Saturday, June 2, 2012

Violent Arab ghetto shows Israel's underside

(Reuters) - "My friend is on the floor, dying, 11 holes in his body, and I only have 10 fingers," raps Tamer Nafar. "Don't close your eyes, blink if you can hear me."

Nafar isn't rapping about violence and crime in urban America, but murders, drugs, guns and gang warfare in his own Israeli slum.

The backstreets of Lod, a mixed Arab-Jewish city just 20 minutes from the tree-lined boulevards of Tel Aviv, reveal a seamy underside of Israel that few visitors get to see, tucked away behind Ben Gurion airport off the main highway to Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

"There's crime pollution in this city that hits everybody. Nobody has immunity," said Nafar, lead MC in the Arab group DAM.

Residents, police, government officials, academics and social workers agree conditions in the areas where Arabs live have reached a crisis point, with poor schools and infrastructure fuelling crime and drug abuse.

Arab residents and analysts say that Israel's government and the police have ignored the problem because it has stayed within the Arab community and the country's Jewish population is largely unaffected.

But awareness is growing, partly thanks to wider public appeals from the communities themselves. Read More