Police Filmed Protest Leader's Viral Rebuke of Ethiopian-Israeli Cops, Investigation Finds

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Police forcibly evict Amir Haskel from a protest tent near Netanyahu's official Jerusalem residence, August 2020
Police forcibly evict Amir Haskel from a protest tent near Netanyahu's official Jerusalem residence, August 2020Credit: אמיל סלמן
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

A video clip published on TV showing one of the most prominent leaders of the anti-Netanyahu protests screaming at Ethiopian-Israeli police officers was filmed by the police themselves two months earlier, an investigation has found.

The clip, which aired on Channel 12 news Wednesday night and was filmed on August 20, shows Brig. Gen. (res.) Amir Haskel, one of the most prominent leaders of the protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling the officers, “I devoted years to bringing your parents here, and this is what we get from you. You should be ashamed. This is ingratitude. I brought you here.”

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During his years as an air force pilot, Haskel helped airlift Ethiopian Jews to Israel. His remarks were made after police cleared anti-Netanyahu demonstrators from their protest site to enable a pro-Netanyahu demonstration there.

Police said that Jerusalem District Cmdr. Doron Yedid appointed an officer to investigate how the clip ended up on Channel 12.

Footage live-streamed on Facebook on August 20 by an anti-Netanyahu protester shows clearly that the only people on the other side of the police barriers when Haskel made those statements were police, and that one of them was filming the demonstrators with a professional camera. That in itself is not unusual; police routinely film demonstrations so the footage can be used as evidence if any protesters commit crimes.

Amir Haskel at the Jerusalem District Court after being detained for refusing to sign a restraining order barring him from Jerusalem for 15 days, June 28, 2020Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

The Channel 12 clip also showed a young man, another former air force pilot, making similar statements. “Ask your grandfather and grandmother how you got to Israel; who was waiting for you? My friends and his friends,” he said, pointing at Haskel.

The unit’s commander responded, “Don’t look down on people.”

The footage is not part of an investigation, and police have never questioned Haskel about his remarks.

“The fact that police filmed the incident, which took place two months ago, and leaked it to the media just to smear Amir Haskel, without connection to any investigation, shows above all that we have a police force that operates in the service of Public Security Minister [Amir] Ohana and Prime Minister Netanyahu,” one protest activist said.

The Black Flag movement, one of the groups active in the protests, urged Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to oust Yedid. “The Jerusalem police under Doron Yedid serve as Netanyahu’s police force,” it said in a statement.

The Crime Minister movement, another protest group, agreed: “A police force that systematically abuses demonstrators and collects information to carry out targeted assassinations is a political police force that feeds the propaganda and incitement machine of the defendant from Balfour,” it said, referring to Netanyahu, whose official residence is on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street. “Doron Yedid must go.”

Acting Police Commissioner Motti Cohen responded indignantly: “The police are not a political agency!” he wrote. “Claims that officers are acting out of ulterior motives lack any connection to reality!”

He added that he fully backs his officers and their professional judgment, and that police will continue to enforce the coronavirus regulations.

This is the second clip published this week from the same demonstration. The earlier clip, published on Tuesday, also showed Haskel telling an Ethiopian-Israeli policewoman, “I brought your parents to Israel.”

After that report aired, Haskel issued a public apology.

“I apologize for a statement made when I was very upset,” he wrote on his own protest movement’s Facebook page. “Police had shoved us to the end of the street with great force. When my patience was exhausted and I was very upset, I said what I said to the policewoman. I regret that statement, which was made while I was very upset, and apologize from the bottom of my heart. Anyone who tries to accuse me of racism is wrong.”

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