AN ARAB RECRUIT takes part in training at the Israel Police Academy in Beit Shemesh on August 24.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Israel Police has long had a poor relationship with Arab citizens who are underrepresented on the force, but overrepresented in crime statistics.
Nevertheless, police data indicates a surge in Arab-Israeli interest in joining up as a result of a recruitment campaign targeting their communities.
As part of its 2016-2017 general recruitment campaign, in cooperation with the Public Security Ministry, the police issued a “personal and unique call to recruitment for men and women from the Arab society in Israel.”
The campaign appears to be working, according to recently released data; in 2016 the police received 1,420 applications from Arab Israelis, as opposed to only 543 applications for the entirety of 2015, and 687 applications in 2014.
According to spokeswoman Luba Samri, who is an Arab, police are seeking to establish a “significant and permanent presence” in Arab communities, which requires an increase in the number of officers from the sector. “[There is] a massive mobilization of police, with an emphasis on Arab Muslims, with the understanding that, in order to deal with problems that characterize the sector, there is a duty to know the sector,” she said.
Approximately 2 percent of officers are Arabs, while around 20 percent of Israelis are Arab. Arab Israelis are vastly overrepresented in crime statistics, according to 2015 figures; 59% of murders take place in the Arab sector.
In February, police appointed Jamal Hakroush, 59, to assistant chief; the first Muslim to reach the Israel’s second- highest rank police rank.
Hakroush heads a unit tasked with fighting crime in the Arab sector and dealing with the unique needs of the communities.
A police spokesman told The Jerusalem Post in an email that the main goal of the campaign is to encourage recruitment into the ranks of the force, including in patrol units, the Traffic Police, detectives and SWAT teams.
Police hope that more Arab officers will assist their effort to reduce crime in the communities and establish trust between police and citizens.
“We believe that this is an important issue that inevitably will generate better police services that are more accessible to different populations in Israeli society,” the spokesman said.
Arab Israelis, many of whom identify as Palestinian, have long viewed the police with suspicion, saying officers tend to treat them unfairly and to violate their rights. On August 30, many called for Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheikh to resign after he acknowledged this rocky relationship, saying that it was “natural” for police to view Arab Israelis and Ethiopian Israelis with suspicion due to the communities’ high crime rates. Alsheikh said police are working to fix the problem.
According to Suhad Bishara, acting general director of Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the recruitment campaign will have little effect toward improving police relations with Arab communities.
“This will probably not change anything, because the root problem is with a system that still sees Arab citizens as unequal,” she told the Post.
Bishara said the recruitment campaign is “misleading,” and serves as a diversion from the deeper problem regarding police tactics and treatment of Arab communities. “The police continue to violate rights,” she said, “The Arab community does not trust the police. Without a change in attitude I don’t think this will make any changes.”
Despite concerns, the force is aggressively seeking to expand its presence in Arab communities, as part of a five-year, NIS 2 billion plan to increase policing in the Arab sector. Nevertheless, police know that an increase in policing should be accompanied by improved relations with the communities’ residents.