This Activist Wrote a Viral Song About a Cop. Now Israel Wants Him Jailed

Barak Cohen posted on social media a song targeting a police officer, but while many don't believe his act to be a crime, prosecution says he is 'likely to offend again'

Lawyer and activist Barak Cohen.
Tomer Appelbaum

A social activist who wrote a derogatory song about a policeman and posted it on Facebook should serve a year in prison for his offense, the prosecution told a Tel Aviv court on Wednesday.

Barak Cohen was found guilty last June of offending a civil servant and obstructing a police officer in his work, and Tel Aviv District Court is now sitting to determine his sentence. Cohen wrote a series of posts and a song about officer Alon Hamdani.

“Theoretically, his offense might be anything from a month’s community service to a year’s incarceration,” said prosecuting attorney Erez Richtenberg. He argued that Cohen deserved the maximal penalty because he had demonstrated no sign of remorse and there was a risk he would reoffend.

Hamdani told the court he had suffered after Cohen posted the song because everywhere he went, including in court, people would start humming the tune.

“It’s a catchy ditty, rhyme-y,” Hamdani admitted, adding that even an intern policeman asked him during training if he had been the object of the song.

When Cohen posted his song in 2014, Hamdani had been intelligence coordinator at the Moria police station in Jerusalem.

The video shows Cohen singing: “A green-eyed snake is roaming the streets, collecting and harassing, swallowing people up. He has no uniform, rules or God, but lambastes the children without mercy.” The chorus goes “Hamdani is a low-level cop, intelligence coordinator for the regime. Hamdani is a low-level cop, intelligence coordinator for the regime.”

The song continues, “A green-eyed snake turned hunted snake, not an undercover agent any more, [he’s] known to the whole city. Hamdani forgot in the course for snitches that justice won’t escape and won’t hide its face.”

In recent years, Cohen has been advising fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team how to exercise their right to protest. He and Hamdani first met when the policeman tried to persuade Cohen to cooperate regarding the fans.

Cohen uploaded his first post against the policeman after learning that Hamdani had tried to recruit one of the fans to work with the police, after which Cohen claimed Hamdani had tried to foment tensions between himself and the fans, calling Cohen a “left-wing anarchist.” Beitar’s fans have a reputation for being supporters of the far right.

Cohen did not dispute that he had written the post and song. However, two and a half years of hearings were spent arguing whether his actions constituted a crime or legitimate criticism pursuant to the freedom of expression.

Judge Dana Amir ruled in June that the posts, accruing over a long period of time, did amount to a crime.