Israel plans to bolster arrests in Naqab region, in move reeking of racialized policing

Israel’s Internal Security Ministry intends to increase arrests and detention – until end of legal proceedings – by 15 percent in region largely populated by Palestinian Bedouin citizens; Adalah: Policy’s geographic focus suggests it’s directed towards Arab population, raises suspicion of racial profiling.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent a letter on 18 August 2022 to senior Israeli officials demanding they cancel the government’s plan – which raises distinct suspicions of racial profiling and racializing policing – to increase the number of arrests and detentions until end of legal proceedings of Palestinian Bedouin citizens of the country’s Naqab (Negev) region.


In March 2022, the Israeli government published its annual work plan. Amongst other programs detailed in the plan, the Internal Security Ministry specified that it intended to “strengthen governance and the rule of law” in the Naqab region. The ministry said that, in accordance with this declared goal, it would increase the rate of arrests by 15 percent in 2022, and that detained individuals would remain in detention until the conclusion of legal proceedings against them.


In the letter sent to Israeli Internal Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, Israeli State Prosecutor Amit Aisman, and Israeli Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, Adalah Attorney Fady Khoury emphasized that deciding in advance to determine this increased arrest rate “is illegal and contravenes the purposes of laws governing arrests”. The adoption of a “sweeping policy to increase the number of detainees until the end of the proceedings categorically for suspects in the Negev, without reference to the type of offense and the personal circumstances of each detainee, seriously violates the essence of the right to freedom and amounts to a blatant violation of the legal limitations on restrictions to this freedom.”


Most notably: “the geographical delimitation of the aforementioned policy shows, among other things, that it is directed towards the Arab population in a manner that raises the suspicion of racist ethnic profiling.”


The Israeli government’s goal to “increase governance” acquires a particularly problematic hue when it includes a geographic demarcation that suggests the policy is directed towards the Palestinian population in the Naqab. This constitutes racial profiling of an entire population on the basis of ethnic and geographic affiliation, creating distinctions between criminal suspects based on their ethnic origins.


“The use of the goal of ‘increasing governance’ for the purpose of formulating a prosecution policy regarding requests for detention until the end of the proceedings violates the principle of equality and is a violation of the basic principles of laws governing detentions. It is illegal, unreasonable and disproportionate, and is therefore null and void,” Khoury wrote.


Israel’s arrest plan follows establishment of police unit targeting Bedouin citizens

In 2020, Adalah called on Israel to abolish a highly-militarized “Yoav” police unit tasked almost exclusively with enforcement in the Bedouin community in the Naqab that actively and overtly employs a discriminatory policy of racial profiling.


Israel’s Police and General Powers Ordinance does not authorize any government body to establish a dedicated unit operating upon the principles of racial profiling and/or that operates according to the ethnic identities of the country’s citizens. The ordinance likewise does not authorize any state body to establish separate enforcement approaches for different communities.


(Thumbnail photo: Israel Police/Facebook)