Police Close Case Against Extremist Who Attacked anti-Netanyahu Protester, Haaretz Photographer

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A pro-Netanyahu counter-demonstration in Holon, October 2020
A pro-Netanyahu counter-demonstration in Holon, October 2020Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The police closed an investigation against a far-right activist accused of attacking an anti-government protester and a Haaretz photographer after only one week since it was launched, citing lack of evidence, despite footage and several photos of the suspected assailants.

A separate complaint filed by the Haaretz photographer, Tomer Appelbaum, against a man who allegedly spat at him, including a picture of the suspect, was also dismissed, with the police stating they were unable to locate the suspect.

La Familia members attack Sadi Ben Shitrit and Tomer Appelbaum in Holon

The alleged assault took place during an October 15 demonstration, after the far-right group La Familia waylaid protesters in Mediatheque's parking garage in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon.

The police questioned only one person suspected of involvement in the incident after obtaining a photo of his license plate. The alleged attacker got out of his vehicle and tried to strike the photographer after a scuffle in the garage, but the police could not determine whether the car's owner himself took part in the assault.

The protester, Sadi Ben Shitrit, who was allegedly beaten in front of his son and filed a complaint that same night at the police station, did not require medical attention but did suffer bruises. Appelbaum filed a complaint with the police after they contacted him, three days later. One day after he filed the complaint, the first suspect was arrested and banned from Holon for 15 days. The case was closed due to lack of evidence three days later.

Ben Shitrit, who made headlines this week when he compared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Hitler in a speech, told Haaretz that he was not surprised: "I have no expectations from the Israel Police. Every time I’ve been questioned so far, I felt that the police do not treat us protesters like all citizens." He also criticized police conduct against him: "If I’m an offender and I’m questioned so many times, how is it that I never end up in court?”

A statement issued by the Israel Police said: “An investigation was launched after the complaints were filed. As part of the investigation, several actions were taken in pursuit of the truth. When the investigation ended and after professional examination of all the investigative materials, it was decided to close the case. We note that the complainant has the right to appeal the decision through the accepted channels determined by law.”

On Saturday, Haaretz reported that the state prosecutor’s office would issue indictments against the protest leaders, while Kan Public Broadcaster reported Friday that the police had asked the prosecution for authorization to launch an investigation against Ben Shitrit for comparing Netanyahu to Hitler.

Ben Shitrit legal representative, Attorney Gonen Ben Itzhak from the anti-corruption Crime Minister movement, a key group in the wave of anti-Netanyahu protests that have swept the country, said he intended to appeal the hasty conclusion of the case.

“Once again it has been proven that instead of protecting protesters, the police allow their blood to be spilled. This is a direct continuation of the police abuse of the demonstrators and the intentional sabotage of protest," a statement issued by the Crime Minister movement read.   

"The hasty closing of the case and the inability to find the people from La Familia, who were filmed from all directions, shows that the Israel Police is useless and operates according to political motives of the man indicted for criminal charges,” the statement added, referring to Netanyahu.

“The message to those who incite others at the Balfour Street protests and to the assailants is clear – keep it up, and we won’t bring you to justice.”

In mid-October, several assaults against anti-Netanyahu protesters took place at the Mediatheque plaza and Kugel Square in Holon, with the suspects being affiliated with La Familia. No indictments were filed, although some of the incidents were filmed and in at least one case an assailant was caught on camera for the full duration of an attack.

La Familia members arrive in Holon, call on anti-Netanyahu protesters to go to Gaza

At the Mediatheque, where several dozen anti-Netanyahu protesters gathered, a group of Netanyahu supporters led by Likud activist Orly Lev, also congregated and hurled insults at the protesters using a megaphone. They are sometimes joined by La Familia activists and other violent supporters.

The violent incidents in Holon began on October 9, when a man threw eggs from a passing car at anti-Netanyahu protesters. He was detained and released under restrictions. The next day, two more suspects, who seized flags and signs the protesters were carrying, were detained and later released under restrictions.

On October 13, a number of pro-Netanyahu supporters confronted protesters, and one doused the demonstrators with pepper spray. The same activist had been arrested only a week before for throwing eggs and ripping protesters' signs. Both incidents were filmed. 

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