A Tel Aviv Municipal Security Patrol officer was filmed smacking a homeless man in the face after being shoved, sparking calls for his suspension.
In footage of the incident posted on social media, two officers argue with three homeless people. One appears to caution the officer facing him not to touch him, then shoves him in the shoulder. In response, the officer hits him in the face, wounding him in the mouth.
According to an eyewitness, the officers, who had no visible identification, and were not accompanied by the usual city personnel, intended to remove the homeless people away from where they were staying.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel argues this is just one graphic example of more general behavior, saying it has received several complaints from homeless people about harassment, attempts to evict them illegally from the public spaces they occupy and confiscate their equipment. Such actions are illegal according to municipal by—laws validated by Israel's high court in response to an earlier appeal by the association.
The association asked the city’s legal adviser to suspend the officer in question, pending an investigation, and instruct the relevant officials to meet treatment standards toward homeless people.
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It welcomed an initiative by city hall to reinforce its social work division to address complaints by residents of South Tel Aviv about a rise in the number of drug addicts in their neighborhood.
But in a letter to attorney Gil Gan-Mor, head of the city's social and civil rights unit, the association argues the city should also take proper steps to deal with complaints regarding welfare, housing and health.
“The solution to the situation is not police action and arrests, evicting people to another area or confiscating their property," the letter said. "That amounts to mistreatment."
"It’s an ‘easy’ solution that seems to treat the problem," it added, "while in effect only making the situation of homeless people, their ability to survive on the streets, and their confidence in the system worse.”
The municipality declined to comment on the incident.