Monday, November 30, 2020

Israeli police force in crisis of confidence

By Ruairi Henchy - January 29, 2015
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Jerusalem] [investigations] [Palestinian citizens of Israel]

The Israeli police force is in crisis today as the body reels from sex scandals, a general strike and allegations of negligence.

The credibility of the force has been called into question in recent days with its Deputy Commissioner becoming embroiled in a sex scandal and being placed under house arrest. If, as expected, Deputy Commissioner Nissim Mor steps down, he will be the 6th high ranking Israeli police official to resign in disgrace in the last year and a half. This comes a week after Palestinian citizens of Israel staged a general strike against police brutality. Separately, the police faced fresh allegations on Wednesday of failing to react to the attempted abduction of a Palestinian boy in Silwan, Jerusalem.

On Tuesday 20 January, Palestinian citizens of Israel closed down schools and private businesses in protest at the killing of two unarmed Palestinians by police in the southern Negev region. Sami al-Jaar, 22, was shot dead on the patio of his home in the town of Rahat during clashes between local youth and police. Sami’s cousin, Lufti al-Jaar, told the Electronic Intifada: “The policeman who shot him was not in danger at all. He shot him in cold blood from about fifty meters away.” 

The Israeli police say that Mahash, a department within the Israeli Ministry of Interior, has opened an investigation into the incident. In September 2014, however, Adalah, an independent human rights organization in Israel, published a report entitled about the faulty nature of the Israeli government’s internal investigations. Entitled, “Mahash: The Green Light for Police Brutality,” the report concludes, “Mahash continues to provide wide immunity to the police from being held to account” and “no efforts are made to properly investigate or identify police officers suspected of committing violations of the law.”

As Sami al-Jaar was being laid to rest on Sunday the 18 January, police opened fire on the mourners, firing tear gas canisters and plastic bullets. 45-year-old Sami Ibrahim Zayadna died after suffocating from tear gas inhalation. Ma’an News reported the Higher Guidance Committee of Arab Residents of the Negev decrying the attack on the funeral as “state terrorism,” saying in a statement: “We hereby tell the Israeli security organizations that your terror won't scare us… Save your bullets and your terror because we have already made our minds… we will stay here as long as there is thyme and olive oil." 

The mayor of Rahat, Talal al-Qureinawi, echoed these sentiments, telling a meeting of the High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel: “There is absolutely no trust in the (Israeli) police. They tried to call me today but I refused; the president spoke with me and I notified him of the dangers of the police actions against the people of Rahat."

The latest incident to call the integrity of the Israeli police into account occurred last Wednesday morning, 28 January. Ibrahim Gheith, 14, was injured in an attempted abduction by a Jewish settler in Silwan, occupied East Jerusalem. The unidentified attacker attempted to drag the child into his car as Ibrahim walked to school. Eyewitnesses told the Anadolu News Agency that Ibrahim was left bruised and shrieking in pain following the attack, but he managed to escape as locals came to his aid. The Israeli police were immediately called to the scene, but according to Ma’an News, instead of pursuing the attacker or seeking to help the stricken child, the police immediately proceeded to beat the local Palestinians who had gathered around the boy, including members of his family.

Unsurprisingly, public faith in the Israeli police among the Palestinian population of occupied East Jerusalem is in short supply. The Palestine Monitor spoke on the phone to Amany Khalifa who works for the local Palestinian NGO, Grassroots Jerusalem about the role of the Israeli police in the communities in which she works “Trust in the police in occupied Jerusalem doesn’t exist among Palestinians. They see the police and the army only as an arm of the occupation that periodically invades their neighbourhoods,” she said. 

When asked whether Palestinian Jerusalemites have any sense that the police are also there to protect them, Amany is unequivocal: “There is no sense whatsoever that the police will give them justice.”


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