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Associated Press/Sebastian Scheiner
The highest-ranking Muslim to serve in the force.
BREAKING NEW GROUND

For the first time, Israel’s police has promoted a Muslim to its most senior ranks

By Aamna Mohdin

Jamal Hakrush began his new job as deputy commissioner yesterday (April 14). In most countries or cities, that wouldn’t be a big deal. But Hakrush is an Israeli Arab and it’s the highest rank ever attained by a Muslim in the Israeli police force.

Hakrush’s first major initiative will focus on stemming the flow illegal weapons. The new deputy commissioner, the second-highest rank in the police, will lead a newly formed police division.

His biggest task will be improving policing in Arab communities, which make up about 20% of the population and have long complained of discrimination and persecution. In a 2014 report (pdf), Adalah—an Israeli Arab human rights organization—slammed the government for not holding the police to account and doing little about the police’s “use of violence against Israeli citizens, particularly against Palestinian citizens.” Adalah found that of 11,282 complaints of police misconduct submitted between 2011 and 2013, only 3.3% of cases led to disciplinary actions against police officers and 2.7% led to prosecution.

Hakrush, who comes from the village of Kafr Kanna in Galilee, was formally appointed in a swearing-in ceremony attended by commissioner Roni Alsheich. The appointment follows months of violence in Israel and Palestinian territories, including the death an Eritrean immigrant, who was mistaken for a gunman. Distressing footage showed the man bleeding on the floor, while being attacked by an angry mob.

Alsheich hopes to build several new police stations in Arab communities and recruit 1,300 new officers.

“This issue is not only of concern to the police, but also to the Arab community itself,” Alsheich said, according to The Times of Israel. “There is a strong desire to strengthen policing in the Arab community. I met dozens of leaders of Arab local councils and discovered that there was great willingness.”