Members of the 22nd Knesset are set to take their seats on Thursday, but 13 of those seats will be empty. MKs of the United Arab List said Wednesday that they would boycott the swearing-in ceremony in the Knesset Thursday, in protest over the ongoing violence in the Arab sector – which they blame on a lack of police action and enforcement in Arab communities.
In an official statement, the List said that “tomorrow our members will be absent from the swearing-in ceremony for MKs and will join members of the Arab community in protest and a general strike against the disregard of the government and law enforcement over the wave of violence in Arab society.” UAL head Ayman Odeh said that “dozens of people have been killed since the beginning of the year. They are not only victims of violence, but also victims of the dismissive attitude of the government and law enforcement. We will not allow a situation where we are burying our children while Knesset members celebrate. We will join our voters in their protests around the country.”
According to Odeh, over 70 Arabs have been killed since the beginning of 2019 in acts of violence, mostly involving guns. Arab MKs and community leaders have long complained that police have not made a priority of collecting illegal weapons in the Arab sector, and last week the Umm el-Faham city council, in an act of protest, issued a closure order for the local police station, saying that if police could not stem violence in the town, they did not need a police station there. Police have claimed that they are short-staffed, and that in previous instances in which they have operated in the Arab sector politicians have taken advantage of police enforcement to sow dissent and incitement.