The Israel Police has been perceived in recent weeks as a sick organization that finds it difficult to fulfil the tasks it has been given. Its lower ranks and officers have been caught repeatedly using needless violence.
So it was with the mass arrests and aggravated violence toward protesters in Tel Aviv, and so it was in the scandalous agreement between police and leaders of the Hasidic groups – whereby they could hold huge events on condition that they not be documented – and in the violence toward ultra-Orthodox passersby and protesters in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh.
Besides the problem of command and the lack of a permanent commissioner for two years now, the police as an organization and as individual members do not feel like there’s anyone in charge. The Justice Ministry unit that investigates police misconduct, which is supposed to oversee the police, is constantly revealed as a weak, unmotivated entity. The most recent example was the unit’s decision to close the file against the officers who planted a weapon in the home of a resident of Isawiyah as part of a TV docudrama.
In August 2019, Haaretz’s Nir Hasson broke the story of the filming of a segment of the series in which policemen and officers arrived at the home of Samer Sleiman to search it, and planted a weapon in the basement – only to “discover” it afterwards for the cameras. In so doing, the police endangered Sleiman because his neighbors, who recognized him on TV, were sure he was a criminal or collaborator.
In announcing the closing of the case, the unit said “incidents were shown in the series that were viewed as real, although they did not actually happen.” Nevertheless, the unit’s statement said, its investigation “focused on the question of whether a misrepresentation was presented to the complainants in interrogations involving them, and it was found that these interrogations were not in fact obstructed.” That is, the police conducted a false search, lied to the cameras and put a citizen at risk. But since he was not summoned to a false interrogation, they committed no crime.
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That decision joins a series of other strange decisions to close cases investigating police misconduct. One is the matter of Salah, Sleiman’s 11-year-old son, who was shot in the face with a sponge-tipped bullet and blinded. In that case as well, the Justice Ministry unit did not find it proper to try the officer who fired the billet. It is expected that in the death of Eyad Hallaq, the young autistic man who was mistakenly shot in the Old City of Jerusalem in May, the unit will decide to close the case.
An unsupervised police force is like a license for the police to use violence needlessly. For the police this is convenient, but the closure of another case, despite its severity, is more evidence of this unit’s irrelevance. The public is thus abandoned in the face of the violence of the police, which view citizens at most as extras in a self-glorifying drama.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.