Israel Police Cuts Training on How to Relate to Arab Society

The police has ended its partnership with the Abraham Fund, which has been working for a dialogue between Arab community and the force for 12 years.

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
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Israeli riot police officers clash with Israeli Arabs during a Kafr Kana protest over the fatal shooting of Hamdan, Nov. 9, 2014
Israeli riot police officers clash with Israeli Arabs during a Kafr Kana protest over the fatal shooting of Hamdan, Nov. 9, 2014Credit: AP
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

The Israel Police has terminated its connection with the Abraham Fund, which for 12 years has been operating a project to promote dialogue between Arab community leaders and the police, and develop knowledge of the Arab populace among police in the field. According to the Abraham Fund, which has the stated aim of building a shared future for Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens, “As of today, insofar as we know there is no systematic training in the Israel Police for policing in a society that is splintered and multicultural.”

The project got underway in 2002, at a time when the relations between the police and Arab citizens of Israel were at a nadir. The Or Commission’s report of its inquiry into the clashes that culminated in the killing by police fire of 13 Arab civilians in October 2000 found a string of flaws in police conduct toward Arab citizens and made recommendations for changes in the organization. Among other things, the report stated that the police see the Arabs in Israel as enemies. The Abraham Fund began working with the police at that time to establish relations of trust with Arab society and develop a new pattern of community-oriented policing.

For 12 years the project was approved by successive police commissioners and public security ministers. The issue became part of the training program for police, particularly for police patrol units. According to the Abraham Fund, however, by the summer of 2014 after the disturbances in the Arab sector began following the murder of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the connection with the police had begun to weaken. Now, precisely when tension between the Arab sector and the Israel Police is once again at a boiling point, it has been decided to eliminate the project from the police curriculum.

“They’ve stopped working with us formally,” says Abraham Fund Co-Executive Director Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu. “It began in the days of [previous police chief Yohanan] Danino, who said he had received a recommendation to incorporate the fund’s lesson plans into the police school but this would be done without us. Danino left and we waited for a few months until the appointment of the new police chief.”

Despite Be’eri-Sulitzeanu’s attempts to make contact with the new police commissioner, Roni Alsheikh, until now, he says, he has not succeeded in getting the police chief’s response on the matter. “There’s no problem with them doing it on their own, but I can say with confidence that today it simply isn’t happening. A few months ago we asked the police what content they were teaching, and only then did a police car show up with a request for binders and study materials. This is sending an important project down the tubes.”

The Abraham Fund has conducted yearly study trips for top police officers to various countries to learn about how the local police deal with foreign criminals, minorities and immigrants. Two years ago an Abraham Fund delegation went to the United States with 14 chiefs of police stations in mixed areas, who received training on policing in a multicultural society.

In the view of Joint Arab List chairman MK Ayman Odeh, “Shutting down the project and the police commissioner’s silence are another sad example of how the police relate to the Arab public.”

The Israel Police, according to a spokesman, is operating on “a variety of levels to increase the sense of security and establish trust in the police and the rule of law in various segments of the population, and above all in the Arab sector. More than two years ago the chief of police at the time, Yohanan Danino, decided to change the arrangement with the Abraham Fund and focus only on a strategic interface, while making full use of the insights obtained through the joint processes. The police is continuing to act in a significant and extensive way, including investment of many resources, in adapting the organization’s services to a variety of population segments.”

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