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Police have no responsibility to protect Israelis during protests – Analysis – Israel News

Police have no responsibility to protect Israelis during protests – Analysis – Israel News

In recent months, the Israel Police have publicly and probably inadvertently communicated to the Israeli public and leadership that they are unable to do their job. In a series of incidents, they have described their inability to protect Israel’s citizens in tense situations without resorting to violence and have admitted to using tactics that endanger the public.

An Israeli police officer shocked Israelis two weeks ago when he told protester Itamar Alroey, “I’m going to rape your mother.” The incident was captured on video that quickly went viral, amplifying public discussion about police violence, which has now moved into the mainstream as more Israelis participate in and are exposed to protests.

Some Israelis were not shocked by the statement, as it is not the first time a police officer has made it to a protester. A police officer also threatened protester Amitai Aboudi, whose violent arrest made headlines last summer, that he would rape his mother.

Israeli police condemned the threats made against Alroey and captured on film.

“The police officer’s conduct on the scene does not correspond to the standards of speech and behavior expected of every police officer, even in turbulent situations of this kind, so it will be investigated and punished accordingly.”

Israeli police in southern Tel Aviv, September 2, 2023. (Source: Omer Fichman/Flash90)

While the statement is reassuring in its condemnation of the inexcusable police violence, it also raises the question of why it was felt necessary to temper its censure by pointing out that the incident occurred at a demonstration – an inherently turbulent environment.

Police officers often work in extremely turbulent environments because of their profession. Their job is to protect citizens in the worst situations possible – mass shootings, horrific fires, and violent domestic disputes.

Protests are another environment in which police must work and which is often chaotic or emotionally charged.

At a meeting of the Knesset’s National Security Committee in May on the issue of police violence during protests, Commander Gilad Bahat also pointed out the difficulties the police apparently face in dealing with the demonstrations.

“The police are not always perfect. If there are mistakes, they should be investigated,” he said. The police are doing their best, but “you have to understand that this is a very complex task,” he told the committee.

Police use of horses

Horses are often used as tools to monitor protests, and there have been a number of incidents where protesters have been injured.

One case that made headlines was an incident in April 2023 in which Yael Reuveni, a protester on the Ayalon Highway, was repeatedly whipped by mounted police officer Shai Peretz.

Because of this incident, Peretz was charged with assault by the Justice Department’s police investigation division.

During his interrogation, Peretz gave a disturbing account of his control over his police horse and thus his ability to perform his duty, according to quotes published by Haaretz.

Explaining the reason for his whipping, Peretz said he felt she put him in danger because her behavior made him fear losing control of his horse – which would have put not only him but also those around him in danger.

“I have the horse under control, but not completely. After all, it is an animal and shows unexpected behavior. The whole thing ended with a miracle that 600 kg did not run into the crowd.”

His message was repeated by the commander of the Israeli Mounted Police Unit, who Haaretz Said is one of the most experienced officers in the Israeli police force when it comes to the use of police horses.

This raises a related question to the previous one: if mounted police are unable to control horses in protest situations, and if, as they say, this control is impossible, why are horses still used in protest situations?

This is another case of the police admitting failure in doing their job: protecting the citizens of Israel while enabling them to exercise their fundamental human right to protest.

There is a sense of alarm among the Israeli police, who admit that they are unable to do their job professionally and within the required framework and in the required manner.

Our police have the power of life and death. They are armed and sent among the citizens to protect, preserve and maintain public order. Due to the definition of their duties, they will always have to work in difficult environments.

When it comes to intervening in protests – which is always condemned but is necessary in a democracy – the police excuse their violence and use means that they admit put demonstrators at risk.

Israel’s political and legislative leaders must address this problem to find further solutions. Whether through increased budgets for better education, programs to make the profession more attractive, or better oversight and real consequences for violent or negligent officials, Israel’s leadership must address this problem.

Public unrest has become part of everyday life in Israel, and there has been little respite between the years of massive protests the country has experienced. Police violence has also been a problem during protests in the Haredi and Arab sectors for years.

Protest is a basic human right. A police force that enables protests is not an option; it is absolutely necessary, and Israel’s leaders must find a way to provide such a police force to its citizens.