Two intolerable things happened during the holiday weekend: The cancellation of the Doof trance festival on grounds that intelligence information indicated plans to sell drugs at the event, and the police raid on the Sauna club in Tel Aviv, which was closed and its owners arrested after some of the patrons were caught in possession of drugs.
This is turning into a trend; two months ago, on the same grounds, police raided the Breakfast club in Tel Aviv and closed it for a month, and in March they canceled the Shushan Music Festival, a Purim event produced by IndNegev.
The Doof festival cancellation must set off alarms regarding the conduct of law enforcement in Israel. Some 4,000 people had bought tickets to the event, where both Israeli and foreign artists were scheduled to appear.
The ease with which an event of this size gets canceled because of intelligence information about an offense that’s allegedly going to be committed is outrageous. Aside from the economic damage suffered by the promoters, it’s unreasonable for the police to cancel a mass festival just to save itself a potential chase after drug dealers. Instead of coming up with a way to deal with the problem in cooperation with the producers and promoters, who already had to meet draconian conditions to obtain permits, including payment of half a million shekels ($139,500) for police security – the police chose to shut the event down.
The targets police raided were also chosen because the groups that go to such clubs and festivals are easy victims who are underrepresented among decision makers. Law enforcement refuses to accept that trance is not a synonym for criminal. The effort to eliminate it is not just superfluous and pointless, it conflicts with people’s desires and preferences as expressed by the large number of participants.
Beyond actual harassment, the way the police operate is also troubling. The Sauna club, which is identified with the gay community, was raided by policemen and detectives accompanied by a dog. According to witnesses, participants were gathered on the club’s dance floor wearing only towels, and lights were shined on them. A video of the raid was subsequently distributed. It seems that as far as the police are concerned, this is a war against underworld barons who are liable to endanger the security forces. This teaches us something about the lack of proportion with which the issue is being dealt.
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If the police are really interested in preventing tragedies like the death of Tohar David at a trance party, the solution isn’t to cancel festivals, but to cooperate with the promoters and the revelers. As at any self-respecting music festival anywhere in the world, there should be high health and security standards without attendees feeling threatened. It is in the police’s interest to work together with producers so that there will be no casualties at such events, but there’s no reason to view the crowds as flocks of offenders.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.