New clip shows cops striking female protester, amid outrage over rally violence

Majority of detainees in Saturday’s demonstration released; furious police reject suggestion by opposition’s Moshe Ya’alon that they should read book on Nazi war crimes

Police officers remove demonstrators during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, outside the Prime Minister's Residence, in Jerusalem on August 22, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Police officers remove demonstrators during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, outside the Prime Minister's Residence, in Jerusalem on August 22, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Amid accusations of excessive use of force by police during Saturday night’s protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his official residence in Jerusalem, a new video has emerged from the rally, showing police officers striking in the face, shoving, and pulling off to the side of a street a protester who was filming the proceedings.

The clip does not show any provocation by the adult female protester. A Channel 13 reporter said she was subsequently arrested.

Saturday’s demonstration was markedly more violent than most previous rallies. Officers said the demonstration was illegal due to late-night noise violations put in place for the benefit of area residents.

In one incident, a senior police officer appeared to assault at least two protesters in an incident caught on camera, drawing condemnation from politicians and sparking a police probe.

By Sunday afternoon, nearly all 30 protesters arrested at the rally had been released: 20 of them overnight under certain restrictions, with another six ordered freed without condition by a court, after they refused to agree to cops’ restrictions.

Senior opposition MK and former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon of Yesh Atid-Telem drew fire from the police and public security minister after he recommended on Sunday that police read a book about Nazi war crimes, following the night of fighting between officers and protesters.

On Saturday night, Ya’alon tweeted from the protest near Netanyahu’s residence on Balfour Street, writing, “Tonight I’m with you at Balfour. I’m completely with you at this important and just demonstration.”

Ya’alon has attended other anti-Netanyahu protests in Jerusalem in past weeks, is a stringent critic of the premier, and also was Netanyahu’s defense minister from 2013 to 2016.

On Sunday morning, Ya’alon wrote on Twitter that Jerusalem police should read the 1990 book “Fulfilling Orders,” by left-wing Israeli historian Yigal Elam. The book delves into Adolf Hitler’s orders to carry out war crimes against Jews.

Later in the day, Ya’alon accused police of “false arrests, savage violence, a culture of lying directed by… Netanyahu that seeks to use uniformed people to suppress protest and democracy. [Public Security Minister Amir] Ohana did not spare the blood of the protesters to break up the demonstration.”

In a response to Ya’alon’s tweet, Ohana, of Netanyahu’s Likud party, called the statement “incitement against police.”

MK Moshe Ya’alon of Yesh Atid-Telem attends a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, on August 22, 2020. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

“The comparison between those who risk their lives 24/7 for the peace and security of citizens of Israel and ‘fulfilling orders’ in Nazi Germany. Shame on you,” Ohana wrote.

Police responded to Ya’alon on the official Israel Police Twitter account, with a screenshot of Ya’alon’s book recommendation, writing, “Such statements are a direct continuation of the uncontrolled outburst against officers in the Israel Police, at the protests and online, and here by an elected official that is supposed to serve as an example to voters.

“His recommendation and implied comparison is invalid and unacceptable, and we recommend that MK Ya’alon refrain from such comparisons toward those who protect law, order and security.”

Demonstrators have held regular large-scale protests against Netanyahu for around two months. Protesters have been holding regular rallies for several months outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, as well as in Tel Aviv and other areas, calling on the premier to resign, due to his indictment on corruption charges and criticizing his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Saturday’s rally appeared to devolve into the most intense clashes so far between protesters and police.

Police officers scuffle with demonstrators at a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on August 22, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Estimates put attendance at the height of the rally at some 10,000 people.

Other politicians, including opposition leader Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, Intelligence Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen of the Blue and White party, and Meretz MK Yair Golan publicly criticized police conduct.

At least some of the violence appeared to be set off as a result of a decision by police to begin enforcing noise regulations and clearing the protesters earlier than in the past, following a High Court decision banning noisy protests late at night, due to complaints from neighborhood residents.

At 11 p.m., the police declared the gathering to be illegal, and threatened the use of force. Several minutes later, mounted police charged the thousands-strong crowd, followed by ranks of Yassam riot police.

Police patience may have also been taxed by a decision by protesters earlier to hold a march through the capital, in violation of police guidelines, leading to minor scuffles.

The marked uptick in fighting came after several weeks that had seen only sporadic altercations between protesters and officers, who seemed to take a softer stance toward the demonstrators after an outcry following violent incidents, when protests began to pick up steam in late June.

Police have said that dealing with the protests is “complicated” given social distancing regulations, the urban setting at one of Jerusalem’s busiest intersections, political pressures, and other factors. But protesters and others have accused the police of using violent tactics and arresting people without cause.

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