Israeli Policeman to Be Disciplined for Dismissing Complaint by Left-wing Activist

'He's the biggest anarchist' in the West Bank, officer was recorded saying following Rabbi Arik Ascherman's complaint that settlers trespassed on private Palestinian land

File photo: The Judea and Samaria District police headquarters, Israel.
Emil Salman

An Israeli police officer in the West Bank who dismissed a complaint by a left-wing activist in March because of his own political orientation will face disciplinary action.

Police officer Avi Illouz of the Binyamin police station was recorded telling a colleague in a phone conversation that the complainant, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, "can report as many incidents as he likes, but there’s no point in going there,” after reporting on Jewish settlers who had trespassed on private Palestinian land in the West Bank.

He also called Ascherman “the biggest anarchist in Judea and Samaria,” referring to the West Bank.

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Ascherman filed a complaint with the Judea and Samaria District Police against Illouz's conduct during the incident. Motti Sasson, the police officer in charge of public inquiries in the Judea and Samaria District police, replied Tuesday to Ascherman's lawyer, Itay Mack, that things no policeman should ever say were said in the conference call between Ascherman, the police hotline and the officer in the field.

The complaint is therefore justified and the police officer in question will face disciplinary measures, Sasson wrote. "I am sorry that your client found himself in this unpleasant situation," Sasson wrote, adding: "We hope that your future encounters with the Israel police will be under more pleasant circumstances."

Ascherman, a well-known left-wing activist, called the Binyamin police station on March 18 to report that settlers had trespassed on private Palestinian land near the West Bank settlement of Rimonim. The station said it was sending someone to the scene.

Sometime later, a policewoman who identified herself as Keren called from the station to ask Ascherman for directions to the site. She connected him via conference call to Avi Illouz, the policeman en route to the site.

When Ascherman directed Illouz to a road “that bypasses the settlement to the east,” Illouz replied, “I don’t know of any settlement near Rimonim.” Ascherman said he meant Rimonim itself, and Illouz responded, “Oh, that’s not a settlement, that’s a community.”

Ascherman said he wouldn’t dispute the point and continued giving Illouz directions. He also described the truck that had trespassed on the Palestinian lands and said he had photographed it.

Illouz then asked Ascherman to file a complaint, saying that was the only remaining course of action, “because the vehicle has already left the site.” But that conclusion was based solely on Ascherman saying he could no longer see it, and Ascherman himself wasn’t at the site, only nearby.

Toward the end of the conference call, when Illouz thought Ascherman had already hung up, he began talking to his colleague. “Keren, my oh my, don’t you know him? Don’t you know who he is? He’s the biggest anarchist in Judea and Samaria.”

“We know him, so what?” Keren replied. “He’s allowed to report incidents.”

“No problem, he can report as many incidents as he pleases,” Illouz said. “As far as I’m concerned, the vehicle has left the site and he was told to file a complaint. There’s no point in going there.”

At that point Ascherman, who was still on the line, interrupted, saying, “Avi, it’s embarrassing that you’re talking about me like that.” Illouz replied, “Heaven forbid, I’m not talking about you like that. I simply know you,” and hung up the phone.

Ascherman said in response: "It's good that the police understand the severity of Illouz's conduct. But, it is even more severe that a police officer, or any other human being, from the right of the left, thinks like this of human rights activists. If we advocate for freedom of conscience, we cannot decide on the police officers' views, we can only demand that their opinions won't influence their work. But we have a serious educational problem."