Opinion |

Thou Shalt Bear False Witness

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Marwan al-Husseini's car, after the arrest.
Marwan al-Husseini's car, after the arrest. Credit: Moti Milrod
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

A man is driving innocently in his car, his elderly mother seated beside him. They’re going to pay a family visit in a nearby town. It’s afternoon, the weather is pleasant and the music is loud. They’re on their way to see an aunt, and life is good. Suddenly, a roadblock. Even that didn’t dampen their mood; they are accustomed to roadblocks. Just to be on the safe side, they put on their face masks, to avoid a possible fine.

Then they waited. Traffic slowed to a crawl. In the meantime, the man enjoyed the music. He appeared calm, resting his arm on the window and waiting. Facebook Live had been on since the beginning of the trip. He likes to film himself, a ripped guy in a white T-shirt and dark sunglasses.

Suddenly, shouts are heard. A gang of armed thugs take over the car. They break the window; the man protects his head from the iron truncheon. Then they storm the car, shouting and threatening. One of them gets in from the back seat and grabs the man around the throat with rubber-gloved hands. The other one gets in the front and drags him violently out of the car. The camera keeps on rolling.

Next to the car, the thugs are shown beating and kicking the man mercilessly. His elderly mother looks on, terrified. She sees her son crying out in pain and she can do nothing except scream.

Video of the arrest. The police said the "suspect refused to open the vehicle door."

That went on for a few minutes under the camera stopped rolling. The man and his mother were subsequently taken to the police station on suspicion of “weapons possession.”

The man said he lay on the floor at the station for several hours, writhing in pain, begging to be taken to a hospital, but the police denied him. His mother was shocked and terrified, the family at home was going crazy with worry over the missing pair.

Later in the evening, they were released without restrictions or an explanation. They discover that the police had dismantled their car. At the hospital to which the man was rushed he was found to have sustained severe injury to his testicles from kicks and required surgery. He was in the hospital for six days and is still in pain, three weeks after the incident. He is a broken man.

This violent abduction did not take place in Augusto Pinochet’s Chile or in Argentina of the junta. It happened on a road near the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim near Jerusalem, to Raisa and Marwan al-Husseini, a mother and son from Hebron. The abductors were members of the Israel Police. And that is the tolerable part of the story. What happened next is even worse.

There are false arrests, they happen. There’s unwarranted and excessive violence in any police force. But what happened after that should shake up every Israeli, right-wing or left: The Israel Police told bald-faced lies.

Even in a reality where lies have become common – in politics, the army and daily life – when the police lie it is a very bad sign indeed. These were not the half-lies of the Israel Defense Forces. These are the crude, brazen lies of law enforcement. Police officers who lie with such unimaginable ease are even more dangerous than physically violent police officers.

This is the statement that the Israel Police gave Haaretz: “During the arrest, the suspect refused to open the vehicle door and out of fear he would conceal evidence or hurt the police officers, the latter were forced to break into the vehicle and arrest him. The suspect along with another passenger who was in the vehicle were taken to the police station and at the end of the examination and the search they were released.”

Not a word about the blows and the kicks. Nor did the police bother to ask for the video, of whose existence they were apprised before this mendacious statement was released saying that the man had resisted arrest. The video leaves no room for doubt or lies. That’s the way false, violent arrests are excused in the streets of Istanbul and Moscow. That's what happens between Ma’aleh Adumim and Azariya.

But what happens between Azariya and Ma’aleh Adumim doesn’t stay between Azariya and Ma’aleh Adumim. Nor will the lies that were intended to paper over what happened stay there. Soon it will happen in Tel Aviv, or perhaps it is already happening there.

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