Adalah: Israel’s New Undercover, Faux-Arab Police Unit is Illegal

Adalah –– The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel ––  sent an urgent letter of protest to Israel’s Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and Attorney General (AG) Avichai Mandelblit, following a announcement by police on August 31 regarding the start of operations by a new undercover unit to operate inside Arab towns in Israel, ostensibly to fight against organized crime in these locales. Similar Mista’aravim units composed of Israel Jews posing as Palestinians have been deployed by the police in Arab towns and villages in Israel for decades, particularly during demonstrations.

Members of one of Israel's police undercover "Mista'aravim" units

Members of one of Israel’s police undercover “Mista’aravim” units (Photo: Israeli Police)

Adalah’s letter follows an earlier one from April 2021 that was sent by the NGO immediately after the media reported on the intentions of the police to set up such a unit. In that previous letter, Adalah demanded that the Police Commissioner, the AG and the Interior Minister prevent the unit’s establishment. Adalah argued then that the decision to set up the unit is illegal and contrary to the Police Ordinance, which requires a non-uniformed officer to identify him or herself before utilizing police powers.

Furthermore, Adalah stressed that the very act of directing a unit’s activity to a distinct population group on the basis of national affiliation is racist and amounts to racial profiling, and illegally produces two separate law enforcement systems: one for Jewish Israelis and one for Palestinians.

In response to Adalah’s April letter, in June the Police Commissioner’s Office denied the reports about plans to found the unit, which despite the denials began operating three weeks ago, on August 31.

In Adalah’s most recent letter, authored by the NGO’s Attorney Mysanna Morany, the organization demands that the Police Commissioner and the AG respond to the legal arguments raised by Adalah against the illegal nature of establishing such a unit.

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