Earlier this month, the top official of the Arab town of Tira, Director General Abed al-Rahman Kashua, was murdered next to the city hall. "It's a black day for Tira," resident and community leader Maisam Jaljuli told Davar the day after the murder.
Although the murder was shocking, it was also all too predictable, with more than 100 Arab Israelis having been murdered so far this year. Soon after this interview was held, a quadruple murder took place in the Arab town of Abu Snan in Israel’s north, adding further weight to Jaljuli’s words.
"Today, everyone in a public position is threatened," Jaljuli said. "We all know that the local government is a target. The [local] authorities have become stronger as a result of the government plans. The criminals want a piece of the pie. They enter every economic organization and try to take over every financial source. They see the authorities as an additional financial source."
The upcoming local elections, set to be held in municipalities across Israel on Oct. 31, are raising fears of an even greater wave of violence against candidates and elected officials. "It scares me very much, the attempt to take over the elections, to control candidates,” Jaljuli said. “Some candidates have already left the race because of fear. This is a catastrophic situation. There is no governance. The state cannot protect public servants, messengers, mayors, deputies, and senior officials. And the appetite of these criminal organizations only increases."
"There were no policemen at the station"
The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, the main Israel Arab civil society organization, held an urgent discussion following Kashua’s murder. The organization issued a call not to cooperate with Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir, a controversial figure who recently said publicly that Israeli rights to the West Bank trump Palestinian freedom of movement.
The municipality of Tira announced that it would not cooperate with the Israeli police. "I back up the municipality," Jaljuli said. "The police station should be closed. They are in the most central place in the city and they are not delivering the goods. The municipality brought them into the heart of the city to protect the residents and they are violating the contract."
"They say that no policeman came to their aid because there were no policemen at the station, at half past eight in the evening. They are supposed to protect me and are part of what is happening here. You always hear excuses from the police as to why they don't come. I pass by the police station every day on my way home. I called the police several times due to vandalism or shooting and they made fun of me telling me they don't know where to go, even though I'm only 500 meters from the station,” she said.
"A forgiving and peaceful man"
Although this is not the first murder case in the city, Jaljuli described a different atmosphere from previous murders. "First of all, this is a public figure,” she said. “Everyone knows him and cherishes him. He was a man of peace. However, he was a symbol of governance, criminals don't mind damaging the city's symbols of government. No one is immune, it can happen to anyone. It brings up feelings of deep frustration."
Jaljuli, who worked with the late Kashua, recounted stories of a man who was part of the society he led and was attentive to the residents. "He was a well-known man in Tira, who was the director general of the municipality for about 12 years,” she said. “One of the pillars of the Islamic movement and of the settlement. We worked together in the fight for workers' rights. He was a volunteer imam at one of the mosques here. A local leader, known as a forgiving and peaceful man. Anyone who turned to him for help was answered. Workers tell how his door was always open. Tira lost one of the most significant people in the settlement. It's a great loss, we lost a really good man. I feel completely suffocated. It's just horrible. You have no one to help you. It's despair."
"We need Jewish-Arab partnership"
The High Follow-Up Committee announced that the school year would not begin on time in the Arab sector and that a protest march was planned following the murder. "You don't have to sit quietly," Jaljuli said. "A demonstration will not be enough. If there is not a complete shutdown of all local government in Israel, then we have failed. If he was Jewish, there would be strikers right away. The Histadrut is silent for the time being."
"We need to increase measures against violence,” said Jaljuli, who was previously the chair of a local branch of Na’amat, the Histadrut’s women’s movement. “What we have done is not enough. We need Jewish-Arab partnership. If we don't fight together, in the end we will suffer together. We need to mobilize the Jewish society not only at the individual level, we need to mobilize the local government, the Histadrut, the leaders of public opinion. We need to convince the leaders of the protest [against the judicial reform] to open their eyes. If this is not a violation of democracy, what is a violation of democracy?"
This article was translated from Hebrew by Noah Mirkin.