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Israeli Police 'turning a blind eye to killing spree'

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"People are wondering, how is it possible the police suddenly become incompetent only when the problem is curbing crime in Arab communities?" she told Middle East Eye.

Like many, Touma-Suleiman suspects foul play. She believes Israeli officials hope to replace the existing Palestinian national leadership in Israel with compromised local leaders tied to the criminal underworld.

"There is a rotten circle of interests between the police, the politicians and the criminal class to maintain a situation where Palestinian communities are left weak, divided and fearful," she said.

'Very violent society'

The police, on the other hand, argue that their efforts have been stymied by a lack of cooperation. Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, told MEE the crime wave was largely the result of a "failure by the Arab leadership to help the police".

The Palestinian minority's leaders, however, complain that they have found few allies in a years-long campaign to end the bloodshed.

That was highlighted this week by comments from the public security minister, Gilad Erdan, an ultra-nationalist ally of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He attributed the wave of killings to a violent "Arab culture".

He told Jerusalem Radio on Monday: "It's a very, very and another thousand times very violent society. " A lot of disputes that end here [among Israeli Jews] with a lawsuit, there they pull out a knife and gun."

Accusing the government of "blaming the victim", Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, observed that crime figures gave the lie to Erdan's claim.

In an article for Haaretz this week, he pointed out that, despite the large number of weapons in the occupied territories, the rate of murders among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza was little different from that in Israeli Jewish society.

Some 20 years ago, he added, the number of murders among Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel was identical. But in recent years, the rate had rocketed in Israel's Palestinian communities, to six times that of Israeli Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank.

Perfect storm

Thabet Abu Ras, co-director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, which promotes coexistence between Jewish and Palestinian citizens, told MEE that Israel's Palestinian communities had been hit by a perfect storm of problems created by officials.

A lack of public institutions, from police stations to governmental offices, meant they were effectively cut off from the rest of Israeli society. Poverty and neglect had created conditions ripe for exploitation by criminals, he said.

The state's confiscation of land from Palestinian communities and a policy of denying them new building permits had created serious overcrowding and housing shortages that readily triggered disputes between families that turned violent.

The absence of banking services in many Palestinian towns, and the difficulties Palestinian citizens faced gaining loans and mortgages, had strengthened the role of criminal groups. They lent money at extortionate rates that borrowers could often not afford to repay.

Weak local institutions in Palestinian communities and the state's cultivation of extended families as an alternative leadership had paved the way for criminal groups to intimidate local officials to gain control over communal resources.

And a major police crackdown in Jewish communities like Nahariya and Netanyahu in recent years had forced Jewish crime gangs to make alliances with organised criminal groups in Palestinian communities in Israel to continue their activities.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)
 

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