Killings spark reck­on­ing over sta­tus of Is­raeli-Arab women

String of mur­ders linked to ‘honor killing’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Af­ter years of abuse and death threats, Duaa Abu-Sharkh had fi­nally di­vorced her hus­band, agree­ing even to give up cus­tody of her four young chil­dren and fam­ily prop­erty to es­cape his vi­o­lent grip. Then, one night in late Sep­tem­ber, as the 32-year-old mother was drop­ping off her kids af­ter a rare visit, a masked gun­man dragged her from her car and shot her in the head be­fore their eyes. Her killing is the lat­est in a string of mur­ders of Is­raeli-Arab women be­lieved to have been car­ried out by rel­a­tives. But af­ter years of si­lence, the re­cent out­burst has sparked soul search­ing in the com­mu­nity and un­prece­dented demon­stra­tions against its mis­treat­ment of women.

The killings have some sim­i­lar­i­ties to the so­called “honor killings” else­where in the Mus­lim world, where women can be mur­dered by rel­a­tives for tar­nish­ing the fam­ily name through per­ceived sex­ual in­dis­cre­tions. But ac­tivists in Is­rael re­ject such com­par­isons, say­ing the vast ma­jor­ity of the killings are the re­sult of ram­pant spousal abuse that has been ig­nored by po­lice in a land­scape rife with drugs, crime and poverty. Trau­ma­tized by the re­cent death of Abu-Sharkh and other women in their com­mu­ni­ties, Arab cit­i­zens, who have long been sus­pi­cious of Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties, are now call­ing for more po­lice and so­cial ser­vices in their long-ne­glected neigh­bor­hoods.

Though just a fifth of the pop­u­la­tion, Arabs rep­re­sent half of the women killed in Is­rael each year. And half of those women are killed in Arab neigh­bor­hoods of Ramle and Lod, cities just out­side of Tel Aviv where sev­eral large clans in­volved in or­ga­nized crime have made weapons eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble and al­lowed vi­o­lence, par­tic­u­larly to­ward women, to go unchecked for years. “Women in Arab so­ci­ety have a lower sta­tus. So, when there is vi­o­lence, who pays the price? Women,” said Samah Salaime, a so­cial worker who founded the Arab Women in the Cen­ter or­ga­ni­za­tion to aid vic­tims in the Lod area. She said Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties treat the op­pres­sion of women as a value in Arab so­ci­ety. “They deal with us as if the blood of the Arab woman is cheaper,” she said.

But things are start­ing to change. AbuSharkh’s killing, and that of an­other di­vorced mother of four in Jaffa a month later, spurred a se­ries of street protests that drew hun­dreds of women and men, both Arabs and Jews. A par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee heard tes­ti­mony from Arab women and the na­tional po­lice chief said the level of vi­o­lence was “un­ac­cept­able,” and vowed to bat­tle it. Arabs hold full cit­i­zen­ship rights in Is­rael, but are gen­er­ally poorer and less ed­u­cated than Jews and suf­fer from dis­crim­i­na­tion and sub­stan­dard pub­lic ser­vices. Some Is­raelis, in­clud­ing top politi­cians, have ques­tioned their loy­alty to the state, con­tribut­ing to their sense of be­ing treated as sec­ond-class cit­i­zens. Arabs of­ten ac­cuse the po­lice of be­ing in­dif­fer­ent to Arab crime, so long as Jews are not harmed.

Ear­lier this year, af­ter a deadly shoot­ing in down­town Tel Aviv and a sub­se­quent week­long man­hunt for the Arab shooter, Is­rael launched a cam­paign to col­lect il­le­gal arms in Arab towns. Later, it pro­moted an Arab po­lice of­fi­cer to deputy com­mis­sioner, mak­ing him the high­es­trank­ing Mus­lim ever to serve in the force, and putting him in charge of the new law and or­der drive in Arab com­mu­ni­ties. Po­lice spokesman Micky Rosen­feld said fam­i­lies used to tam­per with crime scenes and make it dif­fi­cult for po­lice to col­lect ev­i­dence and tes­ti­mony in Arab ar­eas. But he said at­ti­tudes have changed in re­cent years and co­op­er­a­tion is much bet­ter. The po­lice force is cur­rently re­cruit­ing an ad­di­tional 1,500 Arab of­fi­cers and hold­ing out­reach pro­grams to strengthen its ties to the com­mu­nity, he said.

“The days of the in­stant anti-po­lice, anti-gov­ern­ment and anti-es­tab­lish­ment sen­ti­ment are over,” he said. “The main em­pha­sis now is to be there and to con­nect with the Arab com­mu­nity.”

Arab law­maker Aida Touma-Sli­man, who heads the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on the sta­tus of women and gen­der equal­ity, said that wasn’t enough. She noted that 15 women have been killed in the Ramle-Lod area in the past year, but only three men have been charged. “What kind of mes­sage is given to the pop­u­la­tion and what kind of mes­sage is given to the per­pe­tra­tors?” she asked. “You can kill and you will still go on free. And for the women it is a clear mes­sage from the po­lice that no­body can pro­tect you.”

Lo­cal crim­i­nal gangs

Touma-Sli­man said po­lice have been per­suaded to stop au­to­mat­i­cally re­fer­ring to the deaths of Arab women as “honor killings,” say­ing it was an of­fen­sive term “de­vel­oped by the pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­ety in or­der to le­git­imize the mur­der it­self.” In Abu-Sharkh’s case, the writ­ing was on the wall. Her ex-hus­band, who had links to lo­cal crim­i­nal gangs, would beat her reg­u­larly, once break­ing her arm and nose, and stran­gle her un­til she turned blue, said her mother, Ma­jeda Abu-Sharkh. When they com­plained to po­lice, the ex-hus­band threat­ened to kill Abu-Sharkh and gun­men opened fire at her fam­ily’s home.

Po­lice briefly de­tained him af­ter her killing but re­leased him for lack of ev­i­dence.— AP

LOD: Is­raeli Arab Ma­jeda Abu Sharkh (left) holds a pic­ture of Duaa Abu Sharkh that was killed in Lod as she poses for a pho­to­graph with her niece Alaa Khalili, in Lod, cen­tral Is­rael. — AP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.