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  • thawra abukhdeir

Ban Civilian Policing Organizations in the Negev, Mixed Cities, and Sheikh Jarrah

Police and Border Police forces in Lod following the violence in the city, May 2021. Photo: Israel Police (CC BY-SA 3.0)

On March 9, 2022, we appealed to the Police Commissioner and Mayor of Lod, along with the Abraham Initiatives, ahead of a conference in which the civilian policing initiatives established in the city were presented in collaboration with the municipality and the police. The groups at hand are made up of armed Jewish citizens, and were established in cooperation with the "Torah Nucleus" movement in Lod and Beit Chabad following riots that occurred during Operation Guardian of the Walls. Per publications by one of the organizations called the "Lod Guard Group," they plan to erect a "comprehensive system of security cameras throughout the neighborhood"; "purchase a patrol vehicle for an armed and motorized patrol in cooperation with the Lod Police"; "establish a security organization"; and "dispatch dozens of armed individuals within two minutes’ time, who will undergo training."

In the appeal, ACRI Atty. Anne Suciu, Dr. Thabet Abu Ras, and Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu of the Abraham Initiatives, wrote that on the face of it, this is an armed militia for all intents and purposes, and that the Lod Police Chief recently announced the establishment of a stand-by squad composed of armed Jewish citizens. We said that there is no question that the security of the city's residents needs to be improved, but that it should be done by the police themselves. We shouldn't allow the privatization of policing or the spread of racist ideas into policing and security operations, which would be unacceptable. Such a process is liable to bring about an escalation of tensions in Lod, towards future incidents.

On March 16, 2022, we appealed to the Police Commissioner and Mayor of Be’er Sheva, along with the Abraham Initiatives, regarding another initiative to establish an armed militia, this time in the Negev. Moreover, we appealed to the Attorney General and Minister of Public Security, demanding that the police cease to cooperate with such initiatives and prevent their establishment. In the appeal, we wrote that these initiatives reflect the privatization of explicit government authorities. The establishment of organized armed forces that function alongside, or in cooperation with, the police should not be permitted whatsoever, and should be avoided all the more so where sensitive points of friction exist. Moreover, such processes join the list of alarming data regarding the dramatic increase in the scope of applications for private firearms licenses following Operation Guardian of the Walls. We further wrote that the legal regulations regarding mobilizing volunteers within the framework of Civil Guards is an exhaustive arrangement that determines the competence, authority, oversight, and restrictions on volunteer activities, and that no deviation from this arrangement should be permitted.

Following our appeal regarding the Lod case and the media interest that arose surrounding the matter, the police announced that they would not take part in the initiative. The "tone" of the conference changed. The website to which we referred was taken down and replaced by another site with a call to volunteer for the police. In response to our request regarding the Barel Patrol, the police noted that they would refrain from cooperating with the patrol and would not participate in its inaugural conference.

On March 28, 2022, ACRI appealed to the Jerusalem District Commander and the mayor of Jerusalem, following a report regarding the mobilization of armed groups of Jews in the occupied territories, which aim to reach Sheikh Jarrah during Ramadan to allegedly secure the homes in which settlers’ live. In the appeal, ACRI Atty. Tal Hassin sought to bring an end to this dangerous and illegal initiative. We wrote that settlers’ entry into a neighborhood, armed with both weapons and a racist nationalist worldview, is likely to prove disastrous, lead to an exacerbation of preexisting tension, and escalate future incidents. We added that the law prohibits the provision of security services without a license from the designated authorities, and that insofar as security in Sheikh Jarrah warrants bolstering, it should be equitably addressed by the police themselves for all residents therein, Palestinians and Jews alike.

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