ammar Awa]

The lethal consequences of Israel’s neglect of Arab communities and its Palestinian citizens was highlighted when a mayoral candidate in Nazareth withdrew from next month’s election weeks after being shot, in the latest case of violent crime spilling into Arab-Israeli politics.

Musab Dukhan was hospitalised after being targeted in a shooting in late August by unknown gunmen. He had been challenging the long-time mayor of Israel’s largest Arab city. Dukhan was also targeted in July when shots were fired toward his home, although no one was hurt in that case.

Dukhan’s shooting represents the peak of rampant violence plaguing Arab communities and increasingly infecting local governance. Criminals have reportedly grown brazen in attacking politicians seen as threats to their interests.

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“The shooting of Dukhan crossed all red lines,” unnamed sources were quoted as saying in the Times of Israel. “This shows how much the criminals are involved in the elections and want to take out whoever opposes them,” they added, while criticising the Israeli government over its response to criminal violence in Arab towns.

Murder rates in Israel’s Arab communities have spiralled out of control under the current government, increasing over 50 per cent compared to last year

according to a report in Haaretz. The murder rate for Arab citizens is nearly 18 times higher than for Jewish citizens, laying bare what many have described as the Israeli government’s failure to address the ongoing crisis.

Exacerbating matters is National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has a long record of racist rhetoric against Palestinians. With his far-right ideology, the minister is seen as profoundly disconnected from Arab communities. Arab citizens feel unsafe due to rampant crime and ineffective policing, in contrast to the heavily protected illegal Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.

Criminals have reportedly become emboldened due to the police’s failure to solve homicides, fueling revenge killings between rival gangs. Political tensions are also contributing as local elections approach.

A key cause of the violence spike is the suspension of funds to Arab municipalities, which harms local services and living conditions. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made lofty promises, he has refused real action.

Commenting on the shooting of Dukhan, the Ra’am Party said it shows the “dangerous situation” in Nazareth, underscored by the lack of security for Arab citizens. Ra’am vowed to keep resisting criminal elements seeking to control Arab towns through violence.

Along with Dukhan’s case, Nazareth has seen other political violence as the city struggles with uncontrolled criminality. The deputy mayor’s two sons were also recently killed in separate incidents.

This year over 170 Arab citizens have been murdered nationwide amid an unprecedented violent crime wave. The crisis highlights decades of discrimination and neglect by Israeli authorities who stand accused of abdicating their responsibility as the violence reaches record levels.

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