Cop suspended for beating East Jerusalem truck driver

Public security minister hails decision after footage emerges showing police officer assaulting Arab man, seemingly unprovoked

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

An Israeli police officer was suspended on Thursday after a video emerged showing him assaulting an Arab truck driver and a number of others in the Wadi al-Joz neighborhood of East Jerusalem, apparently unprovoked.

The video drew condemnation Thursday from the Israel Police and the minister who oversees its affairs, who described the incident as “grave and deserving of all condemnation.”

Footage of the incident shows the officer from the elite police reconnaissance unit Yasam in a heated verbal exchange with the driver. The argument quickly turned violent as the officer headbutted the driver before repeatedly punching and kicking him.

When the confrontation turns violent, several other Arab workers are seen approaching the pair in an effort to defuse the situation. “Get out of here, all of you,” the policeman shouts, pushing and kicking wildly at one of them. Toward the end of the video the officer strikes the first driver again.

Throughout the one-and-a-half-minute clip, the policeman can be heard cursing loudly at the driver and those who defended him.

According to Israel Radio, the police officer accused the driver of hitting his vehicle. “He didn’t give me a chance to speak. I was afraid he would shoot me. In the end he just told me ‘have a nice day,'” the driver, Mazen Shwieki, told the radio station.

The Israel Police released a statement calling the cop’s conduct “grave and unusual.”

Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan attends an Interior Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset on December 12, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan attends an Interior Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset on December 12, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Upon receiving the footage, the policeman was immediately put on a compulsory leave of absence and will be subsequently summoned for a hearing to examine his continued service in the police,” the statement said.

The footage quickly generated a firestorm, with several Knesset members denouncing the actions of the officer.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said the cop’s behavior was “very grave and worthy of condemnation.”

“This behavior harms the police as a whole, and it is good that the policeman was suspended,” said the minister on his Twitter account, expressing hope the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department would treat the case “to the fullest extent of the law.”

He also said the police acted correctly by immediately suspending the policeman.

MK Bezalel Smotrich of the right-wing Jewish Home party tweeted, “This officer needs to go to jail today!”

“We must eradicate the scourge of police violence,” he added.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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