Anarchy in Kafr Qasem

The Islamic militia in the town should be disbanded as Israel explores why criminal violence has become so dominant in some Arab communities

By Moshe Arens

An Islamist militia is operating in Kafr Qasem. It belongs to the Islamic Movement, which may be following in the footsteps of the outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement. When the recent disturbances in Kafr Qasem, which led to the attack on the local police station and the death of Mohammed Taha, are investigated, it may well turn out that responsibility lies mainly with this Islamic militia, the only organized group in town.

In any case, the only law enforcement organization in Israel is the Israel Police. And there’s no justification for private militias. They may operate in Syria, but they can hardly serve as an example for Israel, especially Kafr Qasem.

That town, located near Rosh Ha’ayin, is one of Israel’s more prosperous Arab communities and has attracted criminal elements demanding their share and killing people in the process. Hunting them down is the police’s job.

Making their job more difficult is the local people’s lack of cooperation with the forces of law and order. Whether this stems from fear of retribution by the criminals or a sense of misguided “Arab patriotism,” this needs to be investigated. But it’s an opportunity for the Islamic Movement to set up a local militia, presumably to do the job that the police aren’t doing while enforcing “modest” dress behavior on the local women.

As is well known, in the civilized world even criminals get the benefit of due process. Evidence must be produced before they are taken to court. But criminals, in dispensing their form of “justice,” don’t bother with such niceties.

The impatience of the citizens of Kafr Qasem with the time it takes to apprehend the criminals among them is understandable. The wheels of justice grind slowly. All citizens of Israel share their impatience with the time it takes to bring criminals to justice, and in some cases criminals are never apprehended.

But the forces of law and order must be allowed to do their job. Citizens taking the law into their own hands, or letting militias take the place of the police, paves the road to anarchy. That’s what’s happening in Kafr Qasem. If it isn’t stopped, it’s likely to spread to other towns where criminals operate. And the first in line are the Arab towns of Wadi Ara, where the local people will be the ones to suffer.

There is no justification for resisting arrest by the police and for encouraging crowds to force the release of those arrested. Trying to burn down a police station is a crime, and those who take part in this crime should be apprehended and prosecuted. There should be zero tolerance for violence against the police. The Islamic militia in the town should be disbanded. If it’s true that some of them illegally possess arms, the weapons should be confiscated and the suspects prosecuted.

After years of neglect, the police are finally striving to end the criminal violence racking certain Arab towns for years. What happened in Kafr Qasem is a reminder that this effort must be redoubled.

But even more importantly, what happened in Kafr Qasem is a challenge to the leaders of Israel’s Arab society, to its municipal and political leaders. There’s room for some soul-searching here. What is it that lets criminal violence become so dominant in some Arab towns, and what have Israel’s Arab leaders done to curb this phenomenon?

It’s up to them to keep Islamic militias from assuming leadership. It’s up to them to help the police prevent rampant crime from taking over some of Israel’s Arab towns.

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