Arab Israelis go on strike in protest at spate of murders

Six people where shot dead on Thursday in the latest violence linked to the community's growing criminal underbelly

Bystanders near a car wash in Nazareth where five men were killed in one of the worst crime-related shootings in Israel's recent history. Reuters
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Arab Israelis began a general strike on Friday to protest against the deaths of six members of the community on Thursday in shooting apparently related to an increase in criminal activity this year that is spiralling out of control.

Five people were killed in a mass shooting on Thursday in the northern Israeli city of Nazareth, days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a wide-ranging effort to tackle the escalating crime rate in the Arab-Israeli community.

On Thursday evening, another man was killed in central Israel in what is thought to have been a drive-by shooting.

That morning, a man and his three-year-old daughter were seriously injured in a shooting in a town near Nazareth.

The wave of violence is focusing greater attention on the domestic policies of Israel’s new government led by Mr Netanyahu, the most right-wing administration in the country’s history.

Ayman Odeh, leader of the Arab Hasash-Ta'al political party, said his movement "won't accept this [government] negligence. We will cause the whole country to strike until it stops".

In a statement after Thursday’s mass shooting, Mr Netanyahu said he “was shocked by the terrible murder near Nazareth”.

“We are determined to stop this chain of murders,” he said.

The deaths bring the number of murders in the community this year to 98, almost three times as many as were recorded all last year.

Speaking after the mass shooting, Mr Netanyahu said that he would be enlisting the help of the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency, as well as boosting police resources to address the violence.

But many critics of the government blame its far-right agenda for fuelling problems.

Last month, Palestinian-Israeli politician Hana Swaid told The National that the recently passed government budget was irrelevant to his community's needs.

"We didn’t see any money allocated for fighting violence in the Arab society, which is becoming the most urgent and acute problem in the community," he said.

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has a history of anti-Arab sentiment, visited the scene of Thursday’s mass shooting, saying that he “shares the grief” of the bereaved and describing the escalating crime wave as akin to the “Wild West”.

He vowed to tackle the causes of crime in the community, restating his desire to form a controversial new national guard.

Mr Ben-Gvir’s record is frequently criticised by the opposition. Speaking on Thursday, opposition leader Yair Lapid described the far-right minister as “the worst and most failed minister the police have ever known”.

On Tuesday, the officer in charge of reducing crime rates in the Arab community in Nazareth resigned.

Earlier in the week, prominent civil society leader Thabet Abu Rass told The National that the crime wave was so acute that "it is a deeper issue that must be directed by the prime minister".

Crime leaders fill power vacuum

Organised crime is thought to be a major factor in the surging murder rates this year.

Experts say poverty, a lack of banking infrastructure and a recent trend of established criminals fleeing abroad in recent years have left power vacuums that exacerbate territorial disputes among second-tier crime leaders.

Domestic violence is also thought to be a key driver of the rising murder rate.

Updated: June 09, 2023, 8:52 AM