#Arab_lives_matter sparks calls for more policing in Israel
Palestinians are seeking to raise awareness about the spiralling rate of violent crime in their communities under the hashtag “Arab lives matter”.
Unlike a similar campaign in the United States, this social media movement is calling for more policing, not less.
Palestinians, which make up around 20 percent of Israel's population, has been plagued by violent crime in recent years, with a rate in killings that far exceeds its share of the population and is driven by criminal gangs and family disputes.
Activists say Israeli authorities have historically ignored deadly crime among Palestinians.
Israeli officials have touted a number of initiatives in recent years, including larger budgets for law enforcement in Palestinian communities, but police say community leaders could do more to help them.
At least 78 Palestinians have been killed so far this year out of a total of 93 slayings nationwide, according to the Abraham Initiatives, an Israeli civil society organisation.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pledged last month that after years of neglect, his newly inaugurated government would combat violent crime in Palestinian communities. That was one of the top demands of a small Palestinian party that made history by joining his narrow coalition.
After another two people were killed last week, blogger Sheren Falah Saab tweeted “#Arab_lives_matter” in Hebrew with the aim of opening a dialogue with Israel's Jewish majority.
“The inspiration is from the Black Lives Matter movement, but it’s important to note that the violence in Arab society in Israel is not brought on by the police or law enforcement, it’s between Arabs,” she said. “It’s important to say there’s neglect and lack of enforcement by the police, and lack of follow-up when murders are committed.”
Her statement went viral on social media. Lawmakers, activists and organizations joined in the chorus, as did the minister in charge of the police.
Israeli Public Security Minister Omer Bar-lev blamed the problem on “decades of neglect, disregard and fear of getting into the thick of the problems... and the prevailing assumption that ‘as long as they kill each other, then this is their problem.'”
“In the first 100 days since taking office, I did more than was done in last decades dealing with crime in the Arab sector. Yes, #Arab_Lives_Matter,” he tweeted.
Some Palestinians are citizens of Israel and have the right to vote, but face discrimination in housing and other sectors. Most speak fluent Hebrew, and they have an outsized presence in universities and medicine, among other professions.
Last weekend, protesters gathered outside Bar-Lev's home to call for more policing.
“I want the police to do its job properly. Enough,” said Muna Khalil, whose son was shot and killed in June. She criticized the police for not doing enough to find her son’s killer and bring him to justice. “They know who killed my son, but they are not doing the right thing.”