Police officers on Saturday night arrested cartoonist and performance artist Zeev Engelmayer at the Jerusalem protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for showing up in a naked female bodysuit.
Police said in a statement that they detained a man who was “dressed as a naked woman, in a way that could constitute sexual harassment of the public” — a crime that is not on the books in Israel.
Engelmayer, in character as “Shoshka,” has been a hard-to-miss fixture of the weekly protests outside the premier’s residence on Balfour Street, and it was not immediately clear why he was suddenly detained Saturday night.
At a press conference following the protests, a spokesperson for the Israel Police denied ever having seen Engelmayer at the protests before.
Engelmayer, who was released later in the evening, alleged police officers forced him to strip so they could search him while he was being interrogated.
The Israel Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegation.
After his release, Engelmayer told Haaretz that police asked him, “Why do you walk around naked? What if children were to see it?”
“I explained to them with frustration that this is what art is like, that it tests boundaries, that this is free speech,” he said. “It’s very frustrating because there is no understanding there what protest is and what free speech is.”
Engelmayer also claimed police insinuated that he was dressed up as Sara Netanyahu.
The prime minister’s wife has recently complained about feeling “sexually abused” by lewd posters and phallic displays during the protests.
Last month she filed a police complaint over alleged sexual harassment by protesters, citing explicit slogans and symbols waved at the demonstrations outside their Jerusalem residence, as well as threats to harm her.
Twelve protesters were arrested Saturday night in Jerusalem as thousands returned to the streets of the capital for the weekly demonstration calling for Netanyahu’s resignation over the criminal charges against him and over his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.