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Arab Israelis launch convoy to Jerusalem to protest rising violence

Arab Israeli protesters were taking part in a convention Thursday set to travel from the north of the country to Jerusalem as part of their ongoing demonstrations demanding that the government do more to curb violence within their communities.

The convoy was to travel from Majd al-Krum along Route 6 to the capital, ending in the government quarter where a rally would take place. Later, leaders of an alliance of four predominantly Arab parties, the Joint List, are set to meet with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and acting Israel Police Chief Motti Cohen to lay out their demands for government efforts to counter the violence that has killed 73 people since the beginning of the year.

Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh posted a video of himself standing in the convoy on Route 6, explaining that in a meeting with Erdan and senior police officials, he would present the “justified demands of the Arab population, with tens of thousands of demonstrators behind. us. ”

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"We are demanding that prison sentences and fines be imposed on any citizen who is in possession of illegal firearms and that the heads of organized crime gangs are put on trial," he said.

"We will campaign for the most basic right of every citizen, the right to life and security," Odeh said.

Screen capture from video of Joint (Arab) List leader MK Ayman Odeh participating in a protest convoy calling for action against violence within the Arab Israeli community, held along Route 6, October 10, 2019. (Twitter)

Joint List party members reportedly threatened that the convoy would deliberately block Route 6, a key artery connecting the north and south of the country, as well as other roads.

Extra police have to be deployed along the route and other highways to tackle expected traffic problems caused by the convoy, which was organized by the High Follow-Up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel, an extra-parliamentary umbrella organization representing the Arab population of Israel. .

Protests against an uptick of violence and killings within Arab communities have expanded in recent days across the country, with thousands demonstrating last weekend.

The meeting with Erdan comes days after Minister Drew accuses racism from Arab MKs for saying that violence in Arab Israeli communities is due to residents' culture.

"It's a very, very – and another thousand times – very violent society," Erdan told Jerusalem Radio on Monday. “There is something connected to the culture. A lot of disputes that end with a lawsuit, they pull out a knife and a gun. ”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during a ceremony for the outgoing Jerusalem police chief at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on February 7, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton / Flash90)

Erdan also said that in Arab society, "a mother can give her son permission to kill her sister because she's going out with a man who's not pleasing her family."

Odeh responded by saying Erdan "prefers to hide behind racist claims and throw responsibility on the murdered."

Following criticism, Erdan said his words had been distorted and taken out of context.

"The main responsibility for the fight against crime and violence in Arab society lies with the government and police," he tweeted. "The Arab public is … law abiding."

MK Ahmad Tibi, No. 2 in the Joint List, said Thursday that Erdan's explanation was significant in that the minister was making it clear that violence was coming from only a small minority of the community.

"The Joint List noted that Erdan's remarks last night were an important clarification when he said he did not mean that all of the Arab population resorts to violence – only small portions – while overwhelming the majority of the public are law abiding," Tibi said, according to Ynet.

Joint List MKs Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi Attend Protests Against Violence, Organized Crime and Recent Murders in Arab Communities, Majd al-Krum, October 3, 2019. (David Cohen / Flash90)

On Saturday night an Arab Israeli man, Bha'a Arar, 35, was shot dead in the central Arab town of Jaljulia. Two others were also injured in the shooting. In the village of Bayada near Umm al-Fahm in the north, another man was shot and moderately injured.

Tens of thousands of people have been protesting in Arab towns in recent days demanding police step up enforcement to make their streets safe. The demonstrations kicked off last Thursday with a general strike among the community.

Arab leaders say Israel Police largely ignores violence in their communities, everything from family feuds and mafia turf wars to domestic violence and so-called honor killings.

The police adamantly reject the allegations of indifference and say they are doing everything they can to stem the violence. They say local leaders need to cooperate more with police and prevent violence.

Mass protests are planned for October 21 and 27, outside police headquarters in Nazareth and Ramle, respectively. On the 27th, organizers plan to stage protest outside government offices in the capital.

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