Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Members of the Joint Arab List take a selfie during a plenum session, July 6, 2021.

The Cabinet on Sunday approved a multi-year, NIS 30 Billion ($9.35 billion) plan to fight crime and violence in the Arab sector in 2022-2026 (Cabinet Approves NIS 30 Billion Economic Plan to Close Gaps in Arab Society). The plan is be based on the following principles:

• Strengthening the chain of enforcement, including the necessary changes to legislation.
• Emphasizing economic and integrated enforcement (alongside traditional criminal enforcement).
• Increasing governance and local authorities’ ability to deal with the issue.
• Integrating ‘soft’ tools for treatment and prevention-focused on dealing with Arab youth who, over time, are not in regular employment, academic or professional training frameworks; educational responses; rehabilitative frameworks and strengthening community resilience.
• Increasing cooperation among ministries and close monitoring and control regarding implementation of the program

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The ambitious plan aims to dismantle criminal organizations; reduce crime and violence in the Arab sector and the economic means at the disposal of criminal organizations; increase the sense of personal security of Israeli citizens in general and of residents of the Negev and Arab citizens and residents in particular; significantly reduce the number of illegal weapons held by citizens in the Arab sector; increase the confidence of the Arab public in the law enforcement system; increase the cooperation and partnership of representatives from the Arab sector, including Arab local council heads and the mayors of mixed cities, in implementing the plan; and strengthen the Arab sector including community resilience in dealing with violence on the local level and condemning incidents of crime and violence.

Meanwhile, the Joint Arab List and Ra’am are pushing a bill to commemorate the victims of the massacre in Kafr Qassem. Ra’am officials, despite their membership in the coalition government, have made it clear to their partners on the right that they have no intention of voting against the bill, especially since Kafr Qassem is an important locality for the Islamic movement and is considered one of its main centers. Clearly, Ra’am can’t afford to be one-upped by its Arab rival on this issue – never mind how embarrassing it would be to the very people who are investing almost $10 billion in rehabilitating Arab society.

Senior Meretz officials are also saying they won’t be able to oppose the Kafr Qassem bill which seeks recognition of the 1956 massacre and inserting it into the various curricula of the Ministry of Education. Meretz Minister of Regional Cooperation Issawi Frej confirmed this in an interview on Reshet Bet radio Monday morning, saying: “I am the grandson of a survivor of the massacre. I’m in politics to prevent such things in the future. I wholeheartedly support the proposal.”

The Kafr Qassem massacre took place on the eve of the Sinai operation, October 29, 1956, in the Israeli Arab village of Kafr Qassem on the Green Line border between Israel and the Jordanian-governed “West Bank.” It was carried out by the Israel Border Police, who killed Arab civilians returning from work during a curfew of which they were unaware, imposed earlier in the day, ahead of the planned operation against Egypt, in anticipation of a Jordanian attack.

48 people died, of whom 19 were men, 6 women, and 23 children. The border policemen who were involved in the shooting were brought to trial and found guilty and sentenced to prison terms, but all received pardons and were released in a year. The brigade commander was sentenced to pay the symbolic fine of 10 cents. The Israeli court found that the command to kill civilians was “blatantly illegal.”

In December 2007, President Shimon Peres formally apologized for Kafr Qassem.

While the desire on the part of Israeli Arabs to interject the massacre into the country’s calendar of State events makes sense, the timing is pure politics. The leaders of Yamina, New Hope, and Israel Beiteinu, who have been pitching to their right-wing constituents that improving the lives of their Arab neighbors would improve everyone’s life – will now have to explain why the first things the folks with their improved lives want to do is burden schoolchildren with sad and complex ancient history.

The loaded word “massacre” brings to mind angry pogromists with their pitchforks and torches. What took place in Kafr Qassem was a mistake, committed by misled troops. Yissachar Shadmi, the highest-ranking prosecuted official at the time, stated shortly before his death that he believed his trial was staged to protect members of the Israeli political and military elite, including Prime Minister Ben Gurion, from taking responsibility.

The Kafr Qassem event also marked the highest point of mistrust between Israel’s Jewish rulers and its Arab citizens, a mistrust that reached another peak on October 1, 2000, when thousands of Israeli Arabs rallied around the country in solidarity with the Second Intifada, and 12 were killed in clashes with police.

Reviving those unhappy moments today, against the background of the new pro-Arab legislation, is pure sabotage on the part of the Joint Arab List, and it has the power to drag in Ra’am and Meretz as well.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.