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Knesset Speaker: MK May Not be Detained Without My Approval

Various bodies are investigating whether the IDF and Border Guard violated the law in their treatment of MK Ben-Ari near Yitzhar on Monday.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 6/2/2009, 12:49 PM

Israel News Photo

After Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin told the police that they cannot detain a Knesset Member without his permission, officials in MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari’s office, the IDF Spokesman’s office, and others are investigating whether the IDF and Border Guard violated the law in their treatment of Ben-Ari near Yitzhar on Monday.

Ben-Ari appeared on the scene of a protest against the government’s destruction of Jewish locales in Judea and Samaria. Learning that two 16-year-old youths had been violently arrested, he demanded to know why. When his demand to speak with a senior officer went unanswered, he climbed onto the front of the army vehicle in which the youths were being held and continued to demand an explanation.

Told repeatedly to get down, Ben-Ari said he would not until he received his explanation. “All the officers have run away, leaving the junior soldiers [to face me],” Ben-Ari said contemptuously. “They are a bunch of scaredy cats.”

Forcible Removal, Held in Truck, Punched, Treated
The MK was finally physically pulled down from the vehicle, falling to the ground in the process. All the while, the Border Guard policemen were warned by Ben-Ari’s parliamentary aide, Itamar Ben-Gvir, that they were violating the MK’s parliamentary immunity.

Ben-Ari was then taken to the back of the truck and placed inside, where he later said he was punched and hit by the policemen. “If this is what they do to a Knesset Member,” he said, “I can only imagine what they do to 16-year-olds.”

MK Ben-Ari was later checked by an IDF medic, who ordered him evacuated to a nearby hospital, where he was treated and released.

Rivlin to Police: You Need My Approval to Detain MKs
Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin called Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen and reiterated that no authority has the right to arrest or detain any MK without his – Rivlin’s – authorization.

Border Guard spokesman Moshe Pinchi told Israel National News, “He was not arrested or detained, but was rather taken from the area by order of the Regiment Commander Colonel Itzik Barr.” Asked how placing someone into a truck might not be considered “detaining him,” Pinchi said, “The forces had to remove him from the area.”

Asked about the MK’s charges that he had been punched, the spokesman said, “He should turn to Machash," referring to the Police Department’s section for investigating complaints against police officers.

Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch, of the Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) party, was asked about the incident, and said, "I don't know exactly what happened, but if it is true that Ben-Ari provoked the policemen, his parliamentary immunity may have to be removed."  Ben-Ari said in response that he regretted that Aharonovitch did not talk with him and clarify the facts before making this statement.

Ben-Ari: Where are Children's Rights?
Ben-Ari later said, “I was in that burning hot truck for two hours [waiting to speak with the Commander, who never showed up – ed.] – and my hands weren’t tied behind my back like the boys’ were.

"Forget about human rights; where are the children’s rights?! … I believe that not only a Knesset Member, but any responsible adult who saw this travesty would stop and demand an explanation,” he said.

The "Nazis" Accusation
Many Israeli media outlets made much of the fact that when Ben-Ari fell to the floor after being forcibly removed from the truck, cries of “Nazis!” were heard. Channel Two television news even reported that it was Ben-Ari himself who yelled this, and is now in the midst of formulating a retraction and apology.

Ben-Ari told Voice of Israel government radio broadcaster Yaron Dekel that he would never refer to IDF soldiers as Nazis: “I myself am the IDF. This was the second time I have been evacuated in an IDF ambulance; the first time was during Operation Defensive Shield, during a terrorist attack in Mevo Horon. If any evidence is produced that I ever said anything like that, I will resign from the Knesset today.”

Anonymous Accusation
Dekel then said, “As you speak, a Border Guard officer who was there on the scene – but who is not allowed to speak with the press and cannot identify himself – said he heard you scream ‘Nazis.’”

This infuriated Ben-Ari, who said, “He is an out-and-out liar, and he must either retract immediately, or I will demand that you release his name so that I can sue him for libel.”

Ben-Ari did not mention the media ethics issue of whether Dekel was in the right to broadcast an anonymous allegation of that sort. In response to a query on the matter from Israel National News, Tadmit media watch organization director Chani Luz said, “Unfortunately, the practice of hiding behind anonymous sources to besmirch various figures has become common in Israeli media. We will look into the legal and ethical angles of this particular instance.”