A kids’ coloring book handed out in primary schools across the predominantly Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, within the 1948 borders of Israel, has provoked anger among Palestinians.
The publication, distributed by the Israeli police, has offended over its choice of names for its featured police officer characters. By calling the figures “Amir” and “Reem”, Arab names, the Israeli authorities have added fuel to the fire of the prickly issue of conscription.
The Palestinian media has framed the distribution of the books as an attempt to encourage Arab-Israelis to enrol in the police and army. Currently excluded from the military service which is compulsory for Israeli Jews, Arab citizens of Israel are vulnerable to conscription at any time under an Israeli law from 1949.
In fact, the Druze, Circassian, and Bedouin communities have already been conscripted into the army, while in 2013, attempts to conscript Arab-Israeli Christians were fiercely resisted.
Meanwhile, Arab Muslims currently represent only 1.5 percent of the 30,000-member national police force. Last year, Israel’s public security minister announced a push to raise that number by 1,350 recruits over three years.
However, the majority of Palestinians, including those with Israeli citizenship, have a strongly antagonistic attitude to the Israeli police force, which has been accused of heavy-handed, often prejudicial treatment of Arabs.
Responding to the distribution of the books, a committee representing parents of local school children said that they "categorically reject the entry of the police to our schools,” al-Quds reported.
They called upon locals to “be vigilant of such projects” which seek to “distort the minds” of young pupils.”
Local politicians and international activists have also criticized the controversial move, which pokes at tensions rarely far from the surface among Palestinians within Israel.
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