Amid spike in murders, nationwide strike scheduled as protesters demand government allocate funding it promised last year to tackle the issue
Tens of millions of dollars intended to fund a wide-ranging program to combat violence against women in Israel have allegedly vanished, despite being earmarked for the initiative over a year ago, an Israeli lawmaker has revealed.
Ahead of a nationwide strike to protest government inaction, Aliza Lavie, a member of the Israeli parliament for Yesh Atid who is also part of the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, argued that the roughly $67.5 million in funding never went through and that it mysteriously disappeared, despite being approved by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s cabinet last year.
“This program could save lives,” Lavie, who spearheaded the program, told The Media Line. “The heart of it is the creation of a national mechanism for inter-ministerial coordination, the opening of assistance centers, educational courses, rehabilitation for abused women and many other recommendations that would make Israel a better place for women.
“Money was promised and the program was approved to be implemented over the next five years,” she continued. “We saw, however, that things were not moving forward and that the money had not been transferred. I then went to the Ministry of Finance and was told it had been sent [to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services], which in turn told me they had not received it.”
Last week, the coalition government shot down a bill to establish a parliamentary committee of inquiry to investigate the missing funds. Lavie claims she requested an explanation as to where the funds had gone, but that no minister would take responsibility.
“Nobody has answered us,” she contended, noting she would be attending Tuesday’s nationwide protests.
Lavie’s statements come against the backdrop of a protest campaign titled “I am a woman; I am striking,” which has gained momentum in recent days, with the municipalities of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba, Ramat Gan, Rishon LeZion, and others joining in. Several Israeli businesses as well as the Histadrut labor federation have also voiced support for the movement and promised to allow female workers to strike with full pay.
Protest organizers are demanding an “immediate solution to violence against women” and calling on the government to transfer the funds it allocated for tackling the issue.
Twenty-four women have been murdered in Israel since the beginning of 2018, with two such incidents occurring just last week. The majority of the homicides were carried out by the victim’s spouse or relatives.
In a rare move, Israeli parliament Speaker Yuli Edelstein revealed on Sunday that women employees at the parliament would be able to join the strike as well.
“I have instructed the parliamentary committees to hold discussions on the issue this week and to allow female employees to take part in the strike on Tuesday,” Edelstein said. “The parliament will do all in its power to raise awareness and to combat the phenomenon.”
Anna Kleiman, founder of the Counter-Gender Terrorism Unit, an activist organization dedicated to addressing feminist and LGBT issues and one of the groups helping to organize the day’s events, said the goal of the protests is to “shut down the entire country.”
“There will be dozens of guerrilla acts and performative protests all across Israel,” Kleiman affirmed to The Media Line, noting that her organization is part of a wider coalition of women’s groups. “We have very clear demands. The money [for the government plan] never showed up and women are still getting murdered.
“This program costs $67.5 million, which is nothing for the parliament,” she added. “The issue is that more than half of those women who were murdered this year sought assistance and institutions didn’t help them.
“I think the coalition government just doesn’t care about women, they don’t treat us like human beings. The fact is that nobody even cares enough to give this small amount of money when people are dying,” Kleiman said.
Domestic violence is a growing issue in Israel, with women’s organizations recording a rise in incidences in recent years. The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel for instance reported some 47,000 sexual assault complaints last year, of which nearly 12,000 were new cases, marking an 11 percent increase over the number of new case files in 2016.
Though the majority of those seeking aid were females (89%), the center noted that 11% were males. Likewise, in an annual report the Women’s International Zionist Organization reported that police open 50 domestic violence cases on average on a daily basis, and that 200,000 battered women live in Israel.