Knesset committees fight over role of police in coronavirus era

Are abuse of citizen with special needs, others exception or rule?

Israel Police enforce coronavirus regulations in Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel Police enforce coronavirus regulations in Jerusalem
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Two Knesset committees held hearings on Wednesday, with fiery exchanges over the role of the police in the coronavirus era.
In the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, chairman Yaakov Asher (UTJ) traded barbs with Yisrael Beytenu MK Eli Avidar and Yesh Atid-Telem MK Karin Elharrar, when he was arguing that police have mistreated the Haredi sector disproportionately.
Asher said that the police were acting corruptly and overly aggressively in enforcing mask-wearing in the Haredi sector.
Avidar lashed out at Asher saying, “you called the police corrupt!” and saying that the chairman was out of line and abusing his position to tear down law enforcement.
Likewise, Elharrar said, “The police are our police. If there are instances when they make mistakes, they should be fixed. In hearings about fines for failing to wear a mask, the police said themselves that they issue warnings beforehand and distribute masks” in many instances instead of issuing fines or arrests.
Coming to the police’s defense, she said, “I am not ready to live in a state… which drags down the entire police force” every time individual officers make a mistake.
Asher responded to Avidar, saying “you are a populist! You are a populist!”
The chairman clashed more calmly with Elharrar, but was still clearly annoyed that she was challenging him about his claims of the Haredi community being mistreated.
Meanwhile, in the State Control Committee, David Biton of Holon addressed the committee following an incident in which the police allegedly beat him, shocked him electrically and threw him in jail for four days for not wearing a mask.
He demanded to know from the committee members, “why did the police put me through this trauma?!”
Committee Chairman Ofer Shelach (Yesh Atid-Telem) said that he would try to pass legislation to release citizens on a more expedited basis if their rights were violated by police when they were detained.
Police Head of Interrogations Ch.-Supt. Gilad Bahat responded, “I am prevented from responding because the case is under investigation…even if I know the truth is different” from what Biton was claiming.
The committees also discussed controversial recent cases in which the police allegedly abused or were overly-aggressive about mask-wearing toward a special-education individual, a 13-year-old Haredi girl, as well as towards retired Brig. Gen. Amir Haskel for his involvement in a protest against Netanyahu.
The police appeared to acknowledge some fault in some of the cases and said that they are trying to send directives down through the chain of command to increase the sensitivity of police officers in the field.
At the same time, they tried to emphasize that in most cases, police are showing restraint and issuing warnings, rather than taking aggressive measures for failure to wear masks.
Acting Director-General for the Israeli Ethiopian Association Mazal Bishaver said, “say thank you that you are at least not black citizens,” implying that Ethiopian-Israelis are treated even worse than others by the police.
According to Bishaver, the police have started to use arrests for no reason other than that they do not like a citizen’s attitude in how they are speaking to them.
Shelach and the police also debated whether the police are improving, with police officials claiming a reduction in total arrests annually in recent years, while Shelach noted that a recent state comptroller report took the police to task for leaving out certain categories of arrests from their statistics.