Calls for Israel police chief to be sacked over racist comment about murderous ‘nature’ of Arabs [Palestinians]

Shweta Sharm

The Independent  /  April 5, 202

Israel’s police chief is facing calls to be sacked after he was heard saying Arabs in the country have murderous “nature” in a leaked recording.

Israeli police commissioner Kobi Shabtai allegedly made the racist remark in a private meeting with far-right national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir last week.

During the meeting, Mr Ben Gvir was seeking to understand the record-high crime rates in Arab communities of the country and said they need a strong national guard to combat the issue.

“One murder after another. It has crossed every line. We need a strong national guard,” Mr Ben Gvir was quoted as saying in the transcript of their leaked conversation by Channel 12 on Tuesday.

The police chief responded: “Mr minister, there is nothing that can be done. They kill each other. That is their nature. That is the mentality of the Arabs.”

The leaked conversation comes amid a growing dispute between the two after Israeli government’s approval to form a national guard which would operate under Mr Ben Gvir’s ministry.

However, opponents, including the police chief and opposition party leaders, have warned against it, saying it will function as a “private militia” of Mr Ben Gvir, leader of the far-right Jewish Power party.

The controversial leader who was given the national security minister’s portfolio in Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet was convicted in 2007 of racist incitement against Arabs and backing a group considered by Israel and the US to be a terrorist organisation.

He has been charged more than 50 times on allegations of incitement to violence or hate speech.

The police chief’s office said the remarks were taken out of context from a private conversation and expressed shock that the conversation was leaked.

However, the statement did not seek to retract or apologise for Mr Shabtai’s comments.

“The police are shocked that the minister and his office are recording personal conversations between the minister and the chief, and are outraged that things were taken out of context in a conversation that dealt with behavior patterns in Arab society that does not reveal the identity of the murderers even when it is known to the relatives of the victims,” the statement said.

“This conduct calls into question the ability of the police to report to the minister without fearing the disclosure of sources and the distortion of the conversations,” said the police.

The comments have sparked outrage, with opposition party members calling for Mr Shabtai’s resignation.

Ayman Odeh, chair of the Joint List party, said: “The number of Palestinians killed in [criminal incidents in] Israel is seven times higher than the number of Palestinians killed [in criminal incidents] in the West Bank, Gaza and Jordan.”

“This is not the nature of the Palestinians, it is the nature of the racist establishment,” he said, adding that “racist commissioner like Shabtai” should be sacked.

Mansour Abbas, deputy speaker of the Knesset and chair of the United Arab List, said the commissioner should apologise and retract his “obscene remarks about Arab society” and the prime minister should condemn the remarks.

“I expect the police commissioner to retract his obscene remarks about Arab society and apologize to the Arab public or resign from his position,” he said.

Lawmaker Waleed Alhwashla of the United Arab List said Mr Shabtai is “descending into the abyss of racism and prejudice, and this is without regard to the fact that the statement, in itself, is a form of embezzlement”.

The controversial comments against Palestinians come amid a wave of rising violence in the country between Israeli police force and Palestinian youths, sparking confrontation with Gaza militants.

Israeli police stormed into Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City early Wednesday as Muslims marked holiday month of Ramadan and Jews prepared to begin the Passover festival.

Around 14 people were injured after police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets following a pre-dawn raid. The clashes prompted Hamas to fire nine rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel, setting of alert sirens near Sderot.