Palestinian Sisters Cuffed, Manhandled and Beaten, for Alleged Traffic Offense

Two women, Israeli citizens from East Jerusalem, reveal what happened to them when they asked not to be unnecessarily detained at a checkpoint in Ma’aleh Adumim.

The outside of the police station at Ma'aleh Adumim.
Olivier Fitoussi

The traffic report is signed by Yogev Pia, from Ma’aleh Adumim police station. The amount: 500 shekels ($128). Date: November 18. Offense: Obstructing traffic and refusal to move vehicle from the roadside. Place: Checkpoint at northern entrance to Ma’aleh Adumim. Time: 8:20 A.M.

But the ticket was issued at around 12 noon, so what happened to the two sisters who received the ticket in the intervening hours?

The story started early that morning when Dunia, 38, drove her younger sister Amal, 32 (not their real names), to the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim to buy a few items for her hairdressing salon.

The sisters were born in East Jerusalem and are Israeli citizens (their father had applied for and received citizenship before they were born). Dunia’s head is covered with a scarf, Amal’s hair gathered in a ponytail. Dunia works for a Palestinian-Israeli company in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone. Amal, who used to work in a hairdressing salon in Ma’aleh Adumim, recently opened her own salon in East Jerusalem. Both women are well known in the settlement, which they enter and leave regularly, and both speak fluent Hebrew.

That morning, the female security guard at the settlement checkpoint didn’t suffice with checking the sisters’ ID cards and demanded that they wait by the side of the road. The sisters asked her to inspect the car but not to delay them for no reason, as they didn’t want to be late for a meeting. The guard apparently didn’t like their assertiveness and said she would call the police, the two said.

“Call the police, we have no problem with that,” one of the sisters replied. All the while, cars drove by into the settlement without disturbance. When a police vehicle appeared and a policeman got out, they assumed at first it was a coincidence. Still, Amal got out of her car to explain to him what was going on, and they got the impression he understood they were being detained for no reason. But then a second policeman followed him out of the car with handcuffs.

“Be quiet, don’t talk, you’re busted,” he told Amal, the sisters later recalled. He demanded that Amal hold her hands out to be manacled. She refused – because she didn’t understand why and because of the pain her arthritis was causing in her hands.

A bus drove up and was about to enter the settlement. Sgt. Maj. Pia – the “violent cop,” as the sisters called him – grabbed Amal and threw her toward the bus, then grabbed her hands and cuffed them behind her back.

“And then, I don’t know why, he started beating me on the back, arms and back of the neck. I cried and shouted,” Amal said.

By now, Dunia had moved the car to the roadside. The “violent cop” came to her and demanded that she get out of the car. “We didn’t do anything, why are you arresting us?” she protested. He said they had refused to stop at the checkpoint. Dunia told him that wasn’t true, that they did stop and handed their ID cards over at the checkpoint.

The officer grabbed Dunia by the hands and dragged her out of the car, she said. When she objected to being cuffed, he pushed her with his leg until she fell to the ground, held her flat on the road and cuffed her hands behind her back.

Threats and intimidation

The women were driven to the nearby police station. Despite the pain in Amal’s hands and her requests, the policemen refused to uncuff her.

At the station, she managed to get her hands out of the cuffs, Amal recalled proudly last week in her small salon. Pia got irritated and took her to another room, where he cuffed her again with stronger cuffs. She wouldn’t let him bind her legs, though. Following her insistence and crying, after about half an hour a policeman loosened the tight cuffs a little bit, she said.

Policemen moved her to a room where a man in civilian clothing interviewed her. “Perhaps he’s from the Shin Bet [security service],” Amal said.

“He asked if I had a boyfriend and if I wanted to be his girlfriend,” Amal recalled in both her testimony and an affidavit submitted by her lawyer, Eitay Mack. “He asked if I wanted to cooperate with him and inform on offenders in the neighborhood. Then he told me I was very pretty and didn’t look like an Arab – that if I walked in Pisgat Ze’ev, an Arab would stab me because I don’t look Arab,” she said.

She made it clear to him that the conversation was not to her liking. When they left the room, she said, “he touched me in an unpleasant way on my back.” Meanwhile, Pia allegedly threatened Dunia that he would tell the Social Affairs Ministry that she had left her children at home, that in her condition she should pray, that he wanted her to lose her entire workday, she testified.

Every time a policeman entered the room and asked what the sisters were doing there, Pia said they had refused to stop at the gate, and Dunia said he was lying. Once, she also said, “Because he wants to show us what a man he is.”

Eventually, another policeman entered the room and announced, “We dropped everything [against you], there’s no case, you’re free to go,” Dunia said. She told him she didn’t see the matter as closed, and the policeman said she could file a complaint that would be handed over to the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigation Department.

Pia allegedly told her, “You won’t get out of here scot-free,” and issued her with a traffic ticket and a fine of 500 shekels.

Dunia said a female policewoman at the station told her it was because she wears the hijab. A policeman at the reception desk encouraged her and said, “Don’t go home without filing a complaint,” she said.

But to her surprise, when she filed the complaint, the policemen took the fingerprints of both sisters. When Dunia protested, they allegedly told her, “That’s how it is when you file a complaint.”

A West Bank police spokesman, Dudi Asraf, told Haaretz that “the claims in the story are groundless and the police behaved impeccably. The women blocked one of the entrances to Ma’aleh Adumim, insisting they were not to be checked and repeated, ‘You’re racist! Jews drive as usual and you’re checking us.’ The policemen explained to the two that they must pass a security check due to the security situation, but they refused to be checked or clear the road, causing a jam and delaying drivers.

“They would not listen to the police warnings or instructions, continued to block the road and were arrested. They resisted and did not cooperate, so had to be cuffed.

“They were taken for interrogation at the Ma’aleh Adumim station, where they were questioned by a female investigator. Asked why they were doing it, one of them said, ‘Because I’m irritable and mad.’ At the end of the investigation, the driver received a ticket for obstructing traffic and hindering a policeman. They were questioned and the police decided to close the case because it was a first offense and a one-time stumble that would not be repeated.”