The Hebrew University Department of Sociology and Anthropology congratulated its member, Dr. Areej Sabbagh-Khoury, for winning the prestigious Guggenheim Scholarship. Sabbagh-Khoury, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, has a long history of promoting the theory that Israel is a product of “settler colonialism,” which denies Jewish historical rights to the land. As a critical, neo-Marxist scholar, she has castigated liberal and neoliberal economic policies for the more current problems of her community.
Her Guggenheim project, titled “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Disintegration and Intracommunal Violence Among the Palestinian Citizens in Israel,” intends to discuss the issue of severe intracommunal crime and violence in the Arab society in Israel. Indeed, the violence has attracted public attention in Israel and abroad. The Israeli press compared Palestinian Israelis killed, a death toll that far exceeds the number in the Jewish community. Both the New York Times and the BBC reported on the phenomenon.
Sabbagh-Khoury notes in her proposal that Palestinian citizens of Israel have called for help from the state to the “growing intercommunal violence, from homicides to violence against women to organized crime.”
But, true to her colors, she immediately reverts to her theory: “This crisis is impossible to understand without attention to the larger structural violence inflicted by a settler colonial state on its minority Palestinian citizens.” For good measure, she also faults the neoliberal policies for Arab violence. The “violence within Palestinian communities in Israel has grown incrementally since the mid-1980s, alongside the implementation of neoliberal policies in Israel.” The neoliberal policies “have led to social transformations in Palestinian society: a Palestinian middle class has developed, and the bottom tier has become increasingly suppressed. Protection racketeering and violence against women are prominent violence plaguing cities and villages performed by Palestinians themselves.”
Sabbagh-Khoury blames Israel. The “Israeli state practices of population management, including continued dispossession, surveillance, and attempts to suppress nationalist political organizations, have also dramatically shaped the contours of Palestinian life in Israel, especially following the 2000 Second Intifada.”
It seems as if Sabbagh-Khoury conflates between Arab citizens of Israel and the Palestinian non-citizens.
Sabbagh-Khoury’s project then asks: “What is the relationship between Israeli state practices of political economic neoliberalization and colonization (in the forms of organized abandonment and dispossession), and intracommunal violence among the Palestinian society in Israel? What is the role of a settler state in managing violence among its minority population?”
Answers to these questions are included in her previous work. In January IAM reported an article by Sabbagh-Khoury , who argued that “the 1948 Nakba was neither the beginning nor the end of a process of settler-colonial expropriation.” In another article, Sabbagh-Khoury discussed Israel’s mixed cities of Arabs and Jews, that they “result of Israeli’s policies of settler colonialism” where the “Israeli establishment constantly strives to exclude Palestinians from these cities and to make their continued existence there difficult.”
Sabbagh-Khoury also proposes to discuss “Israel’s ongoing policy of Judaizing these cities, of exercising its control over them, and its attempts to remove Palestinians from them and erase them from their history. Because these cities have been absent as Palestinian cities… since the advent of the Nakba,” she wrote.
However, ignoring the Palestinian-initiated wars against Israel absolves them from taking any responsibility.
She also states that her project seeks to contribute to comparative and historical scholarships on “minoritarian violence, discovering what the Palestinians-in-Israel case can illuminate for other cases of intracommunal violence, especially those in settler colonial states.” In other words, the project does not seek to investigate what triggers violence in Arab society and why Arab men insist on subjugating their women. Instead, the project wishes to discuss “settler colonial states” – a euphemism for blaming the West for Arab violence and failures.
As a sociologist, Sabbagh-Khoury chooses to produce another meaningless report replete with critical, neo-Marxist jargon, which does nothing to advance solutions to the crisis. Worse, this project is a thinly disguised effort to bash Israel.
The Hebrew University and the Guggenheim Foundation should notice that valuable resources are being wasted on pushing outlandish theories that shed little light on contemporary problems. Indeed, Israeli universities wish to help Arab scholars advance their careers, who, in return, bash Israel.
16 December at 15:21 · ברכות לד”ר אריז’ סבאע’-ח’ורי על זכייתה במלגת גוגנהיים היוקרתית. את התקציר והשם המלא של ההצעה ניתן לקרוא כאן: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Disintegration and Intracommunal Violence Among the Palestinian Citizens in IsraelAbstractSince the turn of the century, Palestinians in Israel have called for a significant response from the Israeli state to the growing intercommunal violence, from homicides to violence against women to organized crime. The declared crisis is impossible to understand without attention to the larger structural violence inflicted by a settler colonial state on its minority Palestinian citizens. By most accounts, non-political (i.e., non-nationalist) violence within Palestinian communities in Israel has grown incrementally since the mid-1980s, alongside the implementation of neoliberal policies in Israel. Together, these have led to social transformations in Palestinian society: a Palestinian middle class has developed, and the bottom tier has become increasingly suppressed. Protection racketeering and violence against women are prominent violences plaguing cities and villages performed by Palestinians themselves. Israeli state practices of population management, including continued dispossession, surveillance, and attempts to suppress nationalist political organizations, have also dramatically shaped the contours of Palestinian life in Israel, especially following the 2000 Second Intifada. But intracommunal violence is neither neutral nor natural, its origins never inevitable. The project asks the following: What is the relationship between Israeli state practices of political economic neoliberalization and colonization (in the forms of organized abandonment and dispossession), and intracommunal violence among the Palestinian society in Israel? What is the role of a settler state in managing violence among its minority population? The project seeks to contribute to the growing comparative and historical scholarship on minoritarian violence, discovering what the Palestinians-in-Israel case can illuminate for other cases of intracommunal violence, especially those in settler colonial states.
Violent Crime Spikes Among Arabs in Israel as Officials Admit Neglect
Killings of Arabs by Arabs have soared in Israel. The prevailing assumption, an official said, was “as long as they are killing each other, that’s their problem.”
Oct. 2, 2021
TAIBEH, Israel — After a day of work in construction, Alaa Sarsour, 25, showered, dressed and walked the short distance to his friend’s pre-wedding henna party in a cobbled alley festooned with ribbons in the old heart of Taibeh, an Arab town in central Israel.
Suddenly, mid-celebration, a wild burst of bullets split the cool night air, hitting Mr. Sarsour and five other guests. Mr. Sarsour died in his brother’s lap, relatives said, apparently the victim of a simmering feud between the gunman — a friend of the groom who had been at the party moments earlier — and a member of Mr. Sarsour’s family.
The shooting last week was just one of at least 16 homicides in Israel’s Arab communities last month, and one of nearly 100 so far this year.
The killings — not by Israeli soldiers but by Arab criminals — account for about 70 percent of all Israeli homicides, though Arabs represent just over 20 percent of the population. The surging violence has shocked the country and put a spotlight on what the government acknowledges to have been decades of neglect of crime in Arab communities.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has described the violence as a “national blight” and will head a new ministerial task force to combat the problem that is set to meet on Sunday.
Omer Bar-Lev, who as Israel’s minister of public security oversees the country’s police force, decried what he said was “the prevailing assumption that as long as they are killing each other, that’s their problem.”
The spike in killings has spawned an “Arab Lives Matter” campaign. But unlike the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, Arab leaders are begging for police action.
“Can the Israel police really not overcome a bunch of criminal gangs?” demanded Ayman Odeh, the leader of an Arab alliance in Israel’s Parliament, at a demonstration last week. “Of course it can, but to put it simply, it treats us as its backyard.”
The number of homicides within the Arab community has spiraled in recent years, from 58 in 2013, according to the police, to about 97 in 2020, and at least 98 so far this year. An Arab citizen of Israel is far more likely to get killed by a fellow Arab than by the Israeli police, and more Arabs have been killed by Arabs in Israel so far this year than have been killed by Israeli security forces in confrontations in the occupied West Bank, which receive much greater attention.
Fewer than a quarter of the cases have been solved, a symptom, critics say, of both police indifference and Arab distrust of the police.
Out of more than 3,300 shootings in Arab communities in 2019, only five percent resulted in indictments, which the police say is a result of difficulty in gathering evidence and locating suspects and witnesses.
In an impassioned Twitter thread the morning after the Taibeh wedding shooting, Mr. Bar-Lev, the minister of public security, blamed decades of government neglect for the problems of Arab communities, and declared combating crime there the central mission of his ministry and the police.
Arab leaders, experts and government officials attribute the spike in internecine violence mostly to the rise of well-armed Arab crime organizations involved in loan sharking and protection rackets, brutally enforced by ranks of unemployed, aimless youths eager to be foot soldiers for easy money.
But personal grudges, small land disputes between neighbors or even petty slights between schoolchildren add to the numbers, sometimes escalating into deadly clan vendettas. Guns have also been turned against women in cases of domestic violence and so-called “honor killings.”
Disputes easily turn lethal because Arab communities are awash in illegal weapons.
Estimates of illegal guns in Arab communities range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands, though the Arab population of Israel numbers under two million. “Nobody really knows how to quantify it,” says Tomer Lotan, the director-general of the Ministry of Public Security.
Arab politicians and activists have organized mass protests calling for government intervention. Mothers of victims marched from the northern city of Haifa to Jerusalem last year and in recent weeks have staged protests near Mr. Bar-Lev’s house.
“Every day they make promises and plans, him included,” said Watfa Jabali, 52, a Taibeh shopkeeper and activist who lost a son to gun violence. “And we hear on the news about another murder and another and another.”
As the numbers have increased, the killings have only become more brazen.
A month ago, Anas al-Wahwah, 18, an outstanding student and youth volunteer with the Israeli ambulance service, was shot at close range at noon while waiting for his mother in a car in the center of Lod, a mixed Jewish-Arab town in central Israel.
In April, a woman, Suha Mansour, was shot dead at a beauty parlor she ran in Tira, five miles from Taibeh. One Saturday afternoon in June, a couple and their teenage daughter were killed while driving along a highway in northern Israel.
Many Arab citizens question how a technologically advanced country like Israel, which had the intelligence capabilities to pilfer nuclear files out of Iran and to round up six escaped Palestinian prisoners within a week, has been unable to break up a few local criminal gangs.
Some are skeptical of the authorities’ intentions, believing that they have deliberately let violence run amok in order to weaken the Arab minority in Israel, which largely identifies as Palestinian.
“It is all part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Jamal Fattum, 47, a lawyer and social activist from the Arab town of Nahef, in northern Israel. “We are part of the Palestinian people, who have national aspirations.”
Mr. Fattum, who has helped organize protests against violence and government inaction, has at least 10 security cameras monitoring his upscale residence. But one night in April his family awoke to shooting at the house and a boom as their car went up in flames. A bullet pierced the thick, wooden front door and lodged high in his dining room wall.
Mr. Fattum said he had no idea who the masked assailants were or what they may have wanted, other than to silence him. The police have investigated but made no arrests.
But in many cases, victims refuse to cooperate.
Whether out of mistrust of the police, fear of revenge, or both, officials and experts say, witnesses and relatives of victims often stick to a code of silence. Some crime scenes are cleaned up before the police arrive.
In the case of the wedding party, a suspect was swiftly apprehended. But once the case comes to court, the father of the groom, Nasser Barabra, said, there would be no witnesses, even though the gunman was unmasked.
“We didn’t see anything,” said Mr. Barabra, a house painter. Speaking in his home a day after the family had gone from Mr. Sarsour’s funeral to what they said was a joyless wedding ceremony, he added, “Some people walk around with guns and some people walk around with fear.”
Distraught female relatives of the victim, mourning in a house nearby, claimed they did not know the identity of the gunman, who was a neighbor. They were scared, they said, and wanted no more trouble.
Successive Israeli governments have made promises and proposed plans of action. A commission including the directors of several ministries and Arab local council representatives studied the problem in 2020 and determined that the informal financial industry behind so much of the violence arose because Arabs have traditionally relied on a cash-based economy and often lack access to regular banking.
The lack of building permits and space for new housing in cramped Arab cities and towns has led to violent land disputes, and precludes obtaining mortgages or loans from banks, making Arab society vulnerable to loan sharks, extortion and ruthless debt collectors.
The illegal weapons flooding Arab towns are often stolen from the military or smuggled across the border from Jordan, according to the state comptroller, the government watchdog. Improvised weapons are manufactured in the West Bank, and airsoft pellet guns that can be ordered from Amazon have been adapted to fire real bullets, comptroller’s reports have said.
The military said it was working with the police and security groups to reduce the theft of weapons from its bases, and had improved surveillance measures. It reported 80 cases of stolen weapons in 2020 and 21 cases so far this year.
The burst of inter-communal mob violence that shook Israel last May has also served as a catalyst for more urgent action by the authorities, raising fears that the weapons could be turned against the Jewish public.
Mr. Lotan, of the Public Security Ministry, said the government had a detailed plan ready to put into action once the state budget is passed in November. It calls for recruiting an additional 1,100 police officers, legislative changes to deal more efficiently with economic crime, more use of technology and an improved witness protection program — all measures intended to improve access and trust in Arab communities.
Mr. Bennett has proposed enlisting the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, in the campaign, though that has become a point of contention, with many people opposing using counterterrorism means against civilians.
“You need a tough hand against the organizations and the weapons,” Mr. Lotan said, “and in parallel, you need to continue to work on the broad social issues,” what he called the “huge inequality in all spheres.”
It is clear that more policing alone is not the solution. In nearby Tamra, when the police did act, it ended in tragedy.
One night in February, masked gunmen fired at a house in a densely populated residential area, telling the owner they would be back two days later to collect money, according to the town’s mayor, Dr. Suheil Diab. When they returned, one of them armed with an M16 assault rifle, a police SWAT team was waiting in ambush.
Bullets started flying. Across the street, Ahmad Hijazi, a nursing student who was visiting a friend, ran out when he heard cries for help and was shot dead. The friend’s brother, Muhammad Armoush, a doctor, followed him out, and was shot in the foot.
One of the gunmen was killed, another was severely wounded and arrested. A third escaped.
Dr. Armoush said he saw the police aiming for Mr. Hijazi and himself, apparently deeming them suspicious. Police investigators have not yet determined if it was their bullets, or those of the criminals, that hit Dr. Armoush and Mr. Hijazi.
Sitting out on his porch at dusk on a recent evening, above the street where the shootout happened, Dr. Armoush was emotional and exasperated.
“After what happened to us, I expected a change,” he said. “Then yesterday somebody goes to a wedding….”
Rawan Sheikh Ahmad contributed reporting.
The murderous crime wave sweeping Israel’s Arabs
By Yolande Knell
BBC News, Jerusalem
Published 13 August
Israel’s Arab minority accounts for about one-fifth of the population, but in recent years it has experienced the vast majority of the country’s murders.
In 2020, 97 Arab citizens were killed, compared to less than half of that in the Jewish community, according to a tally by the Abraham Initiatives group, a Jewish-Arab organisation which promotes positive ties between the two communities. So far this year, about 60 have been killed.
Most victims are young men but increasingly others are caught up in a violent crime wave linked to illegal guns, family feuds and organised gangs.
“It’s shocking… we used to think that for these criminals, women and children are the red line,” says activist Maisam Jaljuli from the organisation Mothers for Life. “It’s not the way anymore.”
There is a large padlock on the door of a beauty salon in Maisam’s hometown of Tira. It was run by her friend, 38-year-old Suha Mansour.
In April Suha, a mother-of-three, had two clients inside when she was shot five times at point-blank range by a hooded attacker. No arrests have yet been made.
“The police took the films of the security camera, but the police don’t know who did that until now, or they claim they don’t know,” Maisam tells me.
“I wonder if it’s a case of: ‘Who cares? They are Arabs, so let them kill themselves.'”
Breaking a stigma
As shocking as it sounds, Maisam’s attitude is far from unusual.
In theory, Israeli Arabs – or Palestinian citizens of Israel, as many prefer to be called – have equal rights with Jewish citizens, but they routinely complain of state discrimination.
Bereaved families and Arab officials claim that police inaction is one of the main reasons for the endemic violence plaguing their neighbourhoods.
“I went mad, it was like I had lost my own life, or lost my eyes. They killed my son, the only boy I had,” says an Arab mother in a northern Israeli town.
She is convinced that members of her in-laws’ family carried out the shooting, but police say there is no evidence to charge those she suspects.
“The police do nothing at all. They don’t care about this stuff happening in Arab communities,” she says, weeping.
According to a recent report by the Haaretz newspaper, Israeli police have only solved 23% of Arab murders this year, compared with 71% for the Jewish population.
The police will not confirm those figures, but insist they have nothing to apologise for.
“I’d like to break a stigma,” says Cdr Ygal Ezra, who heads a new Crime Prevention Department for Arab areas. “The police invest a lot in the Arab community.”
He says that in recent years, nearly 700 Muslim police officers have been recruited and more police stations have been built in Arab towns.
When I press him on the disparity in prosecutions between murderers of Arabs and Jews, he says that he and his colleagues are often up against distrust and a lack of co-operation.
“In a murder in an Arab community, you arrive at the scene and people might have washed the blood away or made the bullets disappear or hidden the killer,” Cdr Ezra says.
“Someone might take video evidence and hide it because he doesn’t want to get involved in that experience.”
Demand for action
The past year has seen a series of mass protests by Arab communities. The Mothers for Life group staged a six-day march from Haifa to Jerusalem. However, the misery has continued.
In Jaljulia, the living room of Siham Ades looks like a shrine to her 14-year-old son, Muhammad, an A-grade student who was shot dead in March. It happened while Muhammad was eating pizza outside his home with a friend, who was seriously hurt.
“Fifteen minutes after they left [the house], we heard shooting. We went out to check what was happening only to find Mustafa lying bloody on the ground. Then we couldn’t find Muhammad and I started screaming,” she recalls.
In Umm al-Fahm, I hear how an Arab doctor was shot dead driving his wife and newborn baby home from hospital. In the Galilee, a man and woman were killed along with their teenage daughter in a drive-by shooting. Their nine-year-old daughter was wounded.
Experts say that as police have cracked down on big Jewish Israeli mobsters in the past decade or so, organised crime has increasingly moved into Arab areas. Heavily-armed gangs run protection rackets and act as loan sharks, threatening and blackmailing people.
The current Israeli coalition government – which includes for the first time, an Islamist Arab party – has promised to act.
It has budgeted over a billion shekels ($310m; £225m) for a new plan to fight crime in the Arab community. Many say that must include tackling Israeli Arabs’ relative poverty.
“We want the Israeli government and responsible people to fight economically those organised groups, because if they do not destroy the economic infrastructure that they are building themselves on, nothing will change,” says Aida Touma Suleiman, an Israeli Arab member of parliament who sits in opposition.
Meanwhile, as politicians plan reforms, activists demand action, and police plead for co-operation, the stakes surrounding Israel’s Arab crime wave are getting higher.
In May, feelings of discrimination melded with a new round of conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, to erupt in violent inter-communal clashes. Mobs of Arab and Jewish extremists went on the rampage in Israel’s mixed cities.
There were lynchings, properties were vandalised and religious sites desecrated. Some even warned of impending civil war.
With a sense that Israel’s inter-communal bonds are under threat, Maisam Jaljuli – the activist and friend of the late Suha Mansour – is calling on Jews and Arab citizens to unite to deal with the crime and killings.
“It’s very important for us, because we don’t think that this is an ‘Arab society or a Palestinian society inside Israel’ problem. It’s the whole Israeli problem,” she says.
“The whole Israeli society must be engaged. We all the time said that if you think that the violence and the murders will be only inside the Arab society, you are wrong: It soon will be also in the Jewish society.”