Hundreds of protesters gathered in the central city of Ramle on Tuesday, October 15, to demonstrate against violence in the country’s Arab-Palestinian communities, calling for greater police enforcement to clamp down on crime. Since the beginning of the year, 75 members of these communities have been murdered.
The protesters marched from the al-Omri Mosque to Ramle’s police station, holding aloft signs and chanting slogans against Israel’s law enforcement authorities and condemning what they say is the police’s inaction in addressing the spate of criminal violence within the Arab towns and villages in Israel. Joint List chair, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), told demonstrators that the community’s protest “will continue until quiet is returned to the streets and the crime organizations are defeated. If we don’t keep on counting arrests and demonstrations, we will have to keep on counting deaths and funerals.”
Ramle was chosen as the location of Tuesday’s demonstration, one of the latest in a series of protests which began at the start of October, after a prominent imam in the town was shot on Friday night. October 11. Sheikh Ali al-Danaf, 40, was seriously wounded in the incident. Earlier in the day, the head of the Islamic Movement in Ramle held a sermon calling for action and protests against organized crime. His car was hit by seven bullets in what Channel 13 said was an attempted murder close to the mosque where he prays.
Tuesday evening, October 9, Mahmoud Agbarriah, 35, from Umm al-Fahm was shot when leaving a mosque in the city in which he resided. Responding to a reported shooting, police found Agbarriah mortally wounded. He was taken to the HaEmek Medical center in Afula, where the medical staff had to pronounce his death.
Agbarriah was reportedly shot shortly after leaving the mosque. In response to this murder MK Odeh tweeted “Tonight Mahmoud Agbarriah was murdered at the age of 35; another young man picked off during the prime of his life; another family whose world has been shattered by the pull of a trigger.” Odeh continued “This reality cannot continue. The public and the community’s leadership demand that the police confiscate illegally held weapons. The government and police must do so immediately.”
Hadash MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) and resident of Umm al-Fahm, said, “I returned to Umm al-Fahm from the massive protest over law enforcement’s failure in handling violence and crime in the Arabic society – only to hear about another young man being murdered – the third murder in the past three weeks.” Jabareen continued, “The situation is extremely difficult and we are pained by the blood being spilt in our streets. We will not lose hope because we have to continue fighting to change this bleak reality. We recently cautioned against the severity of the situation and the lack of security in Arab towns, but unfortunately, the bloodbath persists. The Arab residents have had enough of criminals enjoying full autonomy in their towns, and who continue to strike without being tried and punished.
In recent weeks the Arab communities of Israel have held numerous strikes and large demonstrations throughout the country to protest the rampant violence and the non-enforcement of the law in their towns. Arab leaders maintain that the Israel’s police largely ignore the violence in their communities, everything from family feuds to criminal gang turf wars.