Opinion: In the fight against violent crime plaguing the community, the security agency must be limited in its role in order to protect the civil and democratic rights of Arabs, who share in the government’s desire to rid the streets from criminals
Gunmen involved in double murder caught on security cameras in Deir al Assad, last April
Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev outlined in an interview earlier this week his reasons for involving the Shin Bet domestic security agency in the fight against the violent crime wave plaguing the Arab communities in Israel.
According to Bar-Lev, the enormous number of weapons in the hands of Arab citizens could ultimately be used against IDF soldiers.
The minister warned that in case of war against the Lebanese, Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, Israeli military forces making their way towards the northern border could come under attack from Arab residents of the Galilee.
This is no less than incitement and describes two million Israelis as enemies of the state.
In the two years since I myself called for the Shin Bet to be included in the fight against Arab criminal gangs, 200 more people were murdered, and dozens of families were destroyed. But very little has changed. The number of weapons on the streets remains high and the communities are still overrun by terror, fear and horror.
In a turn of events, some of the increase in the violence is the result of additional government funding for local municipalities in the Arab sector, provided in order to improve living conditions. But their growing budgets has made them targets of crime syndicates and intensified their acts of extortion.
With virtually no police enforcement, local politicians feared confrontations with the gangs, and unfortunately some chose their personal safety over their public’s interests.
The government only woke up to the problem in recent weeks and decided to involve the Shin Bet in the national effort to combat crime and reduce the amount of guns in the hands of criminals. But in the eyes of Arab citizens, the Shin Bet has been watching over Arabs and their civilian lives since the establishment of the state.
The security organization has been involved in a slew of decisions pertaining to the lives of Arab citizens – although their presence is revealed only on rare occasions.
Shin Bet representatives take part in selecting school principles in the Arab sector to this day, despite a Supreme Court ruling banning their participation.
Arabs regard the Shin Bet as an extension of the government and believe it is involved in matters of security – at the very least – in full cooperation with other branches of government, contrary to the practice in the Jewish sector.
Israeli officials consider most criminal acts carried out by Arabs against Jewish Israelis to be politically motivated in order to justify Shin Bet’s involvement, which has often resulted in the quick arrest of murderers.
The government, one can assume, regards the removal of weapons from the streets in the Arab sector as vital to the security of the nation. Therefore, the involvement of the Shin Bet is needed and possible under the current laws.
But without setting a time limit or restricting the organizations’ authority over civilian matters, there is a danger that it will overstep its proposed role beyond the fight against criminals. Therefore, some legislative action is needed.
The Shin Bet’s role in the fight against the crime wave in the Arab sector must be limited to no more than a number of months and its authority to act must be clearly predetermined. So that the civil and democratic rights of Arab citizens are not compromised as they had often been the case in the past.