Protesting in Israel - A Personal Account
By J. M. Staff
In keeping with the spirit of the time, when the people of Israel feel themselves compelled against their will to give up strategic lands and invite further terror inroads, many young people have taken to using the old methods of protests that were popular during the 1960's when the Blacks used "civil dis-obedience" to achieve their goals. Many young Israeli's feeling frustrated with the government's ram rod approach to democracy have taken to the streets to protest. However, unlike the democracy in other Western countries, the untold stories of police brutality for trivial infringements are concealed from the public.
Herein is the story of what happened to one young man who together with some friends tried to make their protest heard:
Avraham Meir C., 19 years old, is a student at a Jerusalem Yeshiva, a center for the study of Torah, which is situated next to a main thoroughfare in Jerusalem. On one evening, February 1st 2005 to be exact, he and several of his fellow Yeshiva students decided to make a spontaneous demonstration on the street in front of their Yeshiva. There were perhaps eighty students in all who marched into the street and stopped the traffic. It began at about 7:15 after dinner, of course, seeing as Yeshiva men, like the army, work best with a full stomach.
The street was closed approximately seven or eight minutes total before the police arrived. When the police arrived the students dispersed and began running towards their Yeshiva. Avraham Meir left the demonstration early and was in the Yeshiva when the students returned, running from their demonstration with the police running after them.
Avraham Meir was standing at the gate of his Yeshiva speaking with a student who did not participate in the demonstration. The other student was asking Avraham Meir to describe what had happened. At that point a man, who later turned out to be a plain clothed policeman, appeared and grabbed another boy from the Yeshiva. This was done without the plain clothed policeman identifying himself.
Avraham Meir together with other students tried to rescue the boy from the "assailant". At that point the special police force for dealing with emergency situations, who are known for the aggressive and brutality, jumped Avraham Meir and knocked him down to the stone pavement.
A. M. Being Beaten by a Special Unit Police Man
Avraham Meir realizing that he was being assailed by the most brutal part of the police force, yelled "I surrender!" several times that they should stop beating him violently. Instead, the vicious police man picked him up. Avraham Meir picked up his hands as a sign of surrender, but the police knocked him down again and began to slam his head to the floor for no justifiable reason other that to be brutal.
A. M. Being Taken to the Patrol Car by a Special Police Unit
Finally the police picked up Avraham Meir and took him to the waiting patrol car. All to the patrol car, the police would violently twist his arm in a most painful manner. Because of having his head dashed several times on the stone floor, Avraham Meir was in much pain. Remember, Yeshiva "bochrim" are not known for their athletic prowess.
In the Police Car
At the police station, Avraham Meir asked for a pain killer such as Acamol, but was denied it unless he signed a blank statement admitting anything that the police would later demand. He refused to sign an open document incriminating himself. Only after an hour of suffering from the unwarranted blows to his head was he given a pain killer.
At that point he was put in a cell with nine other people. The beds were made of stone connected to the wall. The toilet was the old style "mizrachi" toilet, meaning a hole in the ground! This was also the shower! In his lock-up were not just protesters but dope addicts and even some poor people who owed money. A sorry place to be in, but very intimidating for a young Yeshiva man!
The police were courteous enough to permit him to pray in the jail synagogue. However, because the time given for prayers happened to be at the time of breakfast, by the time he and several other religious people finished their prayer service, they had missed the short breakfast hours. Food was denied to them a sneaky trick by the police who had no intention of giving anyone decent treatment. Avraham Meir and the other religious inmates had to wait until lunchtime to get something to eat.
At supper time, there was no kosher food available so they sent the religious inmates back to the lockers with the promise that they would get some kosher food. The kosher food never came. Fortunately, approximately an hour and a half later; a friend came to sign a bail for him which secured his release.
At the jail there was a lawyer for a group called "Chananu" that helps people who are arrested for taking part in protests. He told Avraham Meir that he would be released but subjected to a form of "house arrest."
A different lawyer from the same group told him that even though it was illegal for the police to beat protesters in such a manner, the lawyer advised Avraham Meir that it would be fruitless to file a protest. In his experience, when the police generally are questioned by their superiors, they will lie. Their version of what transpired is generally accepted by the board of police.
Two weeks after the affair, the plain clothed policeman came to the Yeshiva to speak to the Yeshiva administrators to request that no students be allowed to participate in further demonstrations. The plain clothes policeman admitted that he knew that Yeshiva boys were arrested and wrongly treated by the police. He said that this is their policy. He warned the Yeshiva that undercover police would be in the area to make certain that no student be allowed to participate in further demonstrations.
Informed political analysts say that the reason for the extreme violent handling of a silly case of over zealous Yeshiva boys is because the government is very worried about the growing dissatisfaction with the move to remove Jewish people from their homes. Even though at this time, around the country many university students are protesting the lack of funds for the university, yet no effort is made to block their protests.
This is obviously because the university students present no threat to the government. Where as the various young people around the country do worry the government's pledge to extract Jews from their lawful homes.
It is a very sad time when the world gets upset about Jewish activists call to "transfer" the Arabs from their villages, yet they turn a deaf ear on an Israeli leader plan to "transfer" Jews from their villages. Just the opposite, they look at "Jewish transfer" as a method to promote peace.
Is police brutality justified in cases like this? Or are we looking towards another Oslo?
from the April Passover 2005 Edition of the Jewish Magazine