Israeli lawmaker Ofer Cassif (Hadash) was attacked by police in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on Friday for waving a Palestinian flag during a protest against the increased presence of settlers in the area. Cassif's parliamentary aide was hit and detained.
Police said that "the two refused to follow police orders and at a certain point, when they tried to take the flags from their hands, they began to attack the policemen, who were forced to detain one of them."
Some 30 protesters, left-wing activists and residents of Sheikh Jarrah were attending the protest.
According to Cassif, the protest was quiet and there were no disturbances. At one point police officers moved in to seize Palestinian flags from them. While the law does not forbid flying a Palestinian flag, individual police officers are allowed to determine whether waving it could disturb the peace.
Cassif said that after officer seized a Palestinian flag from him, he and his parliamentary aide attempted to object but were attacked. In a video taken at the event, Cassif is seen arguing for a few minutes with police officers who seized the flag. The video shows a police officer pushing Cassif, who pushes him back. The officer then grabs and holds him for a few minutes, while demanding that he present identification showing he is a legislator. Another policeman is seen grabbing the aide, forcing him to the ground and handcuffing him.
"They hit him and pushed me," said Cassif. "I told them that I am a member of the Knesset but they did not let me show identification. Police officers who are experts at planting weapons in the homes of innocents have no problem planting violence in a quiet protest. If they had waited just another 10 minutes, we would have dispersed. It was unnecessary, stupid and in poor taste."
The aide was taken to a police station, where he began feeling unwell because of his diabetes and was then taken to a hospital for tests. According to Cassif, policemen escorted him from the station while his hands and feet were cuffed.
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Police said of the incident that during the protest, "two protesters began waving Palestinian Authority flags, apparently with the intention of causing a deliberate provocation and agitating the mood," and that the two attacked the officers after they attempted to seize the flags.