Policemen Say They Face Unfair Blame Over Clashes at Ethiopian Israeli Protests

Officers complain public, media blames them for violently dispersing a protest this week, say they only did so after protesters threw stones, bottles at them.

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
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Violence at an Ethiopian-Israeli rally against police brutality in Tel Aviv, May 3, 2015.
Violence at an Ethiopian-Israeli rally against police brutality in Tel Aviv, May 3, 2015.Credit: AFP
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

Tel Aviv policemen are complaining to their superiors over the fact that much of the media and the public blame them for violently dispersing a protest by Ethiopian Israelis Sunday night.

Police say they did so only after protesters started throwing stones and bottles at them.

Many policemen say they sympathize with the protesters. Nevertheless, they complained, the protesters and the public have focused mainly on police brutality, while ignoring all the other government offices, organizations and individuals responsible for young Ethiopian Israelis’ distress.

“I’m forbidden to voice an opinion, but to experience stones, bricks, iron locks, flying poles landing and hitting us – that’s okay,” one policeman posted on Facebook Tuesday, before being told to remove the post a few minutes later. “To see friends, policemen, fighters falling like flies – that’s okay. Forty percent of the juvenile prisoners in jail are of Ethiopian origin, criminals convicted of robbery, rape, breaking into homes, brawls, disturbances of the peace, and the police are to blame? For what? For the fact that the policeman is doing his job ...

“Are the police responsible for education? For welfare? Housing? Let’s say the police had fabricated and invented and imagined these crimes; did the Israeli courts miss so many cases? They didn’t have enough criminals, so they convicted innocents? Policemen were forced to walk down Tel Aviv’s main street in flak jackets and helmets because of glass bottles, stones, signs; patrol cars were destroyed, civilian vehicles had their windscreens smashed and mopeds were overturned onto civilians.”

Other policemen complained that it’s hard to explain to the public that the police are just there to keep the peace. Some called for a thorough investigation to figure out how the demonstration escalated into such violence.

A policeman from the Coastal District complained that “In cases where someone torches a mosque and a protest ensues, we’re also the ones who stand there and absorb the fire, the stones and the anger. We remain with the criticism over police brutality at demonstrations where they pelt us with rocks, boards, bottles, anything that comes to hand.”

“They accused us of trying to liquidate the [2011] social justice protest,” a Tel Aviv policeman added. “Now they’re accusing us of trying to silence the Ethiopians’ protest. Soon they’ll accuse us of silencing the leftist organizations and the peace demonstrations. It’s simply illogical that we, as policemen, aren’t managing to reach a state where people see us as an inseparable part of the desire to change and fix things. It’s not clear to me how the Israel Police became the punching bag for anyone who wants to protest against the state on any issue.”

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