The Abraham Fund Initiatives for the integration and equality of Arab citizens
organized a trip last week for 15 Arab-Israeli community leaders to Northern
Ireland, to learn from its police force.
The goal of the trip was to
expose the Arab-Israeli participants to the drastic reforms that took place
within the police of Northern Ireland which now provide more equitable services
to the minority community.
Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu, co-executive director
of the Fund told The Jerusalem Post in an interview that the Arab Israelis saw
how the community interacts with the police and how they need to demand better
service from the police in their communities.
that until the Good Friday agreement in 1998, Catholics suffered from the
Protestant-dominated police force, which viewed them as a security threat. After
the agreement, reforms were made to be inclusive – the name and symbols of the
police were changed along with procedures.
The police also transformed
from a semi-military force to a civil service, he said, adding that an important
reform was the 50/50 drafting policy into the police and affirmative action
towards Catholics. It was formerly over 95 percent Protestant, until the
implementation of a drafting policy that half of all recruits would be
Catholics; now the force is 40 percent Catholic.
The ethnic conflict in
Northern Ireland began in the 1960s and revolved around the fact that (mostly)
Protestants wanted Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom and
(mostly) Catholic Irish nationalists wanted to leave the United Kingdom and
Today there are slightly more Protestants than Catholics
in Northern Ireland.
Be’eri-Sulitzeanu said that Abraham Fund’s efforts
to promote trust-based and fair policing to the Israeli Arab community began
almost 10 years ago, but that so far, they had only sent Jewish Israeli police
officers, not Arab Israelis. The idea is to take the lessons learned there and
try to bring them here.
A key point, said Be’eri-Sulitzeanu, is that “the
police need to gain the trust of the community – they cannot function without it
and right now Arab trust in them is not high enough, and the police are aware of
And on the other hand, he says that the Arab community needs to
understand that without cooperation, the police cannot function optimally to
combat violence and crime in the Arab towns.
An important aspect of
policing in Northern Ireland that was learned was that of a local civilian
“Advisory Committee” to the local police station commander, headed by the mayor
of the local community, and which meets periodically with the police in order to
discuss and solve local issues and problems.
“We brought this from
Northern Ireland five years ago and both the police and Arab communities tried
it and have been using it in two Arab communities,” he said noting that the
cooperation in the Arab town Kafr Kara has been especially
Another reform that was brought from Northern Ireland was the
idea of improving communication between the police and the minority and media
services to the Arab community.
This contributed to the police’s decision
to recruit an Arab police media officer, he said.