A racist activist has established an armed civilian unit of rangers to “save the Negev from problematic absence of personal security.” According Haaretz, the initiative was initially supported by the police and the Be’er Sheva municipality, but on Tuesday, police walked back their endorsement.
Police vs. Arab-Bedouin protest in the Negev, January 13, 2022 (Photo: Activestills)
The unit was established by Almog Cohen, a regional coordinator for Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit. Cohen said in the past that he intends to recruit “armed men with a (gun) license” who are interested in conducting patrols in the area. The unit’s website says that the volunteers would not be joining the regular civil guard, but rather act as an “independent force.” “There are several advantages to this. Each volunteer will have the authority, even when not accompanied by a policeman; we are not dependent on political agents, we’re closer to the individual citizen,” it reads. Cohen, a former policeman, said on Wednesday that ever since he announced the initiative last October, almost 200 locals had volunteered.
In its response, the police did not address questions by Haaretz regarding the unit’s description as an autonomous group under their auspices, or to concerns that the rangers will serve as cover for revenge acts against the Bedouin. They attributed their decision to distance themselves from the racist militia to a crowdsourcing campaign Cohen launched in order to buy equipment. He’s raised 110,000 shekels ($34,000) so far, with the target being 1.4 million shekels.