The Police Department has decided to press charges against a policeman who tear-gassed a passive protestor at point-blank range in Yitzhar.
The incident occurred a year ago, after which a complaint was filed by the Civil Rights Organization of Yesha (Judea and Samaria). The director of the organization, Orit Strook of Hevron, said, “Ever since the gas mini-canisters have been given to the Yassam special unit policemen of the Samaria-Judea district, the incidence of illegal spraying at protestors has become a national plague. I hope that with this first decision to charge a policeman for this grave act, other policemen will be deterred and this severe behavior will stop.”
Some have said that excessive police violence against Jews of Judea and Samaria is a result of the “spirit of the commander” implicitly transmitted by the higher echelons, starting from Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
The protest at the time was held in reaction to the construction freeze then in effect in Judea and Samaria. Civil Administration inspectors had arrived in Yitzhar to confiscate a tractor being used to build a private home, and to arrest the driver. Many people gathered around in protest, and two of them – Yehuda Libman and Ariel Ben-Sheetrit – lay down on the ground near a police van. Two policemen then approached and sprayed them with tear gas at point blank range, sending Libman to the hospital; the assault spraying of Ben-Sheetrit was captured on video.
A statement by Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch, attached to the complaint filed with the police, explains when gas tear is permitted for use: To prevent an attack of a policeman or civilian; against one who is violently resisting arrest; against a suspect trying to escape; or against a prisoner disturbing the peace. None of these came close to the situation in question, the complaint stated – and the Department for Complaints Against Police Officers agrees.