Rights group slams Israeli undercover unit as 'racist and illegal'

The establishment of an Israeli undercover squad composed of Jews who will pretend to be Arabs in Palestinian areas within Israel has been slammed by a Palestinian-Israeli NGO as "racist" and "illegal".

Israeli police revealed on Tuesday the creation of the Mistaaravim undercover unit, which it said would combat "organised crime" in Palestinian parts of Israel.

Mistaaravim, which loosely translates as "artificial Arabs", are commonly used by Israel in protests in Palestinian neighbourhoods.

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Rights group Adalah expressed its outrage at the move in a letter to Avichai Mandelblit, the Israeli attorney general, and Kobi Shabtai, the nation's police chief, on Wednesday.

Adalah stressed that "designating a special unit to a specific ethnic group is racist and illegal".

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"The decision to set up an undercover unit that intends to operate solely within Palestinian Arab towns and villages in Israel is a racist act," Myssana Morany, a lawyer for the minority rights group, said.

"[This] produces a unique and separate law enforcement system for Arab citizens than the one in place for Jewish Israeli citizens," Morany said.

"This special system is based on the worldview of the Israeli police as 'the Arabs as an enemy'."

Adalah has urged that the unit be dismantled.

"Using the excuse of the high incidence of crime within the Arab towns and villages to justify the use of special undercover police units or the granting of powers to the Shabak (GSS) are dangerous moves," Morany said.

"[This] will certainly lead to more human rights violations against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and could endanger their lives."

The Mistaaravim at times employ "extreme violence against legitimate demonstrators", according to Adalah.

The rights group said they "assault[ed] demonstrators" when Palestinian citizens of Israel rose up in May against Tel Aviv's deadly bombing campaign against Gaza, attacks on Al-Aqsa mosque and expulsion efforts against residents of Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

This, coupled with the new unit's creation, suggests Israeli policing of its Palestinian citizens is more and more closely resembling the occupation tactics it uses against Palestinians in the West Bank.

"The Mistaaravim... [have been] working for decades already in the West Bank and they are doing the same [thing]. They are going between the demonstrators and starting throwing stones and actually giving the military sometimes a reason to fire on the demonstrations and then they will detainee [sic] whoever is among them," Morany told The New Arab.

Palestinians in Israel were subject to an Israeli military administration between 1948 and 1966, as those in the West Bank are today.

"It's the same legacy, it's the same vision that [is] still affecting the way that the state of Israel is treating the Palestinians," she said.

"It's the same system using different tools... it's the same old ideology of control over the minority."


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