MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) had harsh criticism for the Israel Police on Monday at a discussion in the Knesset on police violence against Israelis during protests, searches of detainees and even while handing out traffic tickets.
Eichler related specifically to police violence against the haredi community which, he claimed, routinely takes place and not only during demonstrations. He referred to the recent incident in Beit Shemesh, where a haredi yeshiva student was brutally beaten by a traffic policeman.
“They were not involved in a violent demonstration. The student was talking on the phone while driving and was fined a thousand shekels,” said Eichler, who added, “The driver pleaded with the policeman and said he has no money. It seemed that the policeman enjoyed tormenting him. The citizen said one sentence: ‘G-d will pay [the fine].’ I do not know if it is prohibited by law [to say that]. But the policeman grabbed him and fired a 'Taser' gun, knocked him down and dragged him like punching bag. No one said a word. The media was silent. Not because it is a criminal and a police officer, but because it is a haredi.”
He added that a person must have the right to express an opinion, saying, “Even during demonstrations one must remember that the right to protest is a basic democratic right, which does not exist only in totalitarian countries. It is the obligation of the police to allow nonviolent demonstrations and it has the right to prevent violence. I know it's a difficult thing to endure all the shouting. But this is part of the ‘right to shout’ that democracy takes pride in. There is a difference between civil violence, which the police have the power to prevent, and police violence against citizens, which is much worse.”
“I ask the representatives of the police. How many civilians were arrested and accused of exaggerated violence and unreasonable force? I'm talking about demonstrations. When fighting the criminal world, the officer must use force to prevent a crime. But during a demonstration there are two sides facing one another and both are equal. The police officers are government representatives who are enforcing government policy and they are facing the protesters who are opponents of the government and protesting against the injustices of the government. How many civilians were arrested in demonstrations and accused of unjust violence? In contrast, how many police officers were arrested for violent against civilians during demonstrations? The number zero gives us the whole picture.”
Eichler concluded by saying, “There is governmental violence which is more serious than civilian violence. A violent citizen is arrested by the policeman. That's his job. But who will protect civilians from police violence against an innocent citizen?”