Guy Ben-Porat on Civic Lessons: Police, Minorities and citizenship

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Civic Lessons: Police, Minorities and citizenship

Abstract: The encounters between police and ordinary people are a display of citizenship, in its complexities and contradictions. Police discretion on whom to stop and question, separating those determined as normative civilians from those perceived a threat, pertains to existing divisions and stigmas that cut through citizenship. Citizens, who decide to approach police for help, or avoid police at all costs, display their own sense of trust and belonging in state institutions. For minorities, police can be an essential service, to protect their livelihood and property, but at the same time a threat and a proof of their defunct citizenship. Police, representing and exercising state power, authorized to provide security and maintain public order, both serves citizens and restricts the freedom of those defined as security threats or disturbing public order. Under these circumstances, encounters between police officers and minority citizens are rarely neutral or abstract. Rather, these are encounters between representatives of state power, carrying also their personal preferences and prejudices, and members of groups suspicious of the state and its institutions. Police discrimination, real or perceived, often more visible than that of other institutions, demonstrates the stratification of citizenship behind the veil of equality. Based on my recent, co-authored book, Policing Citizens: Minority policy in Israel, I will argued that group’s perceptions of police and policing demonstrate Israel’s citizenship regime, its inclusions, exclusions, privileges and hierarchies.

Bio: Guy Ben-Porat is a professor at the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University, Israel. He is a political scientist, graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the author of Global Liberalism, Local Populism: Peace and Conflict in Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine (Syracuse University Press, 2006); Between State and Synagogue: The Secularization of Contemporary Israel (Cambridge University Press, 2013) and, with Fany Yuval, Policing Citizens: Minority policy in Israel (Cambridge University Press, 2019)

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