Police officer regrets beating Arab truck driver, apologizes for attack

Special patrolman says he wants to ‘hug’ man he assaulted for allegedly damaging his car

Moshe Cohen, of the Yasam special police force, filmed assaulting Arab truck driver Mazen Shwieki (Screen capture: YouTube)
Moshe Cohen, of the Yasam special police force, filmed assaulting Arab truck driver Mazen Shwieki (Screen capture: YouTube)

A policeman who was indicted on Thursday for assaulting an Arab truck driver and another individual who tried to intervene said he regrets his actions and wants to embrace the man he attacked.

The attack, which occured last week, was caught on video and spread rapidly on social media, quickly generating a firestorm.

Moshe Cohen, an officer in the Yasam special patrol unit, was charged with assault, causing serious injury and breach of trust, court documents showed. Investigators also recommended charges against another officer who was present and did not prevent the attack or report it.

Cohen expressed regret in comments he made to close acquaintances and investigators, Channel 2 reported.

“I didn’t approach him as a policeman, but as a private individual. I didn’t intend to physically confront him, I didn’t anticipate what would happen. I made a serious mistake,” he said and added that he wants to “hug that man.”

The report noted that the case was likely to end with a plea bargain after the officer’s commanders decided to fire him from the force.

According to the indictment, Cohen’s car was damaged by a truck on March 21 as it stood parked in a lot near his workplace in the Wadi al-Joz neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Cohen checked security cameras the following day, and with unauthorized use of police records, identified the alleged culprit.

When he next saw the truck, last Thursday morning, he confronted the driver, identified as Mazen Shwieki, 48. Cohen hit Shwieki in the face, headbutted him and kicked him, while yelling curses at him, as seen in the footage.

A man approached to break up the fight and Cohen proceeded to curse and attack him too.

Cohen was suspended from his job immediately after the incident.

The Police Internal Investigations Department also recommended charges against a second police officer who appeared in the video, who witnessed the incident but did nothing to stop it.

Two other officers filmed passing by the scene are also to be investigated on suspicion that they did nothing to end the attack and also failed to report the incident.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said the cop’s behavior was “very grave and worthy of condemnation.”

“This behavior harms the police as a whole, and it is good that the policeman was suspended,” said the minister on his Twitter account, expressing hope the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department would deal with the case “to the fullest extent of the law.”

He also said the police acted correctly by immediately suspending the policeman.

Responding to Thursday’s indictment, head of the Joint (Arab) List faction, MK Ayman Odeh, said the Israel Police was rife with racism and violence.

He said in a statement that “the problem with the police is not just one violent officer or another, but systematic racism and a culture of lies that has become an integral part of the system.”

Odeh accused Erdan of inciting the attitudes that led to the attack on the truck driver.

“When the minister in charge and the commissioner act toward the Arab community with blatant racism and don’t reject the lies and incitement, it is little wonder that the attitudes of the leaders reaches the soldiers in the field, who express them with extreme violence against citizens and Arab civilians,” he said.

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