Palestinian Was Charged With Attacking Israeli Police. Turns Out They Attacked Him

Video of the event shows officers attacking S. for no apparent reason. Despite the evidence, the internal investigations unit dropped the case against the officers

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, 2017
Entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, 2017Credit: אוליבייה פיטוסי
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

A 35-year old resident of East Jerusalem cleared of resisting arrest in 2017 is appealing the decision not to investigate the police officers who arrested him for assault.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 48

-- : --

S. was arrested at one of the entrances to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City. According to a 2018 indictment, he told policemen “Long live the Jabareen family,” referring to a deadly attack by three Palestinian relatives on two police officers earlier that year. “God will take you one at a time,” S. reportedly told the cops.

S. then refused injunctions to go away and tried to force his way into the compound, the police report said. He resisted arrest and pushed the police officers, hitting one of them, leading to him being charged with interfering with police in the performance of their duty and resisting arrest by force.

S. disputes this version of events. He told Haaretz that he was undergoing routine inspection in order to enter the compound. He had a small bag that the officers wanted to look at. “It was dark so [the officer] checked with a flashlight and let me through," S. said. He did not mention the Jabareen attack but a second police officer "asked me to stop, apparently he didn’t like that I had already begun to pray. He asked what I said. I said it was prayer. He became angry and started to push me. Then he was joined by others and they beat me. Later I was told they were under stress because of the attack by the Jabareen family."

Security camera footage in the possession of authorities corroborates what S. is saying. In the grainy video, S. shows something to an officer, who allows him to pass into the compound. Another one then calls him back, before shoving him against the wall; others then join in. During the incident, S.’s clothing was torn and he suffered blows to the head, arms, back and torso.

S. filed a complaint directly with the internal investigations unit at the Justice Ministry, which was given the footage from police. The unit later decided to close the case, on the grounds that the “circumstances do not warrant criminal investigation.”

His lawyer, Idan Gamlieli, says S. was never notified that the case against the police had been closed and in September, petitioned the prosecution for permission to appeal after the deadline. Unusually, the prosecution agreed.

The internal affairs department commented that it did not have the full documentation of the event, only partial, when making the decision. While the information in its possession at the time did indicate that the police used force, no suspicion of criminal behavior arose, the internal affairs department stated: "under the circumstances, the use of force seemed reasonable." The appeal will be examined as per usual, it said.

According to Gamlieli, S. is a regular person with no criminal record, who was attacked by the policemen for no obvious reason. The police should be investigated, not only for violence but given their version of events, for disrupting the legal process and perjury, the lawyer said.

The tape should have led the police officers to be charged with violence, Gamlieli told Haaretz, calling it a shame that the internal affairs department chose not to investigate despite the complaint, backed by documentation and photographs of S.’s injuries.

"The suspect was arrested in 2017 on suspicion of breaching the peace, and then resisting arrest," a laconic police statement said. "After an indictment was filed, and all relevant elements were examined by the prosecution, it was decided not to continue legal proceedings against him."