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Mark Neiman / GPO
outgoing Police commissioner Roni Alsheikh
Mark Neiman / GPO
A wakeup call for Israel's leaders
Op-ed: Outgoing police chief made the parlous social neglect of the Arab minority his focal point as he left office, but are the politicians capable of picking up the baton and fixing the problem?

Just like we didn’t know we'd need a supertanker until Mount Carmel burned down and we didn't know we'd need a special parliamentary committee until 25 women were murdered in the space of year, we forgot about the Arab community until their neighborhoods were drenched in blood.

 

The recent onslaught of criminal attacks is not surprising, they are just the tip of the iceberg in a community which has been neglected for nearly 70 years. Now, no state official can ever claim: "I did not know."

 

 

Ironically, the only person to rise to the challenge and establish one of the most advanced and generous programs (to the tune of hundreds of millions of shekels) to help fight crime in Israel's Arab communities was outgoing police commissioner Roni Alsheikh. Now, on his way out, he faces a barrage of unjustified criticism.

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and outgoing Police commissioner Roni Alsheikh (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and outgoing Police commissioner Roni Alsheikh (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
 

 

But speaking to senior police officers in Tel Aviv last month, Alsheikh devoted his final address in office to this program. He described it in words that expressed deep solidarity with the Arab community, and explained why the state is morally obliged to implement this plan.

 

He outlined the program's objectives and presented a human perspective that seeks to bridge the divide between Arab and Jewish communities and lend a hand to the needy.

 

For a few minutes, we saw in Alsheikh a prime minister we have not had for a long time: compassionate, merciful, open-minded, and empathic.

 

 

The aftermath of an explosion in a car in the Arab neighborhood of Ajami in Jaffa (Photo: Yaron Brenner)
The aftermath of an explosion in a car in the Arab neighborhood of Ajami in Jaffa (Photo: Yaron Brenner)

 

Alsheikh elicited enduring applause from his audience of officers. You cannot suspect them of being against a program aimed at strengthening the police situation on the ground, reducing the crazy amount of weapons, invoking a quiet sense of control, and creating a safe environment for the battered and bloody community in our midst.

 

They, too, understood that Alsheikh's last message as a commissioner was carefully chosen. It is no coincidence that out of all the investigations and police cases that make headlines, Alsheikh chose to focus on our obligation to what is happening in our own backyard.

  

His words reflected the deep and clear insight of a man who saw firsthand a community's distress — a wound that runs so deep, he had never seen the likes of it before.

 

Asheikh was shocked by the long-standing neglect the Israeli Arab community has been subjected to, but above all, he showed a remarkable willingness to take action.

 

CCTV footage showing an attempted assassination in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, June 2018
CCTV footage showing an attempted assassination in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, June 2018

 

The commissioner, like most senior IDF officials, knows that field work is not enough. The police can set up 20 stations in Umm al-Fahm, but as long as there is no educational program in place to teach the young generation about the law and order, this reality will not change—instead it will become a promo for the next violent attack.

 

The alienation, the averted gaze, the neglect and segregation are the forebears of violence and crime. Israeli society, busy with its Jewish purification ceremonies, is moving away from its mission to serve as an example of goodness. The Jewish state prefers catchy slogans over complicated stories, turns down encounters between young Arabs and Jews, and condemns those who dare form an alliance.

 

But for all Alsheikh's words and plans, salvation will not come from the police. It has done its part—now it's the turn of Israel's political leaders. Are they up to the task? 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 




 

 

 

 


 

 


פרסום ראשון: 12.18.18, 22:32
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