Many blame the Israeli government for not protecting women
The suspected “honor killing” of Arab-Israeli teen Henriette Kara on June 13 sent shock waves throughout the country. Found with multiple stab wounds in her family home in Ramle, located some 40km north-west of Jerusalem, Henriette is the first such Christian-Arab victim in recent times.
“Preliminary investigations suggest that this was a homicide; in light of this three family members were arrested, two males and one female,” Luba Sumari, a police spokesperson, stated on her official Facebook page.
Shukri Abu-Tabeekh, the lawyer representing the Kara family, told The Media Line that his clients—Henriette’s father and aunt—would not comment while they remained in police custody. He did reveal that Henriette’s uncle was released.
Henriette’s family was well known to Israeli authorities. A week before her murder, the teen sought out the help of her school therapist due to the abuse she was facing from her family. After later being questioned by police, authorities sent Henriette home without taking action.
The head of Israel’s parliamentary Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, Aida Touma-Suleiman, herself of Arab origin, told The Media Line that the government is not doing enough to protect vulnerable women nor tackle the underlying social issues. “Most of the women who have been killed filed a complaint to police stations and no one did anything to help,” Touma-Suleiman said.
“We as a society need to question ourselves, as to how we allow there to be such a sexist culture against women.… On the other hand we must not excuse a government from its responsibilities—we live in a community that has hostility towards the Arab minority. The Arab women have the right to protection provided by the Israeli government by law.”
Over the past years, an unprecedented number of women have been killed for actions deemed dishonorable or which are perceived to shame their families. In Henriette’s case, she is believed to have infuriated her father by dating a Muslim man in his early twenties.
Samah Salaymeh, the head of the organization Women Against Violence, told The Media Line that “The murder of women in Israel is increasing [by] an average of 15 per year.… [In 2017], six Arab women were killed [and] the latest was Henriette.”
“The crimes against Arab women in Israel has become systematic, usually the excuse of family honor is used, however these crimes are far from honorable,” Salaymeh added.
The other Arab-Israeli women murdered in 2017 include Hanan al-Buheiri, 19, who disappeared in May and was found a month later burned and buried, and Lina Ismail, 35, a the mother of two children who was gunned down in her car in April. The others are Baraa’ Sharbatji, 18; Seham Zabarka, 32; and Marya Ghanem of Jaffa, who was shot dead at the end of May.
Though Arabs comprise just one-fifth of the total population, they account for about 50% of all women murdered in Israel each year.
Ghada Yahya, head of the Coordinating Department at the Palestinian Ministry of Women Affairs, explained to The Media Line that her office cannot legally intervene in any abuse cases involving women who carry Israeli citizenship; the exception being if the victim seeks out the ministry’s indirect help through intermediary social organizations.
Elham Shafi, who is responsible for following up on complaints at the ministry, said that it is common to “receive complaints from Palestinian women married to men carrying Israeli citizenship, [but] unfortunately we cannot help them. The Oslo accords made sure we aren’t allowed to help Palestinians inside the green line (“1967 borders”).
“If the Israeli authorities coordinated with the local organizations when they received complaints from the victims, then a number of innocent lives could have been spared.
“If the women were Jewish the investigation and consequences would be different,” Shafi concludes.
In response to the troubling trend, a protest in support of women’s rights took place this week in the central Israeli city of Lod, attended by a number of Arab community leaders and activists.