Alsheich: No Insult to Ethiopians Implied in My Comments

YERUSHALAYIM -
Roni Alshich. Photo by Avshalom Sasoni/Flash90
Police chief Roni Alsheich. (Avshalom Sasoni/Flash90)

Comments that he made about crime in the Ethiopian Jewish community should not be taken out of context, Israel Police chief Roni Alsheich said Wednesday morning. In a statement, Alsheich said that “the comments made had no intention to damage the reputation or hurt Ethiopian immigrants, but were made in the context of attempting to improve the performance of police.”

In comments made Tuesday to a forum of attorneys, Alsheich, who was asked about whether or not, as some claimed, Ethiopian immigrant criminals were subjected to more police violence than others, said that “statistically, immigrants in general are more involved in crime than other groups. And it is well-known that young people are more involved in crime than other age groups.

“When you put the two together, you come to the conclusion that there are groups that are more involved in crime than others, so that when a police officer comes across a suspect from this group, his brain is ‘wired’ to suspect him more than he would suspect others,” Alsheich added.

The comments elicited condemnation from a large number of MKs and organizations.

Opposition head MK Yitzchak Herzog said that Alsheich needed to “clarify his comments. We cannot allow anyone to walk away thinking that violence or racism against Ethiopians or Arabs is permitted. We cannot allow this kind of profiling to persist.”

United Arab List chairman MK Ayman Odeh said that such an admission “was to be expected. Someone needs to remind the police chief that his job is to seek the security of all Israelis, and not just the white ones. Police have given up on protecting Arabs from crime, and regard them as enemies, not citizens. We see how police take advantage of the weakest population groups.”

MK Betzalel Smotrich (Jewish Home), for his part, praised Alsheich. “Finally we have a police chief who does not avoid the harsh reality of the situation, even when it is unpleasant. The ‘hypocrisy committee’ has seized on these comments and is screaming about them, but I would request from the police chief to ignore them,” he said.