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Israeli police chief under fire after saying ‘Arabs murder each other, it’s in their nature’

Israel’s police chief Kobi Shabtai (by AFP)

Israel’s police chief has come under fire for his leaked racist comments in which he said murder is in the nature of Arab communities in the occupied territories.

Kobi Shabtai apparently made the comments in a private meeting with far-right minister Itamar Ben Gvir last week.

A transcript of the meeting leaked by Israeli media shows Shabtai saying murder is “the mentality of the Arabs.” 

The remarks were made in response to Ben Gvir saying Israel needs a so-called national guard to combat record-high crime rates in Arab communities living in the occupied territories. The police chief responded, “Mr. minister, there is nothing that can be done. They kill each other. That is their nature. That is the mentality of the Arabs.”

The representatives of Arab parties in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) were outraged by the police commissioner’s words, calling for Shabtai to be sacked over the comments.

Ayman Odeh, chair of the Joint List party, called on the police chief to resign over the comments. “The number of Palestinians killed in [criminal incidents in] Israel is seven times higher than the number of Palestinians killed [in criminal incidents] in the West Bank, Gaza and Jordan.”

“This is not the nature of the Palestinians, it is the nature of the racist establishment,” he said, adding that a “racist commissioner like Shabtai” should be sacked.

Mansour Abbas, the deputy speaker of the Knesset and chair of the United Arab List, said the commissioner should apologize and retract his “obscene remarks about Arab society.”

“I expect the police commissioner to retract his obscene remarks about Arab society and apologize to the Arab public or resign from his position.”

The police chief’s office has expressed shock the conversation was leaked. However, the statement stopped short of offering apologies for the comment, instead arguing that the remarks were taken out of context from a private conversation.

There has been a growing dispute between Shabtai and Ben Gvir after the regime gave its approval to a plan to form the “national guard” which would operate under Ben Gvir’s ministry. Opponents, including the police chief and opposition party leaders, have warned against it, saying it will function as a private militia of Ben Gvir.

The current far-right Israeli cabinet has been described as the most right-wing ever.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich caused a similar controversy in February by calling for the Palestinian town of Huwara in the occupied West Bank to be “wiped out” after two Israelis were shot dead by a Palestinian there.

In his racist statements, the Israeli minister said there is no such thing as a Palestinian people, history, or culture.

“There are Arabs around who don’t like it, so what do they do? They invent a fictitious people and claim fictitious rights to the land of Israel, only to fight the Zionist movement.”

Over the past days, Israeli forces have ramped up attacks on the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, not least the worshipers at al-Aqsa Mosque.  

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