A series of killings of Arab women in Israel, supposedly carried out by relatives, is sparking a debate on widespread mistreatment of women in the community. While some have drawn comparisons to so-called “honor killings,” activists in Israel dispute this interpretation, saying the killings can largely be attributed to vast spousal abuse, ignored by local authorities. Arabs form only one-fifth of Israel’s population, but they represent half of the women killed in the country each year. “Women in Arab society have a lower status. So, when there is violence, who pays the price? Women,” said Samah Salaime, a social worker and founder of the Arab Women in the Center organization, which helps victims in the Arab neighborhood Lod. “They deal with us as if the blood of the Arab woman is cheaper,” she said. Recent cases, such as that of the murder of Duaa Abu-Sharkh, a 32-year-old mother who had recently divorced her abusive husband and was shot in front of her four children by a masked gunman, have increased calls for more police and social services in Arab neighborhoods that are usually wary of Israeli authorities.
After a series of street protests in Jaffa by hundreds of women, both Arab and Jewish, the national police chief pledged to battle this “unacceptable” violence and a parliamentary committee heard testimony from Arab women. Salaime said she hoped that she would see a decrease in violence as taboos are broken and the status of women slowly improves. “Men know that the Arab woman is now studying more, has more freedom and we have left a lot of men behind who still think that an Arab woman is worthless, that her body is a property that you can harm without being held accountable,” she said. “The path is very long. It is a very painful journey.”
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