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Arrested protesters tasered, beaten, threatened with rape

A demonstration in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike last week ended in the illegal arrest of 17 activists. The police violence they encountered in detention – which included threats of rape and the use of electroshock Taser guns –  shows just what the authorities think of the basic right to human dignity and the freedom of expression and protest. 

Arrest in Ramle, May 3, 2012 (photo: Activestills)

Last Thursday, May 3, 15 Israeli citizens – Palestinians and Jews (including one resident of Jerusalem) – as well as one American and one Canadian, were violently arrested after a demonstration outside the Ramle Prison in solidarity with Palestinian administrative detainees on hunger strike. Eight were arrested at the demonstration and then nine more outside the police station after the protest had ended. Adalah attorney Orna Kohn told +972 that even though the nine arrested at the police station were not within the parameters of the legal protest by the prison, “there were less than 50 people there, so it does not constitute illegal assembly anyway.”

Besides there being no pretense for the arrests since it was a legal and nonviolent protest, the activists in custody were reportedly beaten, verbally abused, threatened with rape, shocked by Taser guns while handcuffed, and held in custody beyond the time alloted by the judge.

Adalah, which is providing legal representation for all 17 activists, has filed a complaint with the Police Investigation Unit regarding the police brutality, and a complaint with the court regarding their prolonged custody. +972 contacted a police spokesperson for response but no comment was provided. Here is a rundown of events according to the Adalah press release from May 7:

On 3 May 2012, approximately 200 protestors gathered outside the Ramle Prison compound, where hunger strikers are being held in the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) medical center. They had a permit to protest issued by the police. At approximately 6:45 pm, after the demonstration ended and most participants had left, several individuals attempted to continue protesting by forming a picket line, which does not require a permit under Israeli law. However, the police violently attacked the group, beating them and using Tasers, even after the people were handcuffed. Eight participants including a minor were arrested.

After the initial arrests, some of protestors went to the police station to find out about the others’ status. There, the police attacked and beat the remaining protestors and arrested an additional nine people. Another five individuals were fined for disturbing the peace. Some of the women detained were sexually harassed, including threats of rape and repeatedly being called “bitches” and “whores.”

Irene Nasser, one of those arrested, has provided +972 with her account of the events. Here is an excerpt, detailing what she experienced while being held in custody, her legs and hands shackled.

They pushed them [another three female arrestees] into the walls and crudely screamed at them to shut their mouths. While we were all already next to each other, the officers began kicking us. At that point we once again heard lots of shouting and heard them pushing some of the men into a second room, where they were shackled. There was one man who five officers dragged on the floor – it appeared to me that he was handcuffed – and simply began shocking him with a taser for several minutes continuously. The doors were open and we shouted at the officers to stop shocking him, and saying it was dangerous.

Three or four officers entered our room, shouted at us to shut up, shoved us, and told us to shut our mouths. One of the officers threatened us, “Do you want to be hit? Just try and do something. Do you want to be hit?” and the whole while they continued shocking the man in the hall with a taser. I was scared. The officers stood over him while he was lying on the floor, no less than five of them, and his whole body was shaking from the electric shocks. He did not resist – they continued to shock him with the taser on his upper body. He only screamed in pain.

Throughout the night, for several hours we heard lots of screams from the room the men were in. Both screams of pain and the officers screaming, including cursing. We were all very much shaking, six women, we tried to calm each other. I had my shackles on for hours. Three of us were on benches and three were on the floor. We were all in shock. We were trembling, we did not know what would happen. There was a lot of violence. I wanted to try to be calm. I was scared by I tried to remain calm. Several minutes later we began talking a bit amongst ourselves, trying to make jokes. Our bodies were in pain from the officers hitting us. On (P), (Th) and (D’s) bodies there were lots of scratches and bruises. (P) had two large scratches on her neck and somebody else was bleeding from her wrist.

Everyone had lots of bruises on our bodies. At some point (P) and (Th) stood up for a few minutes. Three officers entered and started shouting again. They told them to sit down, pushed all of us onto the floor, piling onto each other. One (of the officers) was holding a taser and used it to electrically shock us, for no reason, we were a human pile on the floor, and he tasered us. We shouted and we all were very terrified. I was shoved aside and sat on a chair. The officer with the taser approached me and tried to taser me, but accidentally hit my bag. They screamed at us to sit, and we answered that we were sitting, but they continued to shout, beat and curse at us.

According to a testimony published in Electronic Intifada, Thaira Zoabi, another protester arrested at the police station, was spit in the face by a policeman and threatened with rape:

The Israeli forces used [taser guns] and I have bruises on my arms and legs. I saw them open a protester’s mouth by force and spit in it, and they spit in my face as well. They beat us and used massive verbal violence. They did a full body search. While being under custody, a police officer of Ramle district addressed both me and another female activist while being cuffed with verbal sexual harassment, threatening to rape us. I have to admit I burst in tears.

Another woman who was among those arrested, Amany Khalifa, shared this with +972:

This was my first time being arrested, and it was a violent experience, physically, mentally and sexually. As a Palestinian and a female, I felt doubly oppressed by how the male police officers treated us. They said to us: “Dirty Arabs, we’ll show you what Palestine is,” and called us “bitches,” “whores,” and things like this. I clearly heard them threaten us to not even think about protesting again, certainly not within the boundaries of the State of Israel. It is clear the authorities are adamant about silencing any popular resistance, and especially anything inside the 1948 borders.

The activists were released to house arrest for 3 days on Friday after signing release terms of NIS 10,000 each. They are not allowed to speak to one another or anyone else who was at the demonstration for 14 days, or go within 50 meters of the Ramle prison compound. There are various charges filed against them by the police, including incitement, rioting and attacking an officer. There is as of yet no date set regarding the indictment. Meanwhile, Adalah is awaiting a response regarding the two complaints filed.

+972 will provide updates on the affair as it transpires.


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    1. Jeru american

      Actually the punishment is not to go within 500 meters of the prison compound for a month

      Reply to Comment
    2. Sirene

      You are amazing Mairav, thanks for reporting!!

      Reply to Comment
    3. AYLA

      Every day is more shocking than the next.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Jack

      I think this is another indication of how there is two separate laws (aka Apartheid) for israelis and palestinians.
      When did an israeli got beaten up, tasered and threatened with rape for protesting?
      When did an israeli got her/his house bulldozed for having a relative that had commited a crime/being a criminal her/himself?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Jack – These protesters are Israelis.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Jack

      Ok but I refering to the statements (which seems to be all palestinian names, not jewish).

      Reply to Comment
    7. Danny

      Israel reminds me now so much of regimes I heard about in my youth, that behaved this way against people it deemed a threat to its authority. Regimes such as South Africa, Argentina and Myanmar – all of whom had friendly relations with that great humanist of states, Israel (I guess it’s true what they say about birds of a feather…) i hope when my kids are my age, the oppressive Israeli regime will be history too. Until then, much respect to brave ladies such as these!

      Reply to Comment
    8. Philos

      Lisa, give Jack a break. They are “Israeli” but in the eyes of the police they are just “Arubushim” who belong in Jordan, and you know it. And most Israelis (i.e., Jews) couldn’t give a sh*t and secretly pray that the hunger strikers will all die and that the Palestinians “will go away to their country.” And you know it is true.
      Mairav, pictures speak a thousand words. Provide photographs of the injuries and publish them. Show the world how the only democracy in the Middle East behaves.
      Welcome to Algiers, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Algiers 1960.

      Reply to Comment
    9. John Yorke

      More violence and more complaints. But never any real answers; none that make much sense anyway.

      There was a time when Jews were regarded as being among the smartest people on the planet.
      I’m not entirely sure if that is still the case.

      After all, they’ve been grappling with a problem now that’s been with them for well over six decades and yet it persists even to this day, unresolved and just as entrenched as ever.

      Why should this be so? Is the difficulty then so insurmountable or have Jews themselves become less versatile, less accomplished in their acknowledged flair for innovation and new ideas?

      Sometimes, people can deny resolution to a complex situation simply by being too close to it, by constant immersion in the subject. What might appear all too obvious from a more detached point of view can easily be overlooked, a symptom not unlike tunnel vision and a condition often associated with disputes of a long-standing and volatile nature.

      Time, therefore, to step back, search for a place somewhere outside the box, then refocus and see the problem from another, less confined perspective.

      I wonder just how much of the type of violence reported above, together with that of any other, would still remain if the following had been in place.


      Just for once, why not stop pussyfooting around and go flat out for the jugular. Otherwise, the beast will never die and all our puny efforts to kill it become one unceasing insult to its victims, victims whose reproach I, as a fellow member of Mankind, would not care to endure for long.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Bronxman

      Not much of a future for peaceful demonstrations anywhere these days.

      Reply to Comment
    11. max

      Any other source to corroborate the info? I couldn’t find, though Haaretz typically reports on much less than that…
      As PHILOS notes, the pictures provided don’t match the brutal text

      Reply to Comment
    12. Jack

      You doubt IDF use violence? Is there any crime this regime could commit without label itself “democracy”? You get the point?

      Reply to Comment
    13. aristeides

      Philos – more than that, the Jews among them are regarded as honorary Arabs, the protection of their Jewishness expunged.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Michael T

      Lisa, these protestors were NOT Israelis, the majority were Palestinians with few internationals, few of the “Israelis” like myself were brutalized but thats because of their relation to Palestine & Palestinians, not because they were simply “protesting”

      Reply to Comment
    15. The english-language Haaretz web site is retreating behind a pay wall this week. Non payers will be allowed a maximum of ten views per month. Considering how it has deteriorated recently, I don’t think I care very much.

      Reply to Comment
    16. This sounds like a story for Yossi Gurvitz:

      Commander of the Military Rabbinate base in Zrifin Lt-Col Amir Rosenbaum recently sent an email to 170 military rabbis, in which he dismissed State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss’ report, calling military rabbis to disregard it. He wrote: “My friends, No one remembers what the comptroller published a few days ago. Be encouraged to carry on with your divine duty in the units themselves. We are here to help you as much as possible.” (Ynet)

      Reply to Comment
    17. If half these allegations are true (and I do not say this in derision), no court of justice would confirm the indictments, if filed. That the police issued a permit to protest means the State admits the legitimacy of the assembly. It crucially means that Israeli citizens involved in the assembly have, with State sanction, imported their civil rights into the occupation area.
      The courts have a clear choice now. They can deny the exitence of civil rights when leaving Israel proper, or they can act against the police involved in this matter. The courts should be forced to answer, one way or the other. The issue should not be left to internal police review; experience in the US shows that internal review, without an autonomous authority, either the courts are the federal department of Justice, is ineffectual.
      It is strange that all were released after these acts. I suspect the police are so used to impunity that they think nothing of it. The order forbiding those released from communicating with one another I am certain cannot stand the test of civil law. There is a combination of arrogance and fear here that portends something much deeper (I know–obviously).
      Stories like this can make or break 972. Absolute truth is essential. This event, as reported, cannot stand if there is any hope of a stable Israeli constitution. Name calling is unimportant now. Bet everything on process. Force the courts to a hearing.
      I know all this sounds arrogant, from afar. I guess it is. But I believe what I say.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Mareli

      Ten views per month unless I pay? Is Ha’aretz going to limit which articles I can see, or how many per visit to their site? What a hassle. I agree with Rowan; it may not be worth it to visit at all. I hope that is not true for the country of Israel also. Events there are becoming very scary for anyone who cares about democracy and civil liberties. Where is the Israel I knew and loved as a youth? Spitting into someone’s mouth is nauseating – those cops should be jailed themselves. I hope legal action is taken against them and that it succeeds in obtaining redress of violations of the right for people to peacefully, legally protest.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Danaa

      Ladies and Gentlemen, we bring you “Israel, a Start-Up Nation”.

      They say that in democratic countries the citizens get the governments they deserve. The police are only one visible enforcer arm of the government as is its military sand the rest of the “security forces”. It is the people’s police and the people’s arm and the people’s shin bet and the people’s mossad.

      Check around and you may find that the vast majority of your fellow citizens, not only agree with the police tactics, but deem them rather on the soft side. That vast majority includes, alas, many members of the vaunted technocratic “elite”. The only difference is that the start-up techno types are more stuck-up.

      Kudos to all protesters. But let’s not forget – there were only 50 of them outside Ramle, and perhaps not even that. So where are the rest of the bleeding heart “progressives”? planning a new J14 sans Palestine perhaps?

      Reply to Comment
    20. Woody

      What is it that you want, exactly DANAA – the “progressives” to all sacrifice themselves in one triumphantly righteous “poof” that further solidifies the ideological hold by the Right in the country? Yes, the vast majority are involved and/or agree with these tactics. What exactly are “bleeding heart progressives” supposed to do?

      I would be interested to hear the plan, because a popular social justice movement has a much better shot at transforming and being transformed, despite it’s “sans Palestine” views, by the society and activists. The state will face crush and has face crushed any non-popular uprising. Yes, J14 is contradictory and full of moral embarrassments, but so is this society. I don’t see any solution that doesn’t involve engaging these contradictions. If there was a “prairie fire” or “100the monkey” theory here, it might make sense. I just hear complaint and a lack of praxis, though.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Woody

      I find these stories to be credible. Activists who have had experience with the police know very well that there are back rooms where you get beat. That you just get pummeled once you’re out of view, for no reason. In my case, having had my shirt torn off by the police, I was walked down a hallway lined with Yassam riot police who hit me and mocked me as I was pulled in by the officer assigned to fingerprint me.

      Even in public, they make threats and act more like thugs than enforcers of the law. Just look at how the police officers career is tracked from serving in the army as border police, who are brutal to Palestinians, into civilian “police” duty, where they do basically the same thing.

      Reply to Comment
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