The Arab and Muslim world are, by nature, chronically violent. In addition to tribal and family feuds, religious and political wars are ever-constant, as are slavers, gun-runners, pirates, tyrants, torturers, and garden-variety thieves and gangsters. Add the routine and savage persecution of non-Muslims and Muslim dissidents, the savage subordination of women, the rise of jihadic terrorism and foreign wars to this mix, stir, and you’ve got the modern Middle East.
What can it mean when civilians demonstrate against “violence” in such a setting? Are they talking about petty crime waves—or about honor killings? Can such demonstrations even take place in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, or Pakistan?
Not really—but they can and do take place in Jewish Israel. For example, on October 22, 2010, in Lod, a well-orchestrated demonstration, ostensibly about the rising rate of community violence, drew serious media and political attention. The signs were in both Arabic and Hebrew and read: “The police are the main suspect”; “No to racism, yes to freedom”; “Enough with house demolitions! Yes to solving murders”; “Ilan Hariri [the Jewish mayor of Lod]: Enough! Go home!”; “No to violence in all its forms.”
What were these demonstrators really protesting? Were they actually blaming the Israeli government for not being able to crack down more effectively on the 20 percent of the population which is Arab and which is, ostensibly, committing the violence?
On October 28, 2010, Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed that Lod “will not become the Wild West.” He might as well have said that he plans to tame the far wilder East. Nevertheless, Netanyahu pledged 130 million NIS ($36 million) “to save crime-ridden Lod.” He stated that the government has also sent in large numbers of Border Policemen and “municipal inspectors” to crack down on the crime wave in Lod.
Israel has a relatively good record in terms of helping potential honor killing victims escape and survive and in arresting and prosecuting honor killers.
For example, in 2007, Hamda Abu-Ghanem, 18, was shot to death in Ramle, Israel by her brother because some men in her town had referred to her as a prostitute. She was the eighth woman to have been murdered in her extended family in seven years, and the family’s women finally went public. In a plea bargain, an Israeli court sentenced the brother to sixteen years in prison.
In 2007, 21-year-old Nadia Abu Amar of Jerusalem was murdered by her three brothers and her uncle because she refused to marry the man she was engaged to and because she got her father arrested and convicted for assault. One of the brothers received a sentence of 27 years in prison, one received a 12 year sentence; the other two perpetrators got six years.
In 2008, a court in Nazareth, Israel sentenced Khaled Muslemi to 14 years in prison for attempting to murder his sister in an honor killing because he had heard rumors that she had been behaving promiscuously. The Israeli court stated:
The despicable, repetitive phenomenon of murder…of innocent women under the pretence of ‘honor killings’ must be condemned in the harshest manner possible…Acts such as the defendant’s bear no honor. They bear only shame and disgrace. The court is disgusted by the defendant’s decision to be his sister’s executioner.
Such sentences are not often handed down in Mecca, Baghdad, Islamabad, Kandahar—or even in Amman, Gaza, or on the West Bank.
For example, in 1997, in a small village in Jordan, 21-year-old Rania Arafat was honor-murdered by her younger brother, who was chosen precisely because minors receive a reduced sentence. Her aunts ordered her murder because she refused an arranged marriage and then dared to elope with an Iraqi man of her own choosing. Rania’s killer probably did not spend more than a few months in jail.
In 2003, Rofayda Qaoud of Abu Qash in the West Bank was murdered by her mother Amira Qaoud, who put a plastic bag over her head and sliced her wrists with a razor. Her crime? Rofayda had been raped by her two brothers and impregnated. Her mother-killer, Amira, was expected to receive at most three to five years in prison. It is not clear if she did so.