First Muslim Maj.-Gen. in Israel Police at UN: State offers equality

"This is the place to highlight that the Israel police is a decent institution, that opens doors before every citizen in the country, regardless of their background or religion,” said Jamal Hakroosh

UN committee in Geneva with major general Jamal Hakroosh (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
UN committee in Geneva with major general Jamal Hakroosh
“Distinguished members of the committee, the doors are open,” was the message that Jamal Hakroosh delivered last week on the State of Israel’s Arab citizens, to attendees of the World Conference against Discrimination and Racism at the UN in Geneva.
The first Muslim major-general in the Israeli National Police, Hakroosh represented the Public Security Ministry and the police on December 4, when he delivered a briefing about how the police has supported him professionally and emotionally, and how he in turn has been able to help his Arab community.
“I, Jamal Hakroosh, a citizen of the state of Israel, Arab, Muslim, was born in Kafr Kanna, in the North of Israel,” he began in a speech, which was later disseminated in English to the press. “As any Arab citizen of Israel, I was educated, brought up, and studied in the village, and never knew anything outside of the village. This is representative of the general Arab population of that time, meaning 40 years ago.”
He said that for generations, Arab society in Israel was closed off and clan-based. Today, however, the situation is completely different.
“Virtually all Arab young people complete their high school studies in the village, and the majority continue to university-level studies,” Hakroosh explained. “This is a very important change that took place in Arab society, to the benefit of Arab young men and women.”
When Hakroosh was 20, he decided to “become an ambassador for my people and for my generation,” and he joined the police. At that time, 40 years ago, there was not a single Muslim policeman, and his role came with many difficulties and obstacles. Still, he persevered.
“It was not easy to accept me, a Muslim Arab, as commander during sensitive and difficult events such as those that the Israeli public has been through,” Hakroosh said in Geneva. “Not only criminal events, but also security and terror-related – our country has seen many of those events.”
He was promoted and performed sensitive jobs.
“I was the commander of three big police stations, providing policing services to Arab and Jewish citizens alike,” he said, noting that he was first promoted to commander of the coastal region of Israel, and eventually to the position of major-general.
“This is the place to highlight that the Israel police is a decent institution, that opens doors before every citizen in the country,
regardless of their background or religion,” Hakroosh said in his speech. “I must take this opportunity and say that not only did the Israel police open doors to an Arab citizen, but also my friends and colleagues of my generation can now be found among directors of medical wards in Israeli hospitals, and lecturers in Israeli universities. Meanwhile, thousands more Arab students are enrolled in Israeli universities.”
But he said that he cannot do enough on his own. Arab society is plagued by violence, as the authority of the elders has been lost and the vacuum has not been filled, except by violence that threatens the Arab citizen. “Especially the good citizens that have paid with their personal security, and very often, with their lives. I emphasize: can we accept an average of 70 Arab murder victims per year, killed by Arabs? This situation is very dangerous. There is no personal security to any Arab citizen.”
As such, in 2016, the government passed Resolution 922 and ordered the creation of a special unit to improve policing services in Arab society and put an end to the danger to personal life and security in Arab streets. Hakroosh was asked to command this unit.
He said that in the last two years, eight police stations have been added to Arab towns and communities, and the goal is to establish another 10 over the next three years. Additionally, more than 600 young Arab men and 55 young Arab women have joined the police.
“This is the revolution and the change that we aspired to reach,” Hakroosh explained. “This is what is happening in the Israeli police: equality to every citizen, open doors to every citizen. Today you will be able to see an Arab Muslim policewoman supplying policing services to an Arab citizen. Something like this is unprecedented.”
But he admitted there are still many changes to make. In July, the 2018 Personal Security Index Violence, Crime and Policing in Arab Towns by the Abraham Initiatives showed that 61% of all murder and manslaughter victims in Israel in 2018 were Arab citizens, despite Arabs only constituting around 20% of Israeli citizens.
Moreover, more than one-third – that’s 36% – of Arab citizens of Israel have a sense of personal insecurity in the community where they live due to violence, compared with 13% of Jews. The study also found that 59% of Arab citizens are afraid of being victims of violent offenses.
Furthermore, a study by Abraham Initiatives regarding weapons collection, with pickup points used to help get illegal weapons off the Arab streets, found that 57% of the points did not function properly.
A news release explained that the inspections – carried out in 40 of the 50 pickup points in Arab localities – showed that 16 collection points were not operational at all at the time of the test, seven points were in different locations from the ones published, and only 16 were functioning properly.
Hakroosh did not address these issues, but did say that “we know that any exceptional event can interfere with the path to reaching the goal,” and that reducing is “a very difficult task, although a very important one, and success is not at all certain.”
But he said he hoped the challenges ahead would not outweigh the successes that had already been achieved.
“Your ears are hearing about the changes in Israel Police for the benefit of equality, justice to the Arab citizen, and your eyes can see the change standing before you – and it is me, a Muslim Arab, who reached the highest position of the Israel police, the highest rank – one below the General-Commander of the police,” he concluded.