Arab MKs and NGOs promoting the rights of Arab Israelis voiced outrage Monday over an alleged incident of police brutality during which officers allegedly used excessive force against a Beduin man who refused to show them his ID card outside a grocery store across from Tel Aviv City Hall.
The Justice Ministry has begun gathering information about the Sunday afternoon incident outside the Super Yuda supermarket on Ibn Gvirol St. when, according to the store’s manager, an employee, Maysam Abu Al-Kiaan, stepped outside to throw out garbage and was approached by two plainclothes Border Police officers who asked him to identify himself. When he allegedly refused, a melee began.
Chairman of the Joint List Ayman Odeh (Hadash) has submitted an urgent query to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan about the incident.
“Midday in Tel Aviv, the police are treating Arab citizens in a racist manner and with violence. Instead of the local police ensuring the safety of citizens, they constitute a real danger to our security,” Odeh said.
Amnon Beeri-Sulitzeanu, co-executive director of the Abraham Fund, an NGO dedicated to promoting equality and coexistence between Arab and Jewish citizens that has been working to promote equitable policing for Arab citizens since October 2003, said incidents of police brutality toward Arab citizens are not isolated incidents.
“It derives from the fact that, for the police, Arab citizens are often identified as a threat and lesser citizens, but who deserve service and protection,” he told The Jerusalem Post
“In many cases, Arab citizens are seen as the immediate suspects and are stopped and searched only because of their ethnicity. Each episode, such as the recent one in Tel Aviv, detracts from the significant efforts to nurture trust between the Arab community and the police.”
The recent government decision to allocate NIS $2 billion to improve policing services for the Arab public, including erecting police stations in Arab towns, must coincide with fundamental changes in the culture and attitude of the police toward Arab citizens, he continued.
“It is high time for the police to reintroduce educational and training programs for equitable policing for minorities,” he said.
Late Sunday, roughly 20 protesters gathered in front of the supermarket in solidarity with the Beduin worker.
Jafar Farah, director of the NGO Mossawa Center – The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, said that in a “normal country” the president and prime minister would visit the hospital and dismiss the “hooligans,” but “in this state of racism it is difficult to expect that to happen.”
Also reacting to the incident, Joint List MK Abu Arar Taleb said the police, who are responsible for enforcing the law, instead “violate the covenant that obligates officers to act against any person in accordance with the law.”
He alleged that these officers used violence “contrary to all procedures, against a person because of his Arab origin,” and called on the police and government to take a strong stand against security personnel who take the law into their own hands.
Taleb also charged that while being treated in the hospital the Beduin man was chained to his bed and police did not allow his family to visit.
There were conflicting versions of what actually happened during the incident with the officers involved claiming they were attacked first and witnesses claiming that police assaulted the man first.
Israel Police said Sunday the officers were on patrol looking for Palestinians who had entered the country illegally and asked a man who looked suspicious to show them his ID. Police said he refused and then attacked, biting one officer.
Police later released a photo of the alleged bite wound and said the two officers were taken to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital with light injuries.Ben Hartman contributed to this report.