MKs from Left, Right Unite Against Police Violence
A discussion of police violence in the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment committee brought rare agreement between Jewish and Arab nationalists, the political left and hareidi religious Jews.
Several MKs had raised the issue, among them MK Tamar Zandberg of the far-left Meretz faction, MK Orit Struk of Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home), and Talab Abu-Arar of Ra’am Ta’al.
Zandberg related complaints of police violence at protests over the cost of living and plans to export natural gas. “The serious police violence at these protests in recent weeks is a major problem for a democratic regime, and worse, is used as a tool against the protest movement,” she warned.
MK Struk agreed. “I won’t talk about violence against right-wing protesters today,” she said. “The time has come for this committee to fix the problem of police violence, which does not distinguish between right and left, Jewish and Arab.”
Struk said she had found that internal police investigations were marred by inefficiency and inability to gather evidence. She expressed outrage over the fact that some police officers accused of serious crimes face nothing more than a disciplinary measure.
MK Yisrael Eichler of the hareidi-religious Yahadut Hatorah (UTJ) party said the problem of police violence affects hareidi-religious Jews, too. “I have a feeling that the media response affects the police. The media demands that the police have zero tolerance at hareidi-religious demonstrations,” he said.
Police Commander Ayelet Elishar responded, “The use of the word ‘violence’ is misleading. We have the authority to use force within reason… The debate is often over whether police used unreasonable violence.”
Protesters sometimes contribute to the problem by failing to coordinate with police, she continued. This leads to situations where protesters’ presence poses a threat to others or to themselves, leading to clashes with police, she said.
MK Zandberg was upset by Elishar’s statements. “Your message is that protesters who do not coordinate with police can’t complain about violence,” she accused.
A second police commander, Deputy Commander of the Jerusalem District Avshalom Peled, argued that there is no “phenomenon” of police violence. “There are a few stray ‘weeds’ that are dealt with by Internal Affairs,” he said.