: Southern District Police Commander Major General David Bitan meets with Beduin community leaders.
(photo credit: COURTESY ISRAEL POLICE)
In an ongoing effort to improve police relations, police met with Beduin leaders on Tuesday to wish them a happy Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice.
Southern District police commander Asst.-Ch. David Bitan met with a number of Beduin leaders and dignitaries and addressed issues of police treatment of the Negev Beduin, which has been criticized for heavy-handedness.
Bitan noted that the police are seeking to recruit Beduin officers in hope they would be able to improve policing in Beduin communities.
Police are also educating officers in “multiculturalism” to improve treatment of Beduin and other minority populations. “We must address the quality and professionalism toward various populations,” Bitan said.
“Our vision is that young Beduin will finish high school and do their national service with the police, and subsequently will be recruited for permanent service. To do this, we arrived at a high school and we met with students to explain to these young people the importance,” stated Bitan.
Talal al-Krenawi, the mayor of Rahat, Israel’s largest Beduin city, praised the police visit as an important step in enforcing police relations with the Beduin community and encouraging Beduin police recruitment.
Nava Tabo, spokeswoman of the Negev subdistrict, told The Jerusalem Post that police are working with Beduin community leaders to greatly increase police services.
“This process includes raising and strengthening their trust in the police through meetings, deployment of police service in incorporated towns and villages and also police from the [Beduin] community,” she said,”this will enable providing optimum police services to law-abiding citizens.”
Many Negev Beduin have homes built without permits, thus placing them in an acrimonious relationship with the police and the government as their homes are slated for demolition.
The Yoav police unit is dedicated to enforcing land law in the Negev. The unit, which deals with Negev Beduin, seeks out illegally built structures and encourages the owner to destroy the building and relocate to a designated community.
According to a June report from the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, 982 structures have been demolished, over 50% by their owners.
Attorney Sanaa Ibn Bari of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel contends that police respond harshly to Beduin citizens, especially regarding ongoing protests against housing demolitions in the Negev.
“Beduin are being treated even more extremely [by the police], as if they were a security and demographic risk, and not allowing the right to protest,” Ibn Bari told the Post on Wednesday.
A spokesman for the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality agrees, stating that Beduin communities are subject to police brutality.
“Beduin are far more likely to face arrests and Beduin demonstrations far more likely to face violence than any other demonstration in Israel,” he stated.
Asst.-Ch. Bitan promised at Tuesday’s event that the police will protect Beduin citizens, but will enforce a zero tolerance policy among lawbreakers.
“We are here with you through thick and thin together, in holidays and less pleasant times,” he said, “but there are those who choose the wrong way. These people will be dealt with zero tolerance and determination.”