Jewish and Arab Women Unite to Demand Action on Violence Aga...

Jewish and Arab Women Unite to Demand Action on Violence Against Women

February 6, 2019

At the end of November, the murders of two teenage girls – Yaara Ayoub, a Druze girl of 16 from Jish and Silvana Tzagai, a 13 year-old Eritrean – sparked a nation-wide women’s protest and strike on December 4. The protest united Jewish and Arab women in a call for the government to take responsibility for violence against women throughout the country. The protest received support from a multitude of public and private institutions around the country, including 12 local authorities, nine of them Arab, and culminated in a 30,000-strong demonstration in Tel Aviv – the largest women-led protest ever in Israel. Speakers at the rally included well-known Arab activists Samah Salaime (NAM – Arab Women in the Center) and Maisam Jaljuli (NAAMAT).

Nearly half the female murder victims in Israel in 2018 were Arab, though Arab citizens make up one-fifth of the population. While Jewish and Arab women united to raise awareness of the issues of domestic violence and perceived police inattention to the murders of women in general, Arab activists and writers highlighted factors within Arab society that result in a high level of violence against women, such as perceptions of gender roles and under-reporting of these crimes.

Voices in Arab society also blame a lack of law enforcement in Arab localities and apathy of Arab political leaders for the continuing violence against women. As protests continued throughout December, and with an additional Arab woman murdered, some writers lamented that “Israeli authorities treat gun violence in our community as an Arab problem” while others predicted this is a turning point, stating "Arab society is ripe for action against violence - now its leaders must act."

Also in December, the Abraham Initiatives wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, demanding a "holistic governmental program" to combat violence in Arab society. The letter (Hebrew), lists the key reasons for this high prevalence of crime and violence, including insufficient policing;  poverty and unemployment; internal struggles within Arab society for scarce resources of land and jobs coupled with internal cultural changes; absence of adequate government services; and insufficient opportunities for the younger generation. The letter states that all these factors lead to alienation, despair and lawlessness. In early 2019, the government announced a NIS 50 million budget for fighting domestic violence, amounting to an addition of NIS 20 million to a previously approved budget of NIS 30 million that has not been implemented, with PM Netanyahu stating this budget will "also focus on the Arab community." 

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