Minister: EU can ‘go to a thousand thousand hells’ for demanding police probe

Yuval Steinitz says it’s ‘height of insolence, hypocrisy’ for Europe to demand review of alleged police brutality in case of Arab activist whose knee was broken after Haifa protest

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz speaking at an energy conference in Tel Aviv, February 27, 2018 (Dror Sithakol)
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz speaking at an energy conference in Tel Aviv, February 27, 2018 (Dror Sithakol)

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz on Wednesday said that the European Union could “go to a thousand, thousand hells” for asking Israel to probe an incident last week during which an Arab human rights activist protesting against Israeli actions at the Gaza border was injured, allegedly in police custody.

“I’m still talking in a friendly tone, but it’s the height of insolence, the height of hypocrisy,” Steinitz told Radio 103.

Twenty-one people were arrested when the demonstration, in the northern city of Haifa, was dispersed on Friday night, but all were subsequently released.

One activist — Jafar Farah, chairman of the Mossawa rights group — sustained a broken knee and had to be hospitalized. He has claimed that a police officer kicked his leg, shattering his knee, while he was held in a detention facility.

Riot police surrounded protest in down town Haifa tonight and immediately attacked protesters.21 arrested so far.#Haifa #Gaza #GreatReturnMarch #حيفا #فلسطين #مسيرة_العودة_الكبرى #غزة

Posted by Nadine Nashef on Friday, May 18, 2018

Referring to EU efforts to save the nuclear deal with Tehran after the US withdrew and to US plans to reimpose sanctions on the Islamic Republic, Steinitz, who is a member of the security cabinet, said, “The same EU which is now pandering to Iran and which will help Iran [cope] with US sanctions… but they bully us? A law-abiding state where the incident is being investigated in any case by a body that is external to the police — the internal investigations department — it just shows how much there is that’s contemptible at the EU.”

On Sunday, it was announced that the Justice Ministry’s police internal investigations department would be looking into allegations of police violence during the protest in the northern city of Haifa.

On Monday, Joint (Arab) List party MK Youssef Jabareen met with EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret to draw his attention to the matter, Hadashot news reported.

Arab Israeli NGO worker Jafar Farah, who alleges a police officer broke his knee after he was arrested. (Screen capture: Twitter)

On Tuesday, an EU spokesperson, Maja Kocijancic, said in a statement that it was “important, as supported by the Israeli government, to conduct a swift investigation into circumstances surrounding events last week in Haifa…The European Union continues to stand for an open and conducive environment for civil society, within Europe, in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territory and around the world.”

Also on Tuesday, the police officer who was allegedly involved gave his testimony to investigators under caution.

Steinitz blamed the Palestinians for the EU’s recent interest in what Israel is doing, saying that the Hamas terror group, together with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, had succeeded in bringing about and “leveraging” the deaths of around 100 Palestinians during violent clashes between Gazans and Israeli forces along the security fence since March 30.

Most of the dead were members of Hamas and other terror groups, the groups themselves admitted.

But he went on, “I don’t see any change or new trend as far as Israel is concerned. Europe, over recent years, has sometimes been very annoying, but has been more friendly toward Israel than ever before.”

Asked whether this was compatible with telling the EU  to “go to hell,” he said that the EU “does not really represent the important countries in Europe. It’s less friendly than Europe itself.”

Palestinians carry a demonstrator injured during clashes with Israeli forces near the border between the Gaza strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX)

Since March 30, tens of thousands of Palestinians have taken part in weekly “March of Return” protests, which Israel says are orchestrated by the ruling Hamas terror group in Gaza and used as cover for attempted attacks and breaches of the border fence.

The Palestinian deaths during the protests were met with international outrage. On Friday, the UN Human Rights Council ordered an investigation into the killings. Israel said it would not cooperate, and the US castigated the UN move as “shameful.”

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed