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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How is it...

... that in a country with over 100 human rights organizations, and probably twice that number of special interest groups dedicated to protecting the rights of the country's citizens (and non-citizen residents), that something like this has not caused a groundswell of outrage.

I was so horrified reading the article that I nearly threw up from the sickening mixture of anger and fear it caused.  Clearly the kid in question was no choir boy.  But the police seem to have been so far outside the lines on this case that I am absolutely amazed that human rights groups and NGOs aren't lining up to file Amicus briefs.

Then again, after witnessing rampant police misconduct and brutality during the disengagement, and the selective violence they have meted out against settlers and their sympathizers ever since, I really shouldn't be surprised. In fact it is the reason I refuse to go to even the most benign demonstrations in this country.  I fear that if I was ever deliberately injured by a policeman while peacefully demonstrating that I would not be able to restrain myself from responding in an equally violent and criminal manner.

The police in this country must be reigned in and forced to acknowledge that they are bound by the same laws they are tasked with enforcing.  They must understand that at least some of the violence in our society is a direct result of their own brutality in dealing with suspects.  They can't possibly hope to hold the respect of the public when they public sees them riding rough-shod over the law.

Official misconduct such as flagrant brutality, ignoring special requirements when processing and questioning minors, and employing illegal/punitive measures against certain 'less popular' segments of society would get police officers anywhere else in the civilized world dismissed from their jobs, if not prosecuted.  But in Israel such things have become so commonplace and accepted throughout the system that, at worst, an officer or commander might be reassigned to a different job and in a short time rejoin the promotion track of his/her career.

I don't know what the answer is, but if one of the many existing organizations isn't prepared to step up, I am sorely tempted to start my own organization to mount a guerrilla campaign to document and prosecute police misconduct via still & video photography and collected sworn testimony from victims. 

It can't be that the entire population of a country must live in fear of the very people who are sworn to protect us!

Posted by David Bogner on December 22, 2009 | Permalink


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Here too a lot of policemen seem to think that there ias a law for you and me and one for them.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Dec 22, 2009 4:03:40 PM

Find a need, fill a need.

Perhaps you should start just such an organisation.

Posted by: Steven | Dec 22, 2009 4:46:22 PM

I would be curious hearing from your police and prosecutor readers about abuse of those detained. There are two problems. First the abuser and second those that know of the abuse and remain silent. Police that I know, acknowledge the problem and are as frightened by it as the civilians. There are imperfect administrative and legal solutions that seem to satisfy neither the police or the victims.

Posted by: lrg | Dec 22, 2009 4:56:48 PM

Horrible, horrible. I have no words for this. It's just too awful.

If the police are this abusive to a citizen, who speaks Hebrew, imagine what goes on regularly to non-citizens.

If anyone here starts, or knows of, an organization committed to ending police violence, I'd be happy to help out in whatever way I can.

Let's remember that it was not long ago that New York and Chicago were at least this bad, and it took a movement to change things for the better.

Posted by: Sarah | Dec 22, 2009 5:06:05 PM

no words.

but lots of tears.

Posted by: zahava | Dec 22, 2009 5:23:46 PM

Ilana-Davita ... I often wonder if there comes a point in a violent encounter with a policeman where they cease to bear the protection of their authority and become criminal assailants. because if and when that point is crossed, the rules of self defense should logically (if not legally) apply.

Steven... I'm sorely tempted.

lrg... I should begin by stating that I am friends with an Israeli police officer who is one of the gentlest, honest and upright (righteous, even!) people I know in this country. I nearly deleted this post just on the chance that this person might take offense at so sweeping a generalization. But in the end I decided to publish this post because the problem is not one of a few bad actors. The problem is one of not enough good actors.

Chayyeisara... Of citizens with poor Hebrew (i.e. new immigrants such as the ones in the story). There seems to be a fatalistic feeling among Israelis that this is the way it has always been and that you can't change the system. I agree with you, if Chicago and New York could change (New York actually clean house twice; once to defeat tammany Hall and the other to undo the corruption of the 70s), so can Israel.

Zahava... tears come from your eyes. Mine go blind with moral rage.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 22, 2009 5:24:38 PM

To play devil's advocate, the article in JPost is completely one-sided. It's based entirely on the testimony of the young man's lawyer and his parents. Perhaps he tussled with the police while being arrested, disrupted the interrogation or was actually trying to break into the house, as he admitted. Also, comparing the violence of Israeli police and jails with their American counterparts, as the boys parents seem to be doing, is ridiculous. Without getting into generalizations about police conduct in the two countries, suffice it to say that in Israel the boy isn't in danger of being put on a sex offender registry for urinating outside an apartment building and will not face more than a few months in jail even if he is convicted of assaulting the police and trying to break into the house. Even by European standards the sentencing of criminals in Israel is extremely lenient and prisoners here are granted rights that American prisoners would never even dream of (such as period "vacations" from prison, even for murderers sentenced to life).

By the way, I wonder if anyone besides me noticed the macabre biblical association in the story vis a vis piercing the ear to mark a slave.

Exodus 21:5-6 -

"But if the servant shall plainly say: I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free; then his master shall bring him unto God, and shall bring him to the door, or unto the door-post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever."

Here's hoping that this is just a coincidence and the criminal world in Israel isn't actually drawing "inspiration" from the tanakh...

Posted by: Alex | Dec 22, 2009 6:18:47 PM

David, I was disgusted, horrified, and enraged when I read it yesterday. Israel's systems are an amalgam of British, Turkish, Jewish, and other systems. Which system did the police come from? Seems like 19'th century British in which law enforcement and the period between arrest and adjudication was brutish.

That old Israeli joke about the difference between the criminals and the police being just the uniforms may have roots in cases in which it is true.

Posted by: Mark | Dec 22, 2009 6:26:55 PM

Alex - Even by European standards the sentencing of criminals in Israel is extremely lenient and prisoners here are granted rights that American prisoners would never even dream of (such as period "vacations" from prison, even for murderers sentenced to life).

The leniency towards criminals in Israel while imprisoned is true, but that is after they are out of the hands of the police, after they have been convicted, and are serving their punishment (incarceration, etc). The case mentioned is while the police are trying to "make their case"!

Posted by: Mark | Dec 22, 2009 6:29:54 PM

Alex... Let's imagine that everything happened as you suggest. Israeli law requires that a parent, guardian or attorney be present when questioning a minor. If such a person were present we would have third party corroboration of somebody's version of events; the kids or the police's. But since the police were not particularly careful with that aspect of the law, I have little trouble believing that they were equally lax in observing other niceties. That, combined with a growing trend of police brutality complaints (which go nowhere), I don't think the Israeli police have any right to expect the benefit of the doubt. To give an imperfect analogy, male doctor's have a female nurse in the room when examining a female patient, not because they would act improperly... but so that there can be no accusation that they did. Any doctor that doesn't follow this practice has nobody to blame but themselves if they are accuses; falsely or otherwise. I don't know if that is what the law had in mind regarding the rules for interrogating minors, but it certainly makes since.

Mark... You make an excellent point in response to Alex. Sentencing is punishment. What the police are supposed to be doing is enforcement. Sadly, many of the police seem to think their job includes punishment.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 22, 2009 6:34:11 PM

Mark - I mentioned prison sentences and prisoner rights because these are aspects of the Israeli justice system that can be objectively compared to other countries whereas police brutality and misconduct cannot be compared without relying on anecdotal evidence and generalizations. The reason I found the story so incensing is because in my personal opinion (after having lived in both worlds) is that the justice system and police conduct in America is, to put it frankly, barbaric compared to the system in Israel. This story is in no way symptomatic as to how the Israeli police behave.

treppenwitz - I agree with you, but even when it's clear who the guilty party is it is still important to hear the other side of the story before forming conclusions. The way the article is written leaves a lot of room for doubt as to what the facts of the story are.

Posted by: Alex | Dec 22, 2009 7:32:23 PM

does one have the right to defend oneself in that situation?

Posted by: dave | Dec 22, 2009 8:09:26 PM

I hate to hear this stuff about Israel. Was it Herzl that said that Israel will be a "real" country when it has its first robbery? Or something like that. Well, with the corruption of our government officials, robberies, murders, police brutality, rape in prisons, we sadly are a real country with real societal issues.

Very sadly.

Posted by: Baila | Dec 22, 2009 8:30:29 PM

Trep- The reason for an adult is not to provide an additional witness although it would be intelligent for a police force to have such a rule.

In the US. The minor's right to have an interested adult present during questioning comes from the 5th Amendment right against self incrimination. No minor can make a knowing and intelligent waiver of the right without the opportunity to consult with an interested adult.

Without a knowing and intelligent waiver, the right applies and any confession should be suppressed. Any evidence gathered as a result of the confession should be suppressed as well.

Posted by: lrg | Dec 22, 2009 9:48:49 PM

I think it's the same with police everywhere, and the justice system tends to rely on police testimony. So there's not much recourse there. What we need to do is to document cases of abuse and publicize the names of the individual police officers involved. Bringing criminal and civil court cases against these individuals can also be effective if only to get more publicity to damage their reputations. The wellbeing of prisoners and arrestees should be so forcefully defended by so many formidable citizens that these individuals start saying to themselves, certainly in cases of victim less crimes or very light victimization (He urinated in my yard!) it's just not worth getting involved.

Posted by: Andy | Dec 22, 2009 9:51:04 PM

How can we express our horror at this incident? Letters? Faxes? To whom? I'm ready.

Posted by: Rahel | Dec 22, 2009 10:39:02 PM

Okay, that was pretty nauseating.

Two things: putting any plans to visit Israel even further on the backburner - they were already pretty far back after all the incidents of Yassamnik violence, and reports that Israel seems to have a problem trafficking women....

Second thing: Who do we write to? Which official has oversight? Which department is so casual about its responsibility that they so recklessly endanger support for Israel and the return of Jews to the land?

That latter point is quite relevant. We already know that the Israeli government pretty much despises the American Jews and Gentiles who support Israel, regarding us as little more than cash cows who should keep on giving while kindly keeping our mouths shut. But an incident such as this endangers both of those ideals - we might give considerably less money, and far more lip the next time we see one of the Israeli politicians trotting around with hat in hand here in the US.
[I still can't believe they sent that gangster Olmert to the SF Bay Area a few weeks ago, by the way - does anyone in the Israeli gov't even understand 'hasbara'? PR? Diplomacy?]

Posted by: At The Back of the Hill | Dec 22, 2009 11:37:20 PM

Remember Micky Levy -- the police officer who beat up Nadia Matar and lied about it in court (his lie was exposed because the event was recorded on TV footage). His abuse and perjury did him no harm. He was eventually promoted to Jerusalem Chief of Police and now serves in a government position.

Posted by: RivkA | Dec 23, 2009 1:25:36 AM


"No minor can make a knowing and intelligent waiver of the right without the opportunity to consult with an interested adult.

"Without a knowing and intelligent waiver, the right applies and any confession should be suppressed. Any evidence gathered as a result of the confession should be suppressed as well."

That varies from state to state. Some states have an age limit for juveniles to waive their Miranda rights, some states require that factors such as education, age and maturity be taken into account to determine if a juvenile understands a Miranda warning or not. If the juvenile requests that a parent or guardian be present before questioning, then the interview must stop until a parent or guardian can be present.

Florida case law:


Posted by: Karl Newman | Dec 23, 2009 1:59:46 AM

In the mid-1960s in Los Angeles, we had something called the Watts Riots. It was the culmination of years of abuse taken by the black community at the hands of the primary white police force. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) will tell you today it was the best thing that ever happened to the police department - it made them wake up and take responsibility for their actions. And it caused change. Not overnight, but things did change. Hope it doesn't take mass rioting in Israel to do it, but it's gonna take something.

Posted by: nr | Dec 23, 2009 2:50:02 AM

David - I too read this article and was sickened by it.

How would you have reacted if this was your kid?

btw - here's today's latest:

Border Guards suspected of mugging Sudanese in Eilat.

Posted by: Jameel | Dec 23, 2009 3:15:39 PM

Link here: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3824027,00.html

Posted by: Jameel | Dec 23, 2009 3:16:09 PM

The police in Israel are rabid animals. That's why I tell my kids to avoid the police as much as is reasonably possible. I have witnessed more than enough Israeli police brutality against helpless, innocent people, and I therefore urge my kids to steer clear of them.

Posted by: Lurker | Dec 23, 2009 4:24:00 PM

Karl is correct and I appreciate the correction. I was overly broad. What I should have said is that reason that a minor may have the right to consult with an adult in the US is based on the 5th amendment right against self-incrimination. The factors that Karl cites are directed towards whether the voluntary waiver is knowing and intelligent.

Posted by: lrg | Dec 23, 2009 7:05:23 PM

In my Anglo western country, there is nowhere near the level of cynicism and hatred for the police that I read here. Surely government agencies are simply a reflection of wider societal norms and practices? What are the causes within Israeli society for this phenomenon? I hear that the entire Israeli bureaucracy, including the Rabanut, is quite infamous for it's lack of concern for the dignity of the citizenry.

Have the Jewish people not learned enough over the last 2000 years in order to run an efficient and caring government system?

Posted by: Chutznik | Dec 24, 2009 2:39:23 PM

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