Amnesty slams Israeli police over treatment of Palestinians
Amnesty International has accused Israeli police of waging a campaign of “discriminatory repression” against Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, saying in a statement on Thursday that it had documented a “catalogue of violations” by the force.
These include “sweeping mass arrests, using unlawful force against peaceful protesters, and subjecting detainees to torture and other ill-treatment”.
It also said that Israeli police had not protected Palestinian-Israelis from attacks by Jewish extremists, even when it was known well in advance that these assaults would occur.
‘Damning pattern’ of discrimination
“The evidence gathered by Amnesty International paints a damning picture of discrimination and ruthless excessive force by Israeli police against Palestinians in Israel and in occupied East Jerusalem,” said Saleh Higazi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
He added that following inter-communal violence within Israel’s 1948 borders and annexed east Jerusalem, the vast majority of those detained by Israeli police were Palestinians, while the few Jews who were arrested were “dealt with more leniently” in comparison.
Following the outbreak of inter-communal violence within Israel’s 1948 borders, Amnesty said Israeli forces launched “Operation Law and Order” on 24 May, arresting more than 2,150 people, over 90% of whom were Palestinian-Israelis or Palestinian Jerusalemites, despite the fact that Jewish rioters had also committed acts of violence.
It cited Palestinian human rights groups as saying that while 285 Palestinians were charged with offences after this, only 30 Jewish Israelis were.
“This discriminatory crackdown was orchestrated as an act of retaliation and intimidation to crush pro-Palestinian demonstrations and silence those who speak out to condemn Israel’s institutionalised discrimination and systemic oppression of Palestinians,” said Higazi.
Violence, torture against Palestinian-Israeli protesters
Amnesty also accused Israeli police of using “unnecessary and excessive force” to disperse Palestinians protesting against forced expulsions in the Sheikh Jarrah area of east Jerusalem as well as Israel’s deadly assault on the Gaza Strip in May.
It pointed out that most of these protests were peaceful and contrasted Israeli police's treatment of Palestinian demonstrators with their treatment of Jewish extremists who engaged in violence against Palestinians on marches through east Jerusalem.
Amnesty noted that Israeli police attacked 50 Palestinian-Israelis protesting peacefully in Haifa on 9 May, beating some of them, and had shot a 17-year-old boy, Mahmoud Kiwan, in the Palestinian-Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm near a protest three days later. He died of his injuries a week later.
Higazi called on the UN to investigate the Israeli police’s “alarming pattern of violations”.
Amnesty also documented another incident on 12 May in which Israeli police shot Ibrahim Souri, a Palestinian-Israeli in Jaffa, in the face as he filmed them.
In a video verified by Amnesty, a police officer asked what Souri is doing and he replied “I’m filming, isn’t that permitted? Shoot, it’s all recorded,” before he was actually shot in the face.
““I did not imagine that they would actually shoot. I thought I had rights, and that I was safe, in a democratic country,” he said. Souri suffered fractures to his facial bones as a result.
The rights group also noted that Israeli police had used torture against detained Palestinian-Israeli protesters, beating eight of them while they were bound at the Russian Compound police station in Nazareth on 12 May.
Failure to act against Jewish extremists
By contrast, Israeli police failed to act as Jewish extremists used Telegram and WhatsApp to organise attacks on Palestinian-Israelis in mixed cities such as Haifa, Acre, Nazareth and Lydda (Lod) between 10 and 21 May, even as they openly discussed and incited violence.
Amnesty said that Israeli politicians and officials had incited violence against Palestinians while Jewish Israelis who had been filmed attacking Palestinians had not been charged. It noted that Jewish suspects who had killed a Palestinian man in Lod had been released on bail after being arrested.
In contrast, Kamal al-Khatib, a leader of the Palestinian Israeli Northern Islamist Movement was charged with incitement to violence simply for approving of solidarity with people in Gaza and East Jerusalem.
“The repeated failure of Israeli police to protect Palestinians from organised attacks by groups of armed Jewish supremacists and lack of accountability for such attacks is shameful and shows the authorities’ disregard for Palestinian life,” Director of Amnesty Israel Molly Malekar said.
“The fact that Jewish citizens of Israel, including prominent figures, have been allowed to openly incite violence against Palestinians without being held accountable highlights the extent of institutionalised discrimination faced by Palestinians and the urgent need for protection,” she added.