MK Ahmad Tibi of the predominantly Arab Joint List party filed a complaint with police on Tuesday against an IDF soldier following a clash with the serviceman in the West Bank city of Hebron over the weekend.
He also complained to the Knesset speaker, who petitioned the defense minister to look into the incident.
Tibi claimed that the soldier assaulted him and violated his rights as a member of Knesset when he prevented him and a group he was with from proceeding down a street. The soldier’s father had already filed a complaint with police against Tibi, saying the lawmaker attacked and publicly humiliated his son.
The altercation, part of which was caught on video, happened on Saturday as Tibi toured the flashpoint city, where a small enclave of Jewish settlers lives in the midst of a large Palestinian population.
Among those participating in the tour were Joint List MKs Osama Saadi and Ayman Odeh, the Haaretz daily reported Tuesday. Joining them was Hebron Mayor Tayseer Abu Sneineh, who in the past had been convicted by Israel for his role in a 1980 terror attack in the city that killed six people and injured 20.
The trip was arranged against the backdrop of a dispute over plans to carry out work to make the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the city accessible to disabled people, Haaretz reported. The Waqf, a Muslim religious authority that oversees holy sites, and the Hebron municipality oppose the Israel-led project at the tomb, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims.
During their walk through the city, Tibi’s group tried to enter a-Sahala Street, which abuts the Jewish enclave. A Golani Brigade soldier on duty blocked their path and told the group they could go no further, even though Israeli Border Police officers were accompanying the group.
לוחם גולני מנע השבת את מעברו של חבר הכנסת אחמד טיבי, שהגיע לביקור אצל ראש עיריית חברון. מי הוא אתם שואלים? תייסיר אבו סנינה הוא מחבל שהיה בין המורשעים בפיגוע הירי בבית הדסה ב-1980. בפיגוע נרצחו 3 אזרחים ישראלים, 2 אזרחים אמריקאים אזרח קנדי, ונפצעו 20 אזרחים נוספים. pic.twitter.com/8yDprKJ5td
— אלעד הוּמינר ???????? العاد هومينر (@EladHumi) August 14, 2021
Tibi told Haaretz that during a brief scuffle the soldier hit him.
“This is violent, aggressive, and bullying behavior,” Tibi said. “There is physical harm and blatant violation of the immunity of Knesset members here.”
Tibi claimed it was clear the group included MKs and that the lawmakers had identified themselves as such to the soldier.
Video from the incident shows the soldier shouting at Tibi and his group, “Who are you anyway?” The soldier can be seen saying, “No one gets by me” and blocking Tibi’s progress by extending his arm, which the lawmaker then slaps away.
“You are insolent,” Tibi shouted at the serviceman in the video.
Tibi told Haaretz that the soldier used his fist to push him in the stomach.
“Even the police officers and [IDF] officers present looked embarrassed,” said Tibi, who added that he had also filed a complaint with Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
After receiving a complaint on the matter from Tibi, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy on Wednesday appealed to Gantz to investigate the incident and find out why the MK was blocked from passing, seemingly against the law and the fact that the tour had been coordinated in advance and was approved by police.
The IDF said in a statement to Haaretz that the soldier acted according to procedure and that the MKs were prevented from getting nearer to the Jewish enclave because they were accompanied by others who did not have permission to enter the area.
Haim Bleicher an attorney with the Honenu legal aid group who filed a police complaint Sunday on behalf of the soldier’s father, said in a statement that Tibi tried to prevent the soldier from carrying out his duties “by using force to enter an area that is monitored and has significant security sensitivity.”
Bleicher said Tibi “severely and blatantly assaulted the soldier and even publicly humiliated and insulted him. Though it is true the suspect is a member of Knesset, his actions are a clear criminal offense.”
Opposition MK Avi Dichter of the Likud party tweeted his support for the soldier Tuesday and called Tibi a “provocateur.”
MK Shlomo Karai, also of Likud, asked Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy to suspend Tibi from his position as deputy speaker over his “harassment” of the soldier.
Karai wrote to Levy that Tibi’s behavior was “a disgrace for someone who is supposed to represent the Knesset of Israel and not the parliament of the Palestinian enemy.”
Baruch Marzel, a Jewish extremist who lives in Hebron, showed his support for the soldier by posing with him for a photograph that was shared on social media.
The soldier also received a visit by Elor Azaria, a former IDF serviceman who was convicted of shooting dead an incapacitated Palestinian attacker in Hebron in 2016. The high-profile case divided Israeli public opinion. Azaria was sentenced to 18 months in prison and eventually released in 2018.
רציתי לכתוב בציוץ על החיבוק שמרזל והכהניסטים נתנו לאלאור עזריה. אז כמובן אזריה בא לחבק את החייל הכהניסט pic.twitter.com/q5AH2T4jyN
— jose (@jose23317578) August 17, 2021