Free to frisk: New Israeli law gives cops green light to stop & search public without reason

© Ammar Awad
Police in Israel have been told they can stop and search any resident they choose, even if the person has not been behaving suspiciously. The legislation adopted by the Knesset has caused an outcry among opposition groups, who say it will increase discrimination.

The law had previously stated that police officers were only allowed to search someone if they had sufficient reason to believe that the person could be carrying a weapon. Nissan Slomiansky, a member of the Knesset, also stated that the legislation made sure that officers could only stop an individual if they could visibly see a bulge in the person’s clothing that suggested they could be hiding a knife or gun, the Times of Israel reported.

The bill was passed by the Knesset following a vote of 39 in favor to 31 against.

It will now mean that police will be able to search an individual without reasonable suspicion and solely based on a judgment that a person could be about to carry out a terror attack.

Some Knesset members believe this will be an open invitation for the law enforcement authorities to further discriminate against minority groups

“The coalition is once again flagrantly ignoring the daily distress of weak groups, who suffer serious discrimination in Israel,” said MK Michal Rozin, according to the Times of Israel.

“Police are no less racist than anyone else. Whoever says he or she doesn’t see color is the biggest racist of all,” she added, mentioning that Arabs and immigrants from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union were likely to face extra checks.

However, Slomiansky added that the new legislation struck the right balance between the need for police to ensure security and the public to feel their rights were not being infringed on.

The bill was originally passed by the Israeli cabinet in October, with its sponsor saying it was necessary to deal with the sharp rise in violence in the country.

“Following recent terrorist attacks, there is an urgent need to give the police authority to conduct body searches to better deal with knife terrorism,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who proposed the amendment, said, according to the Jerusalem Post.

“This is another step I am promoting in a series of decisions to strengthen the police and its authority to increase personal security on the streets,” he added.

October witnessed the start of weeks of almost daily stabbings, shootings and attacks by Palestinians who targeted Israelis due to their frustration at the inability of the Israeli government to agree to a two-state solution and at Israel blocking access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

The violence began to subside in January. However by January 14, at least 144 Palestinians and 24 Israelis had been killed in 10 weeks of violence.

Israeli Arabs often face discrimination in Israel, such as being restricted in their attempts to buy property or even in schools.

In October, a father from a Beer Sheva kindergarten in southern Israel went on a hate-filled racist rant in a WhatsApp group for parents. He called for an Arab Bedouin girl, who was just three years old, to be expelled, saying “scum must be isolated.”

“If there is an Arab kid in the kindergarten it’s time to expel him!” the parent started off, before suggesting that “She has no place in the Jewish State… she should study in her village. Go to Syria; they love you there, Assad is waiting.”