You're brown - show me your ID
Profiling in Israel is humiliating and offensive: people, generally young, and nearly always Arab, Ethiopian, or Mizrahi, are targeted by police as suspects regardless of their behavior
In a recent viral post, Ben Hantkant of Jerusalem shared that the police stop him once every two weeks to check his ID. In an interview with ynet, he said that the humiliating experience takes place everywhere — in the mall, out on walks, in the city center, at the airport. Maybe it's his skin color, he wondered, or perhaps his "stoner" appearance. So the police stop him and ask to see his ID card. No big deal. What's the fuss about?
Anyone who doesn't understand what the fuss is about has likely never experienced profiling. The knowledge that you have been "selected" to present an ID or be searched due to some inherent characteristic of yours is one of the most humiliating and painful feelings one can experience.
We have recently been exposed to the story of “A,”, who is 16 years old. In spite of being an outstanding student and an excellent athlete who has never had a run-in with the law, he has been stopped by a police officer three times right under his home, who searched him or demanded that he explain what he was looking for. His big crime? He's of Ethiopian origin.
The pain and humiliation is so hurtful as the same type of people, usually young, almost always Arab, Ethiopian, or Mizrahi, are effectively deemed suspects, usually in public places, and regardless of their behavior. Ben, “A”, and so many others cannot change the color of their skin or their external appearance that reveals their ethnicity or origin.
Such labeling also comes at a challenging social cost. When society is constantly witnessing Arabs, Ethiopians, or Mizrahim undergoing inspections and questioning time after time, it creates the lasting impression that these are dangerous populations, suspicious from the outset. And so the cycle of stereotypes and discrimination is reproduced and perpetuated.
ACRI filed a precedent-setting lawsuit regarding “A's” case, who is afraid to leave his home, and we hope that it will lead to change. But as long as police officers are convinced that the law permits them to demand an ID from anyone on the street, even when they don't suspect them of committing an offense, such harm to minorities will continue.
This does not necessarily stem from racism on behalf of the police. Each of us has our own biases. We all attribute positive or negative traits to people based on their appearance and group affiliation. But as individuals without authority and power, the police and other enforcement agencies have tremendous power over us. They are thus expected to neutralize their racial biases. The police's demand for IDs is not a trivial matter: it violates honor and privacy, limits freedom of movement, and labels people as suspects.
The police recently issued new regulations on the matter, which were supposed to determine the criteria for exercising police authority and ensuring supervision of and control over their operations. But the regulations do exactly the opposite: they determine that a police officer is allowed to detain anyone on the street and ask them to identify themselves whenever an officer finds the matter "necessary to fulfill their duty." The regulations also neglect to establish any obligation to document these events in order to enable minimal supervision and deterrence.
Almost three years have passed since the publication of the “Palmor” report, which addressed racism and excessive policing against Ethiopian immigrants, but unacceptable profiling by police officers and security guards remains. The time has come to genuinely address this phenomenon.
Anne Sucio is a lawyer at ACRI
Published on ynet, May 12, 2012
This original piece in ynet can be found in Hebrew here.