Footage that emerged on Thursday morning of a policeman violently confronting an Arab truck driver in east Jerusalem has led to accusations of police brutality, including condemnations from law enforcement.
In the recording that went viral on social media, the police officer and the truck driver, 50-year-old Mazen Shwiki, are seen engaged in a heated conversation on Tuesday that eventually deteriorates into violence, with the officer head-butting, punching and kneeing Shwiki in the groin.
Bystanders are seen flocking to the scene as they attempt to turn the policeman’s attention away from the visibly shaken truck driver. More blows are exchanged, this time between members of the crowd and the officer, who seems to leave the scene, but then is seen returning to kick Shwiki in the back before the recording ends.
The incident, which took place in the parking lot of the Interior Ministry office in the Wadi Joz neighborhood, reportedly ensued over an issue with the truck’s parking.
Israel Police issued a statement saying the incident represented “extreme and abnormal behavior that does not comply with the behavior expected of Israel Police officers.”
It added that after police received the video, the officer involved was immediately suspended and is now due to stand in a hearing with authorities on his continued tenure.
Meanwhile, police officials were further reviewing the footage of the incident.
The matter also spurred concerned responses from Israeli politicians.
“The behavior of the police officer filmed violently attacking an east Jerusalem resident is of the utmost gravity and disgraceful,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said. “Such behavior harms the entire police force and the police acted correctly to immediately suspend the officer. There is no place for such behavior among police and I hope that the Israel Police will reach a grave judgment against him for his unacceptable behavior.”
That response was distinctly different from others Erdan has often made that were – at least during initial stages of a controversial event – protective of police.
Meanwhile, Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi said he had asked the chief of the Israel Police and Erdan to take action.
“We are talking about the brutal behavior of a security official against a truck driver from east Jerusalem,” said Tibi.
“I demand his [the officer’s] immediate arrest and a trial of him and his two companions who joined the fist fight against the local driver.”
Tibi added that he had spoken with a witness who claimed to have filmed the brawl.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said that the incident was a direct result of lack of effective treatment of police brutality toward minorities in Israel.
“Just like it, with no reason. Hitting him on the head and then hitting the person next to him,” she said. “This is how it appears, and it is not surprising."
"They are still closing cases in the Police Investigation Department of policemen beating Arabs, Ethiopians and protesters without explaining why.”
Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh reiterated that notion by saying the problem was not this specific violent policeman, but with the whole system around him. “This rotten racist violence goes deep down within the police,” he said. “And this police commissioner and [public security] minister only help it spread around.”
Shwiki spoke about the incident on Thursday morning and said he was suffering shortness of breath due to fractures to his sternum caused by the assault.
“I got to work this morning in my truck, which is by the Interior Ministry in the Wadi Joz neighborhood, as always,” he recounted. Shwiki said the policeman had accused him of hitting his car while parking the truck and when he attempted to apologize and offered to help fix the damage to the policeman’s car, the officer launched the attack for no apparent reason.
“The policeman started to curse me and used derogatory language, and then he butted my head and started hitting me for no reason. All that, even though I admitted that I hit his car,” Shwiki said.Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.