'Don't You Know Who He Is?'

Israel Police Dismiss Left-wing Activist's Complaint Because of His Political Views

Officer recorded saying there's no point investigating report on settlers trespassing private Palestinian land, calling the activist an 'anarchist'

Rabbi Arik Ascherman helps Palestinians harvest olives near Nablus, West Bank, November 1, 2015.
AP

A police officer has been recorded dismissing a complaint by a left-wing activist due to the activist’s political orientation.

“He can report as many incidents as he likes,” the policeman said in a telephone call two weeks ago, but “there’s no point in going there.” He also called the complainant, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, “the biggest anarchist in Judea and Samaria,” referring to the West Bank.

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 never did file the complaint, saying he was later told that only the Palestinian landowner could do so. Nevertheless, he said, had Illouz arrived at the scene quickly, he could have seen the vehicle for himself and run its license plate. Moreover, the law requires the police to open an investigation any time they know a crime has been committed, even if no formal complaint is filed.