'Arab citizens don't trust Israel Police' to solve crime, expert warns

A bill was passed that would allow police to enter homes of violent crime suspects without a warrant.

 JEWS AND ARABS protest outside the home of public security minister Amir Ohana in Tel Aviv, earlier this year, against the high crime rate and violence in the Israeli-Arab communities.  (photo credit: MIRIAM ASTER/FLASH90)
JEWS AND ARABS protest outside the home of public security minister Amir Ohana in Tel Aviv, earlier this year, against the high crime rate and violence in the Israeli-Arab communities.
(photo credit: MIRIAM ASTER/FLASH90)

Arab citizens do not trust the police to help them, even though they want to reduce crime, Dr. Thabet Abu Rass, co-director of the Abraham Initiatives, said on Monday following a controversial bill approved by the cabinet that would allow police to search and enter homes of violent crime suspects without a prior warrant.

Under the proposal presented by Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar on Monday, police officers would have the option to use this power when they have a good reason to believe that the suspects or weapons they are looking for are present in these homes.

“Arab citizens [are] caught between a rock and a hard place. They support all necessary means to reduce crime within the Arab community, yet the overwhelming majority of them don’t trust the police,” said Abu Rass.

“We are in a dire situation,” Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi told Army Radio on Monday morning. “We need to use all the tools” to fight the high crime rate.

By the count of The Abraham Initiatives’ tally, 100 Israeli Arabs have been lost to violence and crime since the beginning of the year. The 100th death was that of Salim Hasarma, 44, who was shot on Monday morning in the Upper Galilee town of Ba’ana. The shots were fired from a passing car, according to police.

A demonstrator holds a sign reading ''their pain is the responsibility of all of us,'' as Jewish and Arab Israelis protest in Tel Aviv against police inaction, the surging crime and violence in Arab communities  on March 13, 2021. (credit: FLASH90)A demonstrator holds a sign reading ''their pain is the responsibility of all of us,'' as Jewish and Arab Israelis protest in Tel Aviv against police inaction, the surging crime and violence in Arab communities on March 13, 2021. (credit: FLASH90)

In 83 of the cases, the death was caused by a firearm. The Abraham Initiatives is a nonprofit based in Lod, New York City and London, charged with the goal of fostering and cultivating Arab-Israeli ties.

“Advancing Sa’ar’s bill of expanding the ability of police to conduct search[es] without court permission is problematic,” said Abu Rass.

Thirteen of the deaths were females. Seven of the deaths were caused by police shootings.

Lod, a mixed city, was the site of violent riots during the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, leaving one Jew and one Arab dead in its wake. Several people were injured from gunshots and knifing incidents while four synagogues were burned, apartments were firebombed and cars were set on fire, along with general looting.

“What about the mixed cities?” tweeted Joint List MK Ayman Odeh. “Most of the budget dedicated to fighting crime in the Arab sector is directed at Arab towns – rightfully so – but the mayors of the mixed cities feel as though the needs of their cities are not being included in the plans.

“Crime is rising in the mixed cities as well,” Odeh added, noting that he discussed the matter with Interior Minister Omer Bar Lev.

“I support giving the police more authority and tools to combat organized crime within the Arab community,” Abu Rass added, “yet it must be under strict civilian oversight.”

“By expanding the power of the police to conduct warrantless searches, the government’s bill gives law enforcement unfettered discretion, which often leads to abuse and systematic violations of civil rights,” said Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, a nonprofit, Palestinian-run legal center in Israel.