Israeli Artist Arrested on Suspicion That Outfit Was Offensive Portrayal of Sara Netanyahu, Police Source Says

Police strip-searched Zeev Engelmayer after he was arrested at an anti-Netanyahu protest while dressed as his long-standing character, Shoshke. He was later released without being charged

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Israeli artist Engelmayer dressed as Shoshke at an anti-Netanyahu protest
Israeli artist Engelmayer dressed as Shoshke at an anti-Netanyahu protest Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Police officers arrested illustrator and visual artist Zeev Engelmayer at Saturday’s protest in Jerusalem against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because they believed he was wearing a costume meant to be an offensive portrayal of Sara Netanyahu, a police source said.

Engelmayer, in costume as Shoshke, a character he has portrayed for years, was arrested at the beginning of the demonstration and later subjected to a visual body search by police. Police officers said the costume of a naked woman was offensive and that Engelmayer was taken to a police station, where he was questioned as a possible criminal suspect.

Sara Netanyahu had complained in a televised interview last month on Channel 12 she felt as though she’d been sexually assaulted by protesters at Balfour brandishing sexually suggestive paraphernalia, and also referred to herself as a “battered woman.”

During his interrogation, Engelmayer was led by police officers to the bathroom, where he was ordered to strip. The officers even helped him unzip the costume. They ordered him to remove his underwear, spread his legs and bend over, with his back to them. The officers examined his body without touching him, except for opening the zipper.

Engelmayer says he felt humiliated: “They treated me like a criminal.” He was released later on Saturday evening. Israeli law permits body searches only when there is a reasonable suspicion that a suspect is concealing material evidence of a crime.

Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Engelmayer’s lawyer, Yair Nehorai, said he planned to submit to the Jerusalem police on Monday a letter before action, demanding to know whether the police planned to arrest his client at the next protest.

The police said in a statement that they had detained for questioning “a man who came to the site of the demonstration dressed as a naked woman, in a manner that could constitute sexual harassment of the public.” The police did not answer a question about the need for a body search.

The Jerusalem District Court extended by one day Sunday the detention of five anti-Netanyahu activists arrested for trying to load several police barriers onto a truck near the prime minister’s residence before Saturday’s protest. The police had asked for a five-day extension. The five were among 13 activists who were stopped early Saturday morning after loading dozens of solid police barriers onto two trucks.

Two of the suspects, Yigal Rambam and Costa Black, are familiar faces at the protests. They said they had planned to send the barricades back to the company that had rented them to the police. They said the solid barriers were used to restrict the protests at Paris Square, near the prime minister’s residence, and endangered participants because they increased the pressure and crowd density at the site.

Chief Inspector Moshe Levitan said their actions amounted to theft. Gaby Lasky, a lawyer for the detainees, said no theft was involved since the barriers had to be returned to the owner. She said that the police could question her clients without keeping them in custody.

The other eight detainees, including two news photographers who were with the activists, were released on Saturday.

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