Police probe officers’ beating of Arab youth in Tel Aviv

Supermarket employee Maysam Abu Alqian, 19, from Hura, released to house arrest following ‘humiliating’ attack, store manager blasts police’s use of ‘merciless’ violence

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Footage of alleged undercover police beating an Arab man in Tel Aviv on May 22, 2016 (screen capture: Channel 2)
Footage of alleged undercover police beating an Arab man in Tel Aviv on May 22, 2016 (screen capture: Channel 2)

The Israel Police launched an initial investigation into the police beating of an Arab employee of a supermarket in Tel Aviv on Sunday, an incident which was documented by several eyewitnesses to the alleged attack, including with photos and video.

The police said the man, identified as Maysam Abu Alqian, 19, from Hura in the Negev, was resisting arrest and attacked officers after they asked him for identification. Another employee who came to Alqian’s aid was also accused of attacking officers.

“In accordance with police procedure and in cases where officers resort to the use of force to carry out their duties, the material was sent to the Internal Affairs unit for verification,” the police said in a statement Sunday.

“The material will be checked, and depending on the results, a way forward will be decided,” police added.

The alleged police brutality incident at the Yoda supermarket on Ibn Gvirol street in the city sparked outrage online as photos and a video of the attack emerged.

Alqian was seen being taken away in a police car but at some point had to be taken to Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv to be treated for his injuries.

He was released to house arrest later in the night and was ordered away from the city for seven days, according to a Tel Aviv District court decision cited by Ynet.

Eyewitnesses described a vicious, unprovoked attack by police.

“Just now in front of City Hall,” one of the bystanders, Erez Krispin, wrote in a Facebook post, “an Arab supermarket worker goes outside to throw out the trash. He’s approached by a man in shorts who says, ‘Show me some ID.’

“‘The ID is inside. Who are you?’” Krispin quoted the supermarket worker as saying in response.

“Before he even finishes speaking, he’s being beaten senseless,” he continued, “a beating like you’ve never seen, teeth flying through the air. The Arab is crushed.

“When an elderly woman asks them why they’re doing it, they yell at her, ‘Fuck off before we finish you too,” Krispin wrote.

At that point, he went on, uniformed police arrived and continued to beat the man.

“I don’t really know if the Arab is alive; they threw what was left of him into the patrol car, not an ambulance, and drove off.”

He noted that there were many witnesses to the incident, as well as a security camera and other footage.

Alqian recounted the incident to his lawyer from his hospital bed Sunday.

“I was in the middle of work when two people wearing civilian clothes approached and asked me for ID. I didn’t have it on me, it was inside the supermarket. They didn’t have uniforms on. All of a sudden, they jumped me along with other officers. It was humiliating,” he said, according to Ynet.

“I didn’t know what they wanted from me. I asked why they weren’t in uniform. I thought it was a prank. They didn’t explain and they were very violent,” he went on.

The store manager, identified as Kobi Cohen, said he came out of the store to see what was happening before additional officers arrived and the violence started.

“They were speaking to him and he stood there, and didn’t try to flee. They asked him for ID and didn’t identify themselves. He asked them for ID. They called for backup and when these officers arrived, the beating started,” Cohen said.

Other employees who tried to stop the beating where also hit, Cohen added.

“They hit him mercilessly until he was incapacitated. Everyone is shocked by what happened. And there’s only one reason for it — the guy was Arab,” Cohen charged.

Alqian’s father told Ynet that he was “shocked” by the incident, saying that he wouldn’t wish it on anyone to have “nine officers beat your son and you have to watch it on video.”

Another witness to the incident earlier, Saguy Green, wrote in a Facebook post that “dozens” of plainclothes and riot police descended on the man, “a worker at the Yuda Supermarket.”

Green’s post, which included a picture of officers pinning down the man, quoted another employee at the supermarket who said that the man was beaten because he didn’t show the police his ID.

“Not that there’s any comfort or hope in that, but many in the crowd sprung to his aid and protested the endless violence against him, and filmed the cops,” she wrote.

A spokeswoman for the Israel Police told The Times of Israel that the man had resisted arrest and attacked officers, and that the investigation was ongoing.

“There is nothing at all to add,” she said, without explaining what the man is suspected of. “The circumstances are still under investigation. Refusal to be detained and to submit to a search is illegal.”

MK Dov Khenin of the Joint (Arab) List condemned the police beating, which he termed a “lynching,” and called on the government to investigate the incident.

“I have conveyed an urgent message to the public security minister demanding answers for what appears, on the face of it, to have been a lynching in broad daylight,” Khenin said in a statement, “an assault on an innocent citizen by police solely because he is an Arab.”

Elie Leshem contributed to this report.

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