Israel police boasts first hijab-wearing Arab officer but Palestinians suffering institutional racism say it's 'woke-washing'

Israel police boasts first hijab-wearing Arab officer but Palestinians suffering institutional racism say it's 'woke-washing'
Sabreen Saadi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, has gone viral after a photo of her in an Israeli police uniform was released.
3 min read
19 February, 2020
Sabreen Saadi is serving in the Israeli police [Twitter]
Israel has appointed its first hijab-wearing policewoman in what is being seen as a betrayal in the marginalised the community.

Sabreen Saadi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, has gone viral after a photo of her in an Israeli police uniform was released.

"The police are a good place and provide progress, self-fulfilment, and a sense of equality," she said in an interview with Israeli news outlet Yediot Aharanot.

She prides herself in coming from a Muslim background and has claimed the Israeli police is a place that has allowed her to "advance in the ranks and achieve professional aspirations".

Her decision caused a backlash in her community, with many even sending her threats. She says she is unfazed by the threats because she only fears God.

Ofir Gendelman, spokesperson for the office of the Israeli prime minister, tweeted her photo, saying he's "proud" of Palestinian citizens of Israel, referring to them as Arab-Israelis.

Systematic racism against Palestinian citizens of Israel

The term Arab-Israelis is often used to describe Palestinian citizens of Israel, who had survived the Nakba – a mass exodus of native Palestinians in 1948 which led to the creation of Israel.

For many, it is seen as a derogatory term because it erases their Palestinian identity.

Read more: Demolitions in Negev and the forgotten plight of Palestinian Bedouins

Palestinian citizens of Israel make up 20 percent of the Israeli population and face systematic discrimination and complain of being treated as second-class citizens in comparison to their Jewish counterparts.

Large segments of the Israeli public see Palestinian citizens as a demographic threat to Israel's Jewry, with discrimination entrenched across housing, public services, education and employment.

According to 2019 a study by the Adava Center, 49.2 percent of Palestinian-Israeli households live below the poverty line and 13.5 percent of households live in near poverty.

This is in comparison to Israel's Jewish population, 13.2 percent of families were in poverty and a further 7.2 percent in near poverty.

They are often a target in political campaigns. Running up to the April 2019 elections, Israeli politicians used its Palestinian citizens as a political tool to encourage citizens to vote for them to "combat" Palestinian voices.

At the time, public security minister Gilad Erdan said that the incentive for his party's right-wing supporters in voting during the election should be to prevent Palestinian citizens of Israel from gaining seats in the Knesset.

Security forces were also caught installing hidden security cameras in Palestinian polling stations.

Palestinian citizens of Israel have regularly suffered discrimination in Israel in areas such as housing, healthcare, and education. The 2019 Israeli "nation-state" law stated that only Jewish citizens of Israel have the right to self-determination in Israel.

As well as passing the nation-state law, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has himself propounded anti-Arab sentiment against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Police brutality

Palestinian citizens of Israel are often at odds with Israeli police – an institution which they believe is taking a passive role in stopping a gun violence epidemic within their marginalised community.

Palestinian gun violence in Israel accounts for over 60 percent of all murder victims nationwide. There are more than 400,000 illegal weapons among Palestinians in Israel, despite the population being more than two million.

This means one in five Palestinian citizen of Israel is armed, with little work being done to stop the epidemic by the police.

"We are part of the State of Israel, but the state is not inside our Arab communities," Thabet Abu Rass, Co-Executive Director at The Abraham Fund told The New Arab.

"Unfortunately, the Israeli police deal with us as enemies, not as equal Jewish citizens," he added.

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