A noise complaint filed with the Tel Aviv police ended in three young men undergoing an hours-long campaign of humiliation at the police station.
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The account of the event is from the men themselves unless otherwise noted.
The incident began at 12:20 A.M. on Saturday night, February 20, when a policeman and two municipal inspectors arrived at an apartment on Tel Aviv’s Nahalat Binyamin Street in response to a complaint about loud noise emanating from it. Inside were several people playing music and drinking alcohol.
When the policeman said they had come in response to a noise complaint, the people immediately promised to turn off the music. They also apologized, saying they had been having so much fun that they hadn’t noticed the late hour.
But the police officer, Hussam Diab, asked everyone to show him their identity cards. The partyers protested, saying that since they had immediately turned off the music at his request, they didn’t see why he needed their personal details. They also said he should have had a warrant to enter the apartment, which he didn’t.
After some argument, the apartment’s owner showed the policeman his ID. But the others didn’t, saying they hadn’t brought any identification with them.
Diab then took the owner and two of his guests down to the patrol car, where he issued each one a 350-shekel ($90) ticket for excessive noise. They demanded to know why they should be ticketed at all, and in response, Diab summoned another patrol car and said they would be taken to the Yiftah police station. When their friends asked why, Diab threatened to use pepper spray on anyone who came too near.
The three then noticed that it was written on the tickets that they had refused to sign them. They protested that they hadn’t refused and were willing to accept the tickets. Another policeman then opened the door of the patrol car they were in and threatened to spray their faces with pepper spray if they didn’t shut up.
The three were driven to the police station with their hands cuffed behind their backs. Once inside, they were told to lie on the floor, facing the wall. At least one was shirtless.
They were put in a small cell and waited for an hour until Diab returned. That was when the humiliation began, they say.
“The policeman told us to strip, to take everything off – shirt, pants and underwear,” said Assaf Dahan, the apartment owner. “When we stood there completely naked, he demanded that we spread our legs and bend over several times. I was standing in front of him, naked, and he looked at my penis and shouted, ‘You must be gay, you like this.’”
They say that after a few hours they asked to use a toilet but Diab refused. They say they obeyed Diab’s orders, despite the fact that they were humiliating and unnecessary. Dahan says that among other things, with his hands cuffed behind his back he was ordered to stand facing the wall and told he would be pepper-sprayed if he dared move or try to sit. Dahan also says the police have not returned his ID and his cellphone, both of which they took from him.
“We stood there, humiliated, and started talking about how we’d done the army, we’d fought, we’d done reserve duty and look how the state treats us,” Dahan said. “The policeman heard this and yelled, ‘You were surely stinking jobnikim,’” or desk jockeys.
“We wanted to tell him we were combat soldiers, some of us were in Gilad Shalit’s company and lost friends there; the third friend also lost comrades from his company,” Dahan continued. “But we understood it was better to keep quiet, not to talk. For everything we tried to say, he would immediately take revenge on us.”
Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas in a cross-border raid in 2006 and held captive for five years before being traded for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. Two other soldiers were killed in the raid.
Dahan said he hasn’t filed a complaint against the policeman with the Justice Ministry department that investigates police malfeasance, because he couldn’t find the ticket. But he described the incident to Haaretz.
At an Israel Bar Association conference in Eilat earlier this month, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich mentioned excessive noise as an offense that the police should handle sensitively and leniently.
“Our definition of a criminal is someone who defines himself as a criminal –someone who attaches himself to criminal society, who isn’t embarrassed to go to jail because that’s part of his career,” Alsheich said. “Most crimes are committed by normative people.”
This distinction is important, Alsheich continued, because if a police officer responds to a call with the understanding that the offender is otherwise law-abiding, “we’ve solved half the problem. Those who make noise after 11 P.M. are normative citizens. This is a violation of the law, but they aren’t criminals.”