I Felt Like I Was Living in a Police State'

Guy Gottfried spent Saturday July 16 working alongside relatives in the garden of his Savyon home. Toward evening, after his relatives had left and Gottfried was alone, a white van with two men inside pulled up to the curb. One of them asked for Gottfried's identification card. Gottfried said he did not have it on him and was told to bring it from the house. In response to Gottfried's question, the men said they were from the Immigration Police.

"I asked the guy who got out of the car to show me some ID. He showed me a police appointment certificate, in a disgruntled and impatient manner," Gottfried said.

Gottfried asked them to wait in the vehicle while he went inside to get his ID, but the cops said they would accompany him. "I wanted to telephone my brother-in-law to ask whether they're allowed to come inside without a warrant, but before I had a chance to call, they jumped me, threw me onto the pavement, handcuffed me tightly and dragged me to their van."

Gottfried said he shouted for help and his mother and brother-in-law came running. "They told the cops who I was, so if the cops really only wanted to ascertain my identity, the incident could have ended there," Gottfried said. Instead, he says, the police shoved his 69-year-old mother and drove off with him in the van, which also contained several foreign workers.

When the van passed the Mesubim Police Station without stopping, Gottfried says, he tried to take out his mobile phone to let his family know he was not being taken to the local station, but a cop grabbed the phone. He was taken to the Immigration Police Station in Holon.

"From that moment on, I refused to cooperate. I kept mum. I felt like my rights had been brutally violated," he said.

A few hours later, Gottfried was taken to Mesubim Station, where he was asked whether he had called the Immigration Police officers "Fascists and shits." "I replied that before I was handcuffed, I had spoken politely and quietly, and only after I was abducted did I shout at them that I felt like I was living in a police state, being snatched in broad daylight in front of my family.

"I was asked whether I employ foreign workers. I replied that I do not. There were people of Chinese appearance in the street. I did not employ them," he said.

A police file was opened on Gottfried for suspicion of insulting a civil servant and disrupting official police work, and he was released. The next day, he filed a complaint with the Justice Ministry's Internal Affairs Department.

A spokesman for the Immigration Police said the case could not be discussed while it is under internal investigation. "Nonetheless, we wish to make clear there are significant gaps between the versions of the policemen involved and the complainant. At issue are suspicions of illegal employment of foreign citizens who were seen there. At the end of the incident, the complainant's relatives apologized to the cops for his behavior, circumstances that place the complainant's version in doubt."

Gottfried said he was unaware of any apology issued by members of his family for his conduct, and that he was never accused of employing foreign workers.