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He’s an MK, you ‘psychopaths’: New footage shows police beating lawmaker

Officers seen punching, pushing Joint List MK Ofer Cassif to ground as protesters shout that he’s a member of Knesset; police open probe but say he started it

  • Joint List MK Ofer Cassif after the first punch by a police officer during a protest in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, April 9, 2021. (Screenshot)
    Joint List MK Ofer Cassif after the first punch by a police officer during a protest in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, April 9, 2021. (Screenshot)
  • Israeli policemen detain MK Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of the predominantly Arab Joint List electoral alliance, during a demonstration in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood on April 9, 2021.  (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
    Israeli policemen detain MK Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of the predominantly Arab Joint List electoral alliance, during a demonstration in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood on April 9, 2021. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
  • MK Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of the predominantly Arab Joint List electoral alliance, is pictured after being beaten and detained by Israeli police, during a demonstration in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on April 9, 2021. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
    MK Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of the predominantly Arab Joint List electoral alliance, is pictured after being beaten and detained by Israeli police, during a demonstration in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on April 9, 2021. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

New footage has emerged showing police violently beating and punching Joint List MK Ofer Cassif on Friday during a protest in East Jerusalem, while nearby protesters shout at them to stop and identify him as a lawmaker.

“He’s an MK, are you psychopaths?” one person can be heard asking in the new video shown on Channel 12 news on Saturday. “You’re a group of psychopaths,” the person shouts at the officers.

The violent incident has drawn condemnations from lawmakers across the political spectrum.

Cassif, the only Jewish Knesset member in the predominantly Arab Joint List, was participating in a weekly demonstration in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood against planned evictions.

In another video of the incident, Cassif can be seen arguing with police officers amid a crowd, before one of them pushes him. A mask-clad Cassif appeared to say something, with the officers proceeding to strike and violently grab him. Cassif then reached his hand toward the face of one of the officers, who punched the MK on top of the head.

After wrestling Cassif to the ground, some of the officers appeared to continue beating him, as shouts of “shame” could be heard from the demonstrators.

Israeli policemen detain MK Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of the predominantly Arab Joint List electoral alliance, during a demonstration in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood on April 9, 2021. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

In another clip, an officer can be seen kneeling on Cassif’s face as he was on the ground.

Cassif sustained light injures, his glasses were broken and his shirt was ripped during the scuffles, in which police also used stun grenades to clear protesters.

“The police are going crazy here, they’re not letting people demonstrate. They were told I was a Knesset member, it did not interest them,” Cassif said afterward. Lawmakers have immunity allowing them freedom of movement, even at police blockades.

“It’s not the violence against an MK that is the main issue here, it is the continued police brutality against all protesters,” Cassif told Channel 12.

Jerusalem’s Old City Police Commander Doron Turgeman has ordered a probe into the incident, according to Channel 12, but police claimed on Friday that Cassif was the first to use violence and that officers were forced to respond.

Cassif denied the accusation, saying that the violence began “without any provocation and for no reason.”

Joint List MK Ofer Cassif after being beaten by police officers during a protest in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, April 9, 2021. (From the Twitter page of Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman)

“A policeman punched me in the face and broke my glasses. They dragged me to the floor and even when I was lying on the floor, they kept beating me. Two policemen cursed at me and did not let the paramedic who was there approach me,” he said, according to Channel 12.

He further accused the police of lying, tweeting that claims officers didn’t know he was an MK were untrue. Cassif attached a photo showing him speaking with a senior commander of the forces on the ground on Friday.

The incident drew widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum.

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin said he was “shocked” by the incident.

“Brutal behavior like this toward any citizen is improper, let alone a Knesset member who is entitled by law to freedom of movement so he can fulfill his role,” Levin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, said in a statement.

Levin said he would reach out to Public Security Minister Amir Ohana when Shabbat ends Saturday evening to demand the incident be investigated and that “all necessary steps” be taken to prosecute those responsible.

Despite “abhorring” Cassif’s political views, New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar slammed the “brutal police violence” toward the Joint List MK.

MK Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of the predominantly Arab Joint List electoral alliance, is pictured after being beaten and detained by Israeli police during a demonstration in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood on April 9, 2021. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

“I see it as a murderous blow to the Knesset and parliamentary immunity,” Sa’ar wrote on Twitter.

MK Bezalel Smotrich, head of the far-right Religious Zionism party, said the incident was “grave and unacceptable” in a democracy with the rule of law.

“The immunity of Knesset members is critical to fulfilling their role and is not a matter of one side or another on the political map,” he said.

Fellow Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman claimed the police had a “green light” from the government to act violently.

“Ofer was attacked by the same government and police that are aggressively trying to impose the occupation and settlers regime in East Jerusalem,” she tweeted.

Police later said the Jerusalem district commander ordered an investigation of the incident.

The incident came days after Cassif and other Joint List MKs sparked an outcry during the swearing-in of the Knesset on Tuesday, substituting the traditional commitment to serve Israel and the Knesset with commitments to fight “apartheid,” “the occupation” and “racism.”

The Knesset’s legal adviser said Thursday the lawmakers would be denied some of their rights as MKs until they give the proper declaration, which they are expected to do Monday.

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