Otzma Yehudit coalition deal provides for new Shin Bet division to tackle Arab crime

NGOs react angrily to revelation, demand internal security agency ‘keep its hands off’ Arab community

Border Police officers stand guard near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, on May 25, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Border Police officers stand guard near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, on May 25, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The coalition agreement between Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and the far-right Otzma Yehudit party includes the formation of a new division in the Shin Bet security agency dedicated to tackling crime in Arab society, the latter party said Thursday.

Otzma Yehudit is chaired by far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir, who has employed anti-Arab rhetoric and has called for the deportation of Arabs who are “disloyal” to the state.

Deadly violence in Arab society has been a growing scourge in recent years. Since the beginning of 2022, 113 members of the Arab community have been killed in violent incidents, according to the Abraham Initiatives Watchdog, which tracks the violence.

The agreement triggered anger inside Arab society. Mohammad Barakeh, head of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, a top panel of Arab community leaders, told Walla news that Arabs are not “objects,” and that the state should “take care of [Arab citizens’] needs like any other group.”

According to the report in Walla, the new Shin Bet division would work in consultation with both the Prime Minister’s Office and the national security minister, which is expected to be Ben Gvir.

Barakeh demanded the Shin Bet “keep its hands off of Arab society” and not use crime organizations as a “tool” for “breaking up” Arab society.

“What is required is that the police fulfill its role like every police force in the world and apprehend criminals. The way the police operate in Jewish cities is the way it should operate in Arab society,” he said.

Jafar Farah, director of the Mossawa Center civil society group, shared similar sentiments, accusing the Shin Bet of preventing police from arresting known criminals, instead turning them into intelligence sources.

File: Bullets that police say were stolen from military bases and were allegedly due to be sold to Palestinians in the West Bank by a weapon smuggling ring indicted on March 16, 2020. (Israel Police)

“There is barely any rehabilitation program. Young people who commit minor crimes are not rehabilitated. Instead, they’re sent to prisons where they are recruited as soldiers in organized crime organizations.”

The Adalah Legal Center for Arab rights in Israel told Walla: “The Shin Bet is operating against Arab citizens even now… If this policy is indeed implemented, then this will constitute another milestone in the apartheid-like policy that Israel promotes against the Palestinians.”

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