'Go to Gaza, Terrorist': Israeli Arab Protesters Say Police Abused Them in Detention

Detainees who have since been released filed new complaints, saying officers verbally and physically abused them during and after their arrests

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The demonstration in solidarity with Gaza in Haifa on Friday, May 18, 2018
The demonstration in solidarity with Gaza in Haifa on Friday, May 18, 2018Credit: Abdullah Shama

People arrested during a protest in Haifa last Friday filed new complaints regarding the conduct of police officers to the Justice Ministry's Internal Investigations Department, saying they were verbally and physically abused.

The new charges are directed against a number of police officers, including the one suspected of breaking the leg of Jafar Farah, the director of the Mossawa Center, which promotes the rights of Arab citizens in Israel. Farah, a prominent Israeli Arab figure, denied all charges when questioned about the incident.

>> Police conduct sends a message: an Arab protester is first and foremost an Arab | Opinion >>

Jafar Farah.Credit: Rami Chelouche

Farah's son, Bisan Farah, asserts that a policeman grabbed him while he was documenting the protest, tore his shirt and threatened to break his arm. He says he was then arrested and placed with other detainees in a police car – which was driven so wildly that it collided with another vehicle, causing his head to bleed after the accident. The younger Farah complains that despite the injury he was taken not to hospital but to the police station, where the same agent who broke his father's leg threw him on the floor.

Naif Shakor, another demonstrator who had been in the same police car, said that a police officer told him during the journey: "Go to Gaza. This is a Jewish state." Shakor also says the cop called him a "terrorist."

Amar Abu Kandil, another protestor, claims he was treated violently while he was being arrested, even though he was not resisting the officers. Fists pummeled his back and a policeman hit his face with an object, he says, adding a policeman told him: "You went down. We've been waiting for you all week."

Abu Kandil also states that the same agent who broke Jafar Farah's leg spat towards a group of detainees and cursed them at the police station.

Ali Mawasi, who was also detained at the police station, complained to the Internal Investigations Department that the same agent told them: "Today we're going to make a feast of you. We're going to screw you, you sons of bitches."

All the detainees say police tightened their plastic handcuffs even more after they complained they were too tight. They also say that a policewoman took pictures of them while they were sitting handcuffed at the police station, adding they feared the images could be uploaded to social media.

Finally, they also accuse the police officers of refusing to identify themselves, in violation of procedure. Furthermore, Jafar Farah says cops put pressure or even threatened the medical team at the hospital to treat the case of his broken leg as they wanted, such as releasing him rather than having him spend the night at the clinic.

According to Fady Khoury, a lawyer with the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, "The picture arising is still partial at this stage but strongly indicates that police officers committed crimes." Khoury submitted the complaints on behalf of the detainees, who have been released in the meantime at the order of the Haifa Magistrates Court.

Khoury accused the police officers of behaving completely unprofessionally, adding that their actions and hostility raise suspicions that their motives were racist. "Never before did we encounter such violence at the police station, and such extreme contempt and humiliation towards the detainees, which can only arise from sentiments of revenge and hostility," he concluded.

The Facebook account of the policeman suspected of assaulting Jafar Farah shows he had previously shared a number of anti-Arab posts and “liked” comments calling for violence against demonstrators.
He shared an announcement in October 2015 entitled “Don’t buy terror,” calling for a boycott of Arab-owned businesses. “We’ve decided to launch a shaming campaign calling on anyone who sees a closed Israeli Arab’s store to report it immediately,” the announcement said following a strike mounted by the Arab community. The announcement included a phone number to report striking Arab businesses, saying “we’ll see to it that they remain closed.”

A day later the policeman posted another item about closed business places in Acre. He shared a report from the Rotter site and wrote “to all the bleeding hearts providing a living for Acre’s market – here’s your slap to the face, they’re all terrorists who use your money for violence, crime and terror and laugh at you behind your back.”

In December 2015, the suspect shared a post showing a picture of Joseph’s Tomb, in which he wrote: “This is a picture of Joseph’s Tomb from the 19th century. All around is desert, sand, nothing!!! So where in God’s name are those Palestinians, damn them, who claim they were there from the dawn of history!!! A nation that is invented and not more than that.”

In a post from 2014, the suspected policeman put up a picture of himself and his police team ahead of a demonstration in Haifa. Users commented “break their legs,” and “bash their face in” (in vulgar slang) and the policeman responded with “like” to both comments.

The policeman, reportedly a patrol officer, denied he assaulted Farah when he was questioned by the Police Investigation Department in the Justice Ministry. Farah, who didn’t take part in the demonstration, went after it ended to look for his son. He asked a policeman at the site if he could go and look for his son, and was then detained with 18 demonstrators. Later that night, in police detention, a policeman assaulted him and broke his knee cap, he said.

The Haifa District Court released the detainees on Monday, stating that they did not pose a threat. “Some of those who were accused of violence needed medical treatment themselves,” the judge added.

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