Leftist Israeli Lawmaker Warns 'Political Murder Is Around the Corner' After Police Assault

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Knesset member Ofer Cassif at the Justice Ministry's police misconduct unit.
Knesset member Ofer Cassif at the Justice Ministry's police misconduct unit on Monday.Credit: Emil Salman
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Joint List Knesset member Ofer Cassif warned of an imminent "political murder" as he filed on Sunday a complaint against the police with the Justice Ministry’s police misconduct unit over an assault by a policeman who was attempting to arrest him.

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Cassif, the only Jewish lawmaker representing the Arab-majority political alliance, had been demonstrating in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on Friday in support of Palestinian families in the neighborhood who face eviction due to efforts by right-wing groups that assert that their homes are on land that was owned by Jews before Israel’s establishment. The neighborhood, along with the rest of East Jerusalem, was annexed to Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War.

Cassif sustained injuries to his face in the confrontation. He required medical treatment and his glasses were broken and his shirt torn.

The policeman who arrested him has claimed that the melee was precipitated when Cassif kicked him, something that the Knesset member denies ever happened. The commander of the local police station, who had presided over Cassif’s arrest visited the Justice Ministry before Cassif did, apparently to provide his own account of the incident.

Knesset member Ofer Cassif following the confrontation with police in East Jerusalem on Friday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

“The writing isn’t [just] on the wall. It’s written in giant, easy-to-read letters,” Cassif said in a statement to the press outside the ministry. “And the writing says a political murder is around the corner.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is the poison mushroom that sprouted in Rabin’s blood,” he added, referring to assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. “And the growth of additional mushrooms is steadily poisoning our society. We won’t allow these mushrooms to poison our society any longer.”

“Residents of Sheikh Jarrah and of the occupied territories in general suffer from daily violence,” he added. “When a nation is an occupier, it won’t be free, because the crimes of the occupation and oppression will creep into the occupying nation itself. And we’ve seen that in recent years.

“What we’re seeing now is the violent occupation spilling over onto Israeli citizens – the Palestinian ones first, but not only them. Police brutality is running amok against Ethiopian Israelis, the ultra-Orthodox and the weak, and as we know, also towards people with disabilities and women.”

The left-wing legislator also noted police violence directed at anti-Netanyahu protesters over the past year.

Video footage of the demonstration shows police officers attacking Cassif with their fists and forcibly pinning him to the ground. The policeman who tried to arrest him said under questioning over the incident that he did not know that Cassif is a Knesset member.

Police sources backed the policeman’s account, and for the time being, there are no plans to suspend him. The body cameras worn by police officers at the scene don’t show Cassif kicking anyone, although there is other video footage showing him moving his lower extremities under circumstances that are not entirely clear.

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