Editorial |

Police Harassment

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The arrest of Israeli artist Engelmayer, dressed as Shoshke, September 5, 2020
The arrest of Israeli artist Engelmayer, dressed as Shoshke, September 5, 2020Credit: Galina Vaks

The use of sexual harassment as grounds for arresting and questioning critics of the regime is a new nadir for the Israel Police. Its agreement to enlist in political harassment through baseless enforcement indicates that the police have become dangerously politicized and demonstrate disregard for the true violence directed at women in Israel.

Artist Ze’ev Engelmayer was arrested Saturday at an anti-government demonstration in Jerusalem while dressed as his nude comics character Shoshke. Engelmayer, who has in the past come to many demonstrations dressed as Shoshke, was detained on suspicion of disturbing the peace and sexually harassing the public – although in the penal code no such violation exists.

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Engelmayer says the questioning was absurd. “They didn’t stop asking me why I was walking around naked,” he said. All this while he was completely covered in a cloth costume. “I explained to him that it was cloth nudity. They asked who I was imitating and I explained that I wasn’t mimicking anyone.” He added, “I felt as if they were trying to lead me to say I was impersonating Sara Netanyahu, but they never asked me that outright.”

This is not a unique occurrence. Last Wednesday, the cyber unit of Lahav 433 spent four hours questioning blogger Iris Boker on suspicion of sexual harassment of Sara Netanyahu. This stemmed from a tweet she’d written last month that consisted of curses and threats she had received on social media, following her response to an interview with Sara Netanyahu on Channel 12, in which the prime minister’s wife depicted herself as a victim of sexual violence. The decision to summon Boker for questioning was the result of a complaint; the prosecution was not involved.

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana is determined to halt the demonstrations, which are upsetting his master, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As the minister responsible for the police, it seems as if he won’t refrain from using them to supply political persecution services. He is using serious issues like the coronavirus and violence against women as baseless grounds for arresting people whose only sin is protesting against Netanyahu and his failed government.

Not only does this look like selective enforcement for political reasons, but in both cases the allegation was unfounded. It’s hard not to suspect that this is no coincidence: Engelmayer and Boker were questioned based on the cynical use of laws against sexual violence, after Sara Netanyahu was interviewed and depicted herself as a victim, thus giving the signal. This is another example of the dangerous, damaging influence of a government headed by a criminal suspect. The attack on the gatekeepers continues, and the circles of destruction expand from week to week.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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