The ins and outs of the Ahuvia Sandak controversy - analysis

It has not been determined who was driving the car when it flipped, whether the police rammed the car or under what circumstances.

Demonstrators block light rail in Jerusalem in protest against death of Ahuvia Sandak, a hilltop youth member. (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Demonstrators block light rail in Jerusalem in protest against death of Ahuvia Sandak, a hilltop youth member.
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
How can the police be investigating themselves for potential misconduct in the death of hilltop youth Ahuvia Sandak as well as co-passengers of Sandak at the same time?
With 1,000 right-wing demonstrators taking to the streets against the police in Jerusalem on Saturday night and a long list of rabbis demanding a national commission of inquiry into police treatment of right-wing activists, what are the bigger issues at stake?
Sandak was killed last Monday when the vehicle he was in flipped over while he was fleeing from police who came to the scene after receiving reports that passengers in an Israeli vehicle were throwing rocks at a Palestinian vehicle.
Next, the police ordered the Israeli vehicle to pull over.
Instead of complying, the driver attempted to escape from the scene.
The vehicle flipped over near the Rimonim Junction leading to the death of Sandak and the injury of four other passengers.
Reportedly, some of the passengers claim that police caused the accident by slamming their police car into them, while police charged the passengers with negligently causing Sandak’s death.
It has not been determined yet who was driving the car when it flipped nor whether the police rammed the car or under what circumstances.
Meanwhile, the Police Investigations Department (PID) is probing the police involved, while the regular police investigations division is investigating the hilltop youth involved.
Presumably, no matter what ruling is issued regarding the police conduct, some or all of the hilltop youth may be charged with dangerous rock throwing, attempting to escape arrest and possibly dangerous driving.
Those calling for a state commission of inquiry do not trust PID to investigate its own and believe that it will just paper over any police misconduct in favor of dumping responsibility on the hilltop youth.
Whether the hilltop youth are guilty, the police are guilty or both sides have some guilt, there is no love lost between right-wing activists and the police or Shin Bet units who prosecute them on charges relating to harassment of Palestinians.
On the Shin Bet and police side there is the Duma case where right-wing extremist Amiram Ben Uliel murdered members of the Palestinian Dawabshe family in 2015. Ben Uliel only has support from a very narrow section of the Right, but the fact that he and a minor co-conspirator underwent enhanced interrogation by the Shin Bet created huge animosity with a broader sector on the Right.
There is also the October 2018 manslaughter case against a right-wing minor for allegedly killing Palestinian woman, Aysha Rabi, a passenger in a car, struck in the head by a rock. Besides the minor who is currently on trial, several other minors were arrested for the crime and prevented from seeing a lawyer for around three weeks, but then released without being charged.
Also, in January 2020, several minors were arrested and held without access to a lawyer for one to two weeks, implicated in violent attacks against Palestinians. They were eventually released with no indictment.
Whether the absence of an indictment proves law enforcement wrongfully arrested people or whether it is simply difficult to make out a case against right-wing activists, few are willing to give evidence against a fellow activist.
The law enforcers view the current incident as one in which those throwing rocks could have killed another Palestinian, and feel such violence must be stamped out.
Hilltop youth believe the police aggressively harass and arrest them, even though they are engaged in much lower-grade mischief than the bombings, shootings and other lethal attacks emanating much more frequently from the Palestinian side.
The police sometimes acknowledge that individual officers may beat a right-wing activist unjustifiably when trying to enforce the law. But they say that the same sometimes happens to protesters from other groups as well. Still, the Right say that special units in the Shin Bet and the police go out of their way to harass and arrest hilltop youth more than other groups.
The incident at the protest in which police separated a father and his baby in a pram is also  disputed. Right-wing activists call the police action inhuman while police say the father should not have brought a baby to a violent protest and should have moved away when instructed to do so.
In short, all of the above latest tragic events are just the latest act in a long-running play which unfortunately probably has many more acts before any finale that reduces tensions.