In Recruiting Campaign, Israel Police Discriminates Against Arabs, ultra-Orthodox Jews

The police say they prefer combat experience, contradicting their goal of getting more Israeli Arabs on the force.

The Israel Police recently launched a major advertising campaign urging people to apply to join the force. But under the heading "Job Requirements," the ads include one interesting sentence in bright yellow: “Preference given to military combat service.”

With these few words, the police are effectively discriminating against Israeli Arabs, ultra-Orthodox Jews and people disqualified for combat by health reasons.

Just last month, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino told a conference of Arab mayors that the force wanted to increase its recruitment of minorities. “We plan to launch a major recruitment drive this year,” he said. “I urge the Arab leadership to call on [Arab citizens] in every possible forum to join the Israel Police.”

Danino has made similar comments about recruiting more ultra-Orthodox Jews. But now, in its biggest recruitment drive in years, the force is still discriminating against both groups.

Samir Darwish, a former mayor of Zemer whose father and brother were both cops, finds the ad campaign discriminatory, hurtful and bewildering.

“There’s a trend in the police today toward recruiting more young Arabs; the police commissioner and the [public security] minister talk about it on every possible occasion,” he said. “So I don’t understand this campaign. We have a major interest in enlisting our young people in the police to fight violence in our community, and I very much hope the police fix this.”

But Mahmoud Assi, mayor of Kafr Bara, said he wasn’t surprised. “It’s always been like this,” he said.

The ultra-Orthodox were equally upset by the ads. “Government agencies aren’t doing anything to let Haredim integrate,” said MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism). “This is a good and correct example of discrimination against the Haredi community. What’s the connection between being a Golani Brigade fighter and being a good police investigator?”

A check of other police forces worldwide, including the United States, Australia, Britain and other European countries, found that none require combat experience for ordinary policemen, as opposed to special-forces units. And even many local police officers admit there’s no relationship between combat service and being a good cop.

Dr. Avi Bruchman, a former police major general whose last job was head of the community policing unit, said he didn’t think combat service should be required. Bruchman, who now teaches at Ashkelon Academic College, said he recently tried to get several of his criminology students – whose education is very relevant to police work – into the force, even arranging a meeting for them with senior police officers. But the effort fell through because they hadn’t served in combat units.

“I don’t understand the connection,” Bruchman said. “Who said a fighter who did combat service and learned to assault the enemy will be a better investigator than someone else?”

According to Bruchman, by “ruling out so many people and groups” in advance, “the police are losing important and high-quality manpower.”

A police spokesman said the force recruits people from every population group in Israel “and is even working to encourage recruitment in the Haredi and Arab communities in many ways.”

But giving preference to combat service is “necessary, appropriate and practical given the tasks the Israel Police faces, including its responsibility for public security and dealing with terror attacks,” he said. “This does not undermine or discriminate in the integration of all population groups, which is one of the organization’s strategic goals.”