An Israel Police officer was dismissed this week after arresting a social activist and allegedly calling her a "retarded leftist."
The policeman arrested and detained Ortal Ben Dayan, a Tel Aviv resident, on Monday after she refused to identify herself upon his request.
According to Ben Dayan, she was sitting at a café in Tel Aviv when two policeman pulled up in a van, having noticed an Arab family sitting there. One officer exited the van and called on the Arab family members to produce identification papers. Ben Dayan knew the family and, in an attempt to avoid them embarrassment, approached the policeman to let him know they were Israeli citizens.
“He yelled at me for interfering,” she recounted. “Behind him was another policemen who said ‘don't bother with her, she’s a retarded leftist’.” Ben Dayan says she explained to him that calling her such a name was inappropriate and unacceptable, as he was in uniform. She asked him for his ID, at which point “he came out of the van making threatening gestures. The other policeman had to restrain him,” she said.
In response to her request, the policeman, Melvyn Bar Sheshet, came out of his van asking Ben Dayan for her ID. She refused to give her name, upon which the two policemen detained her and took her to the police station. “I sat there for three hours. Four officers approached me and said that if I gave my ID card I could go home, since I was not suspected of anything. I refused. After three hours, I was told that I was under arrest for insulting a public official and for cursing him, which never happened.”
After questioning, during which Ben Dayan did not give her identification, she was formally arrested and transferred, hands and feet cuffed, to Abu Kabir detention center and then to the Neve Tirza women’s prison.
The law stipulates that a policeman who demands identification from a citizen must explain why he is asking for it. Since Ben Dayan was given no reason for the request, she was within her rights to refuse giving identifying information. “They tried to break me. The message of the policemen at the station was - be smart, not right. Just confess and be on your way. If you don’t, you’ll be punished,” she said.
The next day, Ben Dayan was brought before a judge, who accepted her account of the events, but demanded she identify herself. “I’ve viewed a short video documenting the incident," wrote Justice Shamai Becker in his decision. "On the face of it, the suspect did not commit an act that warrants arrest. It looks as if she was arrested at her own request.
"Whether the police continue to investigate this or not, whether they charge her or not, whether acts were committed against the policemen, I believe she should be released. However, I believe that any Israeli citizen brought before a judge, especially a conscientious and principled one which she claims to be, should identify themselves to the court, whether out of simple courtesy or to facilitate their release so that the police can move on. I order her release after she gives her name, address and ID number," he continued.
Ben Dayan decided to appeal the decision and to exercise her right not to identify herself. “I couldn’t accept the fact that I was arrested for political reasons” she said. “As soon as he heard me, he called me a retarded leftist.”
At the District Court hearing of her appeal, Ben Dayan agreed to give her identification details and was immediately released. “Only when the judge addressed me like he would his daughter and asked me personally to end it and be released, did I agree.”
On the policeman’s Facebook page, which Ben Dayan posted online, too, he uses racist slurs directed at Arabs. In some posts he has used puns expressing a wish to see dead Arabs or belittling such deaths, ending with a “Death to Arabs” call. “When a policeman posts such things on Facebook expressing what he thinks of Arabs and leftists, what can one expect of him when he encounters someone like me?” said Ben Dayan.
Police sources said that Ben Dayan cursed the policeman and put a cell phone up to his face in order to take his picture. They also said that the police officer did not use the term “retarded leftist” but only told his partner to turn left. They added that Ben Dayan is known as an activist who likes to provoke the police.
In an official response to the incident, Israel Police said the officer in question was removed from duty following an investigation of the incident.
"It is important to note that the Israel Police trains its officers to behave according to a certain moral code. The police force takes this behavior very seriously, as it clearly opposes the moral code which every officer must uphold. This behavior has no place among the Israel Police," read the statement.