Police Reality TV Series Removed After Haaretz Report of Israeli Cops Planting Gun in Palestinian's Home

Police apologize, say will investigate incident, in which officers were filmed 'discovering' an M-16 assault rifle, while the producers said they would 'draw conclusions'

Right: Samar Sleiman in his basement. Right: Screengrab from the scene in Jerusalem District
Emil Salman

Israel's public broadcaster Kan removed all episodes available online of a police docudrama set in Jerusalem, following a report by Haaretz that officers planted a gun in the house of an East Jerusalem Palestinian in the course of filming the show.

The company that produced the series, Koda Communications, said it will also examine three other scenes from the series in which the company "used the same motif."

Following the report, the police apologized, and said they would investigate the incident, in which police officers were filmed "discovering" the M-16 assault rifle, while the producers said they would "draw conclusions."

>> By planting gun for reality TV, Israel Police reveal truth about East Jerusalem

Samer Sleiman’s house in the village of Isawiyah was searched in November 2018, after which he was handed a document stating that nothing was found there. However, a few months later, Sleiman’s neighbors identified the house in an episode of a nine-part docudrama called "Jerusalem District," aired on Kan TV. The episode records a search for weapons, in the course of which a cellar is discovered, described by one of the series’ main characters as “a tunnel which would do credit to the ones found in Gaza.”

In this cellar, a M-16 rifle is found. The policemen in the documentary are overjoyed at finding the gun, leaving the village satisfied with their work. However, Sleiman was never arrested or questioned about weapons ostensibly found in his possession. He is now worried that his neighbors will think he’s a criminal or a collaborator with the police or the security services.

In response to questions raised by the incident, Koda released a statement saying: "It was a mistake of judgement. Koda takes responsibility for its part in this mistake and we apologize to anyone who was hurt, apologize to viewers and the corporation."

Koda further promised to draw all "necessary conclusions" and procedures to ensure that such errors are not made again.  

According to the statement, two directors of the series were present while they were filming at Sleiman's house. "To the best of our knowledge, the two directors mentioned above were aware of the direction of finding the weapon," Koda said. Apart from the two directors, Koda claims, no one from the company was aware that the weapon was planted. "One of the directors is no longer working for the company and the other will be summoned to a hearing upon his return from abroad," Koda added.

In addition to the police, Koda has also opened an investigation into the matter, claiming that of the 145 scenes that were filmed, "most of which are completely authentic, and reflect reality without change," three are being looked into.

The incident at Sleiman’s home was apparently not the only problematic episode of the show. In another, a black bag ostensibly filled with narcotics was presented as something that had been confiscated during the apparent arrest of a drug dealer, but police admitted in court the next day that they hadn’t actually found anything during the arrest. That episode aired in August 2018.

It featured the intelligence coordinator for the Jerusalem District’s Kedem sub-district, Erez Hazan, sending an undercover agent to buy drugs near the Old City’s Damascus Gate from someone Hazan called a “snake’s head.”  

After Salim buys drugs from the dealer, who operates out of the old central bus station on Sultan Suleiman Street, other policemen arrest the man. The agent tells the policemen that the dealer took the drugs out of black bag. 

Hazan tells the interviewer, “from my acquaintance with the dealer, these aren’t the quantities we know he deals in.” He therefore orders a search of the dealer’s house in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al Amud. 

Nothing is found in the house, but police say the dealer’s wife was seen throwing a bag holding a large quantity of drugs out the window.
The dealer’s face was blurred in the series, as were the faces of his relatives. 

Haaretz has learned that the arrested dealer, Faisal Turki, 61, had a reputation for involvement with drugs. He was arrested at on the day mentioned on TV but in court police offered a different version of events and made no mention of the black bag shown on camera. 

While Turki was later charged with drug related offenses it was unclear whether these incidents had anything to do with what was described in the TV episode.

Sleiman has since filed a complaint with the Police Investigations Department, a unit in the Justice Ministry in charge of probing police misconduct.

Sleiman’s son Saleh was shot five years ago with a sponge-tipped bullet fired by the police. He was then 11 years old, and the bullet caused him to lose his eyesight. He has recently been recognized as a victim of hostile action, entitling him to some state benefits. Following a query by Haaretz, Kan TV decided to remove that episode from its website and from YouTube. The police did not deny Sleiman’s charges.