Israeli Lawmakers to Discuss Case of Palestinian Woman Who Claims Officer Raped Her

Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh accuses police internal investigations unit of covering up the incident, while fellow MK Aida Touma-Suliman says case is nothing short of a war crime

The headquarters of the Police Internal Investigations Department in the Justice Ministry.
Emil Salman

The Knesset plans to discuss the case of a Palestinian woman who says a police officer raped her in an interrogation room in 2012.

The development follows a Haaretz report last week.

A polygraph test found that the woman was telling the truth, and there is also further evidence that supports her story. However, following a 10-month investigation after the complaint was received, the Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct closed the case without any arrests.

Joint List Chairman MK Ayman Odeh sent a letter Friday to the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, requesting an urgent meeting on the matter. He asked that both the Justice Ministry department and the police send representatives to the meeting.

“The decision to file a complaint in sexual assault cases is always difficult, but in the case of a woman who lives under the occupation and must complain to that very same system, it demands inconceivable courage and strength,” Odeh said in the letter.

He added that the police internal investigations department “is once again functioning as a cover-up organization instead of trying to uncover the truth and bringing the people responsible to justice.”

The incident began at a checkpoint near Jerusalem five years ago, when Leila (not her real name) was arrested on suspicion of being in Israel illegally. At the police station she was questioned for a few minutes in one room, then taken to another room where, she said, her interrogator harassed her. He left the room soon afterward. But then, she said, a man in a Border Police uniform came in and raped her.

After the rape, Leila said, she fled without signing any release papers. The next day, she told her husband what had happened and, the day after that, in a highly unusual act, he took her to the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem to file a complaint.

“This was a shocking incident and a scandalous investigation that raises serious questions about the misconduct unit's conduct,” Odeh said. “Therefore, it’s important and essential that we discuss this particular case and demand answers from the responsible parties.”

MK Aida Touma-Suliman (Joint List), who chairs the Status of Women committee, agreed.

“This case proves that even when a woman musters the courage to complain, the law enforcement system would rather close the case than invest the resources needed to bring the criminal to justice,” she said. “The rape itself and the scandalous conduct in this case are nothing less than war crimes, and they must not be allowed to pass without all the parties involved bearing responsibility for their acts or their silence.”

MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) also asked the committee to discuss the matter. “The practice of cover-ups and whitewashing is outrageous and provides a tailwind to sexual violence under the police’s auspices,” she said. The police internal investigations department “must take resolute action against one of the most contemptible practices of all, in which women who seek help and protection from the police fall victims to criminal policemen,” she added.