The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Adalah, sent an urgent letter to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, and Shin Bet (Shabak) head Nadav Argaman, demanding they refrain from assigning intelligence agents and army forces to operate in Palestinian towns and neighborhoods on the pretext of combatting violence and crime.
Adalah’s letter follows the announcement of the decision taken by the Ministerial Committee on Fighting Crime and Violence in the Arab Sector on 3 October to engage Shin Bet agents and military forces as part of their efforts to fight the rising rates of violence and crime in the Arab community in Israel.
According to a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office, the existing law that regulates the work of the Shin Bet provides the requisite authority for the ministerial committee’s decisions, and there is no need to amend the law.
In its letter sent by Attorney Hassan Jabareen, Adalah argues that the decision is indicative of the hostile and discriminatory treatment of Palestinian citizens by Israeli authorities, under the guise of security considerations.
“The decision creates two separate law-enforcement systems – one for Palestinian Arab towns, neighborhoods, and citizens, and the other for the rest of the country – in which Palestinian citizens are treated as enemy aliens,” it said.
“It also introduces the Shin Bet into a civilian space, where they have no legal authority, particularly after the Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding surveillance that specifies the Shin Bet’s powers, it added.
Adalah emphasized that the work of the Shin Bet intelligence agency is carried out in secrecy, without oversight or transparency, and therefore it cannot be assigned to civil matters, including the issue of serious crime.
“Its very involvement and operation in such matters creates grave violations of basic human and civil rights,” said Adalah.
The center also noted that the law also does not authorize the army to play a role in policing within Israel. It said:
“The Government’s dangerous step reveals that the Israeli authorities intend to continue to deal with Palestinian citizens of Israel as enemies, in keeping with its continuous policy dating from the military rule imposed on Palestinians in Israel from 1948 to 1966.
“Contrary to the statements of the Israeli Government, the Shin Bet intelligence agency and the army are not empowered to carry out the work of the law enforcement authorities. The decision, in principle, to allow covert activity of unknown nature and gravity poses a further danger to the basic rights of Palestinian citizens, who are already systematically targeted and oppressed by the police today.
“The establishment of an enforcement system intended only for one ethnic and national group is a racist decision that produces two systems of law, and we will fight this decision with all the legal means at our disposal,” said Adalah.