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The Shin Bet is already present, so what is meant by 'introducing it'?

Naftali Bennett, Israel's prime minister, during the Jerusalem Post Conference in Jerusalem, Israel, on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021 [Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg via Getty Images]
Israel's prime minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem on 12 October 2021 [Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

In the summer of 2012, an Israeli security officer attended a wedding in a village in Nazareth, officially invited as a guest by the groom. During the wedding, live bullets were fired from rifles and pistols to celebrate the entrance of the groom. Although the shooting was legal, using weapons considered by the State to be licensed or as a "collaborator's weapon," the officer summoned the groom immediately after the ceremony and asked for the names of everyone who fired their rifle or pistol at the wedding.

Four individuals were questioned in connection with the shooting, three of whom were released immediately after their arrest, and the last one was kept in detention. An indictment was filed against him, and he was sentenced to two years in prison. The latter had fired bullets from a smuggled Carlo submachine gun (manufactured in a workshop). The security officer was able to distinguish the smuggled Carlo rifle from among the other rifles and pistols by the sound of its shots, despite the noise of music and the sound of fireworks and bullets at the wedding! The security agencies are present amongst us.

The discourse on the necessity of introducing the Shin Bet security service into Arab society in order to combat crime has been rising recently. Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, declared this last week and explained in a cabinet meeting that his government believes that it is necessary to include the Shin Bet and the army in order to combat the spread of crime. The government is not alone in claiming that this step is necessary, but some Arab politicians and academics are also claiming this and believe it is necessary.

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Yes, it is true, that our Arab society needs every option, and any possible tool to protect its children from murder and the chaos of weapons, and none of us has the right to disregard people's concerns and the blood of their children. However, the problem of crime which we are afflicted with, should not push us towards the wrong question, nor to allow ourselves to be blackmailed in the form of "living on the condition of cooperation."

The question is not whether "introducing the Shin Bet" falls under the authority of the government or the Supreme Court, but whether the Shin Bet service is not already present. It is both ironic and sad to say we must "introduce and involve the Shin Bet", as the Shin Bet is not a military group called to enter or leave a battle. The Shin Bet is an intelligence service that is already present in our Arab society, and it has never given up its intelligence activity since the establishment of the State, and at different levels of our lives.

A few months ago, an Israeli police officer stated that those committing organised crime were in contact with the Shin Bet. Then, in August, the special Israel police unit, "Seif", was established under the leadership of Jamal Hakrush, whose house was shot at by unknown individuals a few weeks ago, although they may not be unknown to Hakrush himself. However, the fact that he was threatened with gunfire says that every Arab is easy to threaten, even if they are a security official in the Israeli state security agency. It also says that cooperation does not spare any Arab from threats and gunfire in this country.

A few weeks after the "Seif" unit was established, the formation of a special "Musta'ribeen" unit to fight crime was announced.

Of course, crime continued and even became more prevalent than before, until the Shin Bet and the army began to be brandished by politicians, not by security officials. The police force always uses the Shin Bet when needed, in some cases, but in a closed security context, without this need becoming a political-cultural language used on a national-social group, as the discourse on needing to "introduce the Shin Bet" is being used on us now. We did not hear of a political body urging a security or military agency to intervene to support another security agency during the search for the six political prisoners who escaped from Gilboa prison.

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In previous Israeli security reports on the source of the "unlicensed weapons" behind the spread of crime in our Arab society, more than one report referred to three sources believed to be supplying them: theft from Israeli army barracks, smuggling from Jordan across the river and weapons manufactured in the West Bank. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that what the reports say is true, the responsibility has fallen for years – and still falls – on the shoulders of the Shin Bet more than on the police.

Weapons are not stolen from the army barracks but are sneaked out from them, and the distinction between theft and sneaking out is important in terms of understanding the involvement of official security agencies in this. Saying that the borders with Jordan and the West Bank are the sources of the weapons raises the question: How does the Shin Bet, along with the army, pursue weapons and their bearers in the West Bank, catching every last suspect at the farthest points of the cities and villages of the West Bank?

"Introducing the Shin Bet" does not mean bringing them in, as they are already present. It means re-proposing this agency to the Arab community, and this serves two purposes. The first is the rooting of the policy of security control of the Arab community and granting its relationship with the Israeli security services official status, as part of the policies of isolation and subjugation. This is a step back in the Israeli State's relationship with its Arab citizens, as subjects who are subject to their own security system. The second is not to gain cooperating Arab individuals, as this already exists but, rather, gaining a society which cooperates with the security services. This involves blackmailing the Arabs, as they are required to cooperate in exchange for their security.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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