MK files complaint against police for alleged sexual assault during West Bank fracas

Calling for suspensions, lawyer for Otzma Yehudit’s Limor Son Har-Melech says Border Police officers ‘clung’ to the MK and one ‘stuck his leg between her legs’

Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech surrounded by police as she protests the removal of a West Bank settler's illegally planted orchard on February 15, 2023 (Screencapture/Twitter)
Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech surrounded by police as she protests the removal of a West Bank settler's illegally planted orchard on February 15, 2023 (Screencapture/Twitter)

MK Limor Son Har-Melech of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party filed an official complaint on Thursday night against a group of police officers whom she said had sexually harassed her during a Wednesday confrontation in the West Bank, calling for the officers’ suspension.

Son Har-Melech and other activists had been attempting to keep security forces from removing trees illegally planted by a settler in the northern West Bank. During the incident, officers huddled around the MK in a circle, and, as she tried to break free, one “did something that is completely forbidden,” Son Har-Melech said at the time.

In her complaint, submitted to the Police Internal Investigations Department in the Justice Ministry, Son Har-Melech accused the officers of “serious abuse” and a “blatant violation of her parliamentary immunity.” In addition, she said the officers carried out “acts that reached the point of violence and sexual harassment.”

As an MK, Son Har-Melech is generally exempt from limitations on movement or entry to locations that may apply to regular citizens.

Son Har-Melech’s lawyer Eladi Wiesel from the Honenu legal aid organization recounted the incident in the complaint, saying that police “used force that culminated in one of the officers clinging to the MK and sticking his leg between her legs in an offensive way, which, at the very least, is considered a prohibited assault and in some circumstances can be considered sexual harassment.”

The complaint, which called for the suspension of the officers, also said security personnel used excessive force throughout the incident near the Shiloh West Bank settlement, and “severely infringed on” Son Har-Melech’s “privacy and modesty” as an Orthodox Jewish woman.

Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech stands in front of a bulldozer on a plot of land near the settlement of Shiloh in the West Bank to stop the uprooting of trees by the Civil Administration of the Defense Ministry, February 15, 2023. (Office of Limor Son Har Melech)

The incident was caught on video, and apparently occurred as cops attempted to hold onto the MK as she tried to wriggle out of their cordon.

Son Har-Melech was one of two MKs who joined dozens of activists as they attempted to physically impede security forces from carrying out their order. Some stood in front of bulldozers and tied themselves to trees. Numerous activists were reportedly arrested during violent confrontations with security personnel.

After the altercation and Son Har-Melech’s subsequent accusation, police released a statement asserting they had operated with “great sensitivity and determination while leading respectful dialogue and showing professional conduct during the incident.”

At the same confrontation on Wednesday, police officers appeared to violently arrest a man during the protests, leading to the suspension of three Border Police officers.

Footage showed the officers pushing one man to the ground, with one officer kicking him and another punching him. Several others were violently detained in the area, the video showed.

On Thursday, more than 24 hours after the incident, residents said officers appeared in the middle of the night to complete the removal of the trees from the plot. But sources in the defense establishment told Channel 12 that the operation resumed on Wednesday evening, after the confrontations with settler activists, and the remainder of the trees were uprooted at that time.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report. 

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