Israel Police Looking for Shortcuts in Eradicating Arab Crime. It Wouldn't Do the Same for Jews

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Protesters near Public Security Minister Bar-Lev's home in Kochav Yair last week, calling for action on crime in the Arab community.

Alongside moving to give the Shin Bet security service authorities in acting against the crime wave in Israel’s Arab communities, the state now seeks to expand the powers of the police to conduct searches in homes and other buildings without a search warrant.

The legislation, which the Justice Ministry is advancing at the request of the Israel Police (Josh Breiner and Sheren Falah Saab, September 30), will also allow the police to seize images from security cameras without a court order. Both of these measures are said to be “necessary” in the wake of the rising incidence of violent crime in Arab communities. Police officials claim they want to eliminate the need for a court order because footage from security cameras is often erased before an order can be obtained.

Under the current law, the police may search a building without a warrant only if the officers have reason to believe a crime was committed at the premises, if the owner of the premises has requested police aid or if a person who has escaped from the police has entered the premises.

The proposed legislation would permit a police officer to enter a residence or other building without a search warrant also “when a reasonable suspicion exists that on the premises there is an item connected to a serious criminal offense that could serve as evidence.” The bill specifies that the police officers, not the judges, will have the authority to determine whether the suspicion is “reasonable.”

Like the unacceptable attempt to expand the authority of the Shin Bet to deal with Arabs only, this exceptional request by the police, with the aforementioned support of the Justice Ministry, arouses considerable suspicion that the police force is trying to create shortcuts for itself while overlooking the requirements of good governance and human rights in a manner it would never have occurred to them when dealing with crime in Jewish communities.

There must be an end to looking for shortcuts in the form of granting draconian powers for the separate policing of 20 percent of the population. If the existing powers suffice in the rest of the country, they will also suffice in the Arab communities. And if there is nevertheless a need for specific changes, they must be far more measured, with an expiration date and, above all – they must be achieved through dialogue and cooperation with representatives of the community. There must be oversight of the actions of the police, in order to guarantee that the eradication of crime in Arab communities is accomplished in accordance with all the rules that prevail in the rest of the country.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel

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