Police detectives violently apprehended an Ethiopian Israeli high school student in Ashdod as his principal looked on without acting, according to newly released footage.
In the video shown Monday on the Kan Public Broadcaster, one of the officers is seen strangling the boy and dragging him as the other punches him — all this as Miftan Hermon principal Liron Bachar looks on and appears to do nothing.
Police denied both charges of brutality and racism, saying he was one of several detained and he had actively resisted arrest.
Officers had initially summoned the 15-year-old, who was not named, for questioning, claiming he had been involved in an incident last month in which tear gas was sprayed inside of the school.
A number of the boy’s friends and teachers told Kan that he was not involved in the incident, but nonetheless, Bachar tipped off detectives that the boy was in attendance on November 7 for a school celebration of the Ethiopian Sigd holiday.
Two detectives arrived at the school, which serves at-risk youth and were filmed brutally detaining the boy who did not show up for the interrogation.
The boy’s sister, Dalia, told Kan that since entering the position at the beginning of the year, Bachar has called police to the school on a near daily basis.
“He’s told us we are a family,” Dalia said of Bachar. “What family is he talking about? The one he has torn apart? Before he got here, we were a real family where everyone would look out for one another. Police had never been called to the school.”
Following the filmed incident, police slapped Dalia’s brother with a four day house arrest and forbade him from returning to school for two weeks.
Kan phoned Bachar, requesting a comment on his role in the altercation, but the principal declined to respond, saying the broadcaster would have to speak to his superiors regarding the manner.
Israel Police in a statement rejected the claim that the officers employed excessive force against the 15-year-old, who they argued had “actively resisted arrest.”
“Any claim regarding the racial background of the suspect is irrelevant, since additional suspects were also arrested during the incident,” their statement said.
The city of Ashdod said in a statement that “the safety and well-being of our youth will continue to be the primary concern of education officials.” The southern town highlighted that it had yet to receive any complaints from students regarding the filmed incident from earlier this month.
The Welfare and Labor Ministry responded to the Kan report, saying it “condemns any expression or sign of racism.”
The conduct of the police officers earned condemnation from Knesset members as well.
“There is no place in the State of Israel for police brutality against our brothers in the Ethiopian community. We must put an end to discriminatory treatment and root out racism,” said Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel in a statement.
Yesh Atid MK Pnina Tamano Shata said it was “heartbreaking to see the detectives beat a child.”
“It seems that the Israel Police have learned nothing from the past few years. This is a real abuse of the law against the weakest,” she tweeted, calling on the Education Ministry to probe the incident.
More than 135,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, most of them having immigrated in two waves in 1984 and 1991. But many have struggled to integrate into Israeli society among lingering accusations of discrimination.
In their appeal earlier this month to Ethiopian Israelis to submit requests for pardons for public order offenses in honor of the Sigd holiday President Reuven Rivlin and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked cited a government report adopted two years ago that described discrimination against the Ethiopian-Israeli community in various fields including law enforcement, health, education and employment. The report found that criminal investigations were opened and charges were brought against Ethiopian Israelis at a significantly higher rate than their representation in the population.