Israeli Police Chief 'Intuitively' Sure Officer Didn't Bust Leg of Arab Activist

Haifa officer accused of breaking the leg of a human rights group's director detained in 2018 while protesting Israeli strikes in Gaza

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Jafar Farah at his home in Haifa following his detention.
Jafar Farah at his home in Haifa following his detention in 2018.Credit: Rami Shllush
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Haifa police chief, testifying in the trial of an officer accused of breaking the leg of an Arab rights activist in 2018, said he was certain that the incident did not take place in his station.

“To this day, I’m a million percent sure it didn’t happen in our station, and I say this on the basis of intuition,” the commander, Amir Goldstein, said in court on Sunday.

Goldstein was testifying on behalf of officer Lior Hatam, accused of breaking the leg of the director of Mossawa Center Jafar Farah, after he was taken into custody during a May 2018 protest against Israeli strikes in Gaza. 

Hatam is accused of assaulting other detainees as well.

Goldstein denounced Farah as a “serious provocateur” and ruled out the possibility that a policeman had broken his leg. Farah was seen in photographs standing on both feet as he was taken into custody. But later he was hospitalized with a knee fracture.

The arrest of Jafar Farah in a Haifa protest in 2018.

“I’d never seen such a violent protest,” Goldstein said. “The Shin Bet had said it was going to be bad, we detained protesters, there were all sorts of political groups involved, political parties, and village leaders. Farah was one of the influencers at the protest and I tried to speak him and get him to move the protest away from the road.”

“He was dismissive, he ignored me, and was a source of provocation with his people,” Goldstein said.

“I’m familiar with this from other protests. This pattern of behavior wasn’t new to me. And then they took him, in my opinion they put him in a van, arrested him, not at my instructions. He was provoking people. I didn’t see him limping or anything. Afterward I saw some sort of limp in a video, it was for a second. He of course resisted. He’s not someone who cooperates, certainly not with the police, so they lifted him into the van, something like that. There was no force used, he just went while saying nasty things.”

Under cross-examination, Goldstein insisted that Hatam didn’t break Farah’s leg. “Farah didn’t complain to anyone in the station that his leg hurt and that someone had hurt him.”

Goldstein said the officer strongly denied hurting Farah. “What set off alarms for me was that officers came and told me this cannot be true, he didn’t say a word about his leg hurting. He was sent to hospital and it was clear to me that in the end there was an x-ray (showing the fracture).”

“I was sure the x-ray was fabricated, that it was someone else’s. When they told me there was a fracture, I said it was fabricated, there’s no way. Good officers told me they didn’t see him limping,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein also paid a home visit to the policeman suspected of the assault, according to further testimony at the trial.

“I went there as a commander, I’m sure that we didn’t speak about the investigation but he said this entire thing didn’t happen,” Goldstein said.

Footage from the protest on Haifa in May 2018.

A lawyer for Hatam asked about the degree of violence perpetrated by the protesters. “No indictments have been submitted against any of the protesters despite the existence of reports by police complaining of being assaulted. Were you aware of this? Did you investigate it?" the attorney asked.

Goldstein replied: “I was also assaulted. I was pushed by Knesset members who were there. They completely ignored the police there, there was incitement.”

The attorney pressed further: “And yet a decision was made not to indict anyone.”

Goldstein replied: “Yes, I know, it wasn’t my decision.”

Farah is expected to testify when the trial resumes next month. Thus far mainly justice ministry investigators have taken the stand, as well as police officers who have insisted they did not see Hatam assault any of the protesters.

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