What Israel's First and Only Muslim Police General Had to Say About the Temple Mount Attack

Gamal Hakroosh is the officer in charge of the Israeli police's minority affairs. Last week, three members of the Arab minority killed two policemen from the Druze minority. 'I'm not willing to feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place,' he says

Deputy police commissioner Gamal Hakroosh in 2016.
Moti Milrod

Hello to deputy police commissioner Gamal Hakroosh. Nir Gontarz here, from Haaretz. How are you?

Fine.

What have the past few days been like for you?

Fine. What was different about those days?

You’re really asking me that? After all, you are the first and only Muslim of your rank on the Israel Police, and are in charge of the minority communities. Last weekend, three Israeli citizens from the minorities murdered two policemen from the minorities. That’s the difference.

First of all, it’s a bad event.

Yes, that’s pretty obvious, I’d say.

Second, every normative citizen is obliged to condemn an event like this.

We condemned. What else?

An event like this should never occur.

Obviously. Do you have any deeper insight, apart from all this?

What is permitted to say about the event is that every person condemns it. Condemns it strongly.

Yes, I understood. What else?

I can’t go into it. You know that the event is under a gag order. All the details. Other than the facts, about which nothing can be done. Generally speaking, it’s quite sensitive. That’s the greatness of the Israel Police: Both in sensitive situations, and also in sensitive situations, it’s the Israel Police. There’s no choice.

It’s clear that the matter is under investigation and it’s clear that it was a bad event, and it’s clear that every healthy individual is against every murder and killing and death. But I’m interested in how it is for you amid this whole thing. In your place, I would feel slightly between a rock and a hard place. Generally speaking, not in the context of this event.

First, definitely not. Definitely not. I am not willing to feel [like I’m] between a rock and a hard place, because my views are known; every event that involves a loss of human life is a difficult event for each person.

Obviously. That’s obvious.

Even for you as a journalist, it’s hard to cover an event in which there is loss of human life. That’s how it is.

Obviously.

Anyone who doesn’t feel that way should examine himself. But I am a policeman who represents the Israel Police, who does his job willingly. We – our whole job is to prevent killing. Is there anything harder than loss of human life?

Apparently not.

We all need to think together, even if there are arguments. Even if there are disagreements. Human life is outside all that.

Beyond this terrorist attack, and after we’ve condemned – do you understand the bitterness and lack of trust of Israel’s Arab residents in the police?

Let me tell you: The Israel Police has admitted that it’s weak in the Arab locales. And we want to strengthen ourselves. On the one hand, there’s bitterness that the police aren’t imposing order. We came to strengthen the police, and you hear individual voices We are aware of this and want to strengthen the policing on the Arab street, which is above all for the benefit of the normative citizen. Strengthening the police. Establishing police stations to draw the [Arab population] closer. And if there are offenses, we will respond more quickly. It’s for the good of the citizen. There is less policing in Arab locales.

You mentioned more policing. What about the quality of the policing? As a journalist, I can’t help noticing that the policing done with respect to the Arabs – as it is with minorities among the Jews – is more violent than against strong groups in society, or those that are the government’s favorites. Policemen behave with violence toward Arabs.

I don’t know what you base that on.

I would refer you to Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, to ask him what I base myself on, but unfortunately that’s not possible. Did you see how the police forces entered there, armed from head to foot? [Al-Kiyan was shot to death by police in Umm al-Hiran, a Bedouin village in the Negev, last January.]

You’re taking me to places where an examination is still ongoing, and you know there are no results yet. Talk Listen, look You called immediately to ask, but talk to me about

Did I touch a sore point?

We educate police officers to give equal service.

Mr. Deputy Commissioner, almost at the same time as Umm al-Hiran [happened], an illegal settlement was evacuated. The police who came to the settlement wore day-camp caps and school T-shirts, and didn’t have weapons. There, the sensitive police officers were struck in the face with crowbars and fire extinguishers. But the police officers in Umm al-Hiran were armed like they were going to a commando operation in Syria. That’s not giving equal service.

As you know, before each particular operation carried out by the Israel Police, there is a situation appraisal. You don’t know what the situation appraisal was, neither in the one case nor in the other. I don’t want to say what the situation appraisal was here and what the situation appraisal was there. Let’s leave that to the individual commander’s discretion.

The fact is that it doesn’t hold water. And that’s exactly the problem. When it’s about demolishing homes of law-abiding Arabs, the situation appraisal is that they’re hooligans who only want to kill police officers. And when it’s about Jewish hooligans – who are close to the government – the situation appraisal is of good Jews who are very sad.

Meaning that you know what the information in the situation appraisal was. What the information was in the one case, and what the information was in the other.

Of course. In [in their evacuation of the illegal West Bank outpost of] Amona, the police assessed that nothing would happen, so they allowed themselves to show up like they were going on an annual outing to Yarkon Park, and ended up with dozens of wounded police officers. And in Umm al-Hiran, the police were briefed, apparently without any concrete intelligence information, that a car-ramming attack was to be expected. I know that, because that’s what some of the police officers testified to the Justice Ministry’s unit for the investigation of police officers. You see that I know?

If you know I don’t know.

You really don’t know?

Aha. Did you notice that you called and immediately started the interview? Did you notice that?

Obviously. I’m a journalist who’s calling a ranking police officer whom I don’t know. What other reason would I have to call? To ask how the wife and kids are?

First, first of all, you’re right, and you are a journalist. But take note that nothing is acceptable to you.

It's about the facts on the ground.

You’re not privy to the situation appraisals of commanders.

True. But it was published in the police officers’ testimonies to the Justice Ministry unit. I discern your absolute loyalty to the police, and that’s honorable. But it’s possible that, because of it, it’s hard for you to see other things.

I am loyal to my population. That’s something you didn’t mention – that I am loyal to them also. That you didn’t say.

I’ll tell you the truth: It was a bit difficult for me to hear that and discern that here. Sorry.

I promise you, promise you: The moment we are permanently on the Arab street, we will give the Arab citizen the services he deserves. He deserves appropriate and equal police services, and that’s what we’re working on.

Good. Thank you very much, deputy commissioner.

You’re welcome.