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The scandal of Israeli police brutality - against Jews

Police brutality against Palestinians has been routine for decades – but suddenly when a much, much milder form targets Jews in Tel Aviv, it’s a threat to Israel’s democracy.

Of the five op-eds on Yedioth Ahronoth’s op-ed pages today, two are about Israeli police brutality – an all-time record, without question, for highest proportion of police brutality op-eds in an Israeli newspaper edition. The thing is, both are about police brutality against Jews – at the protest last week in Rabin Square against the Bibi-Mofaz deal.  The one by liberal Yael Gvirtz is titled “The smell of intimidation,” while center-rightist Bambi Sheleg’s is called “Democracy is drowning.” Both op-eds argue that police violence against nonviolent protesters reflects a government mentality that is potentially lethal to this country’s democracy.

I’m sorry, but when virtually nobody but the country’s “anarchists” have anything to say about the incomparably worse IDF and police violence used against Palestinian protesters – the peaceful as well as the rock-throwers – then I think people should shut up about police brutality against Jews. Their outcry is kind of hollow. Even the widespread denunciation of rifle-swinging Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner was aimed strictly at him; nobody but the anarchists and a few fellow travelers made the point that the problem wasn’t one officer but something a little larger.

Israeli cops – like American cops, as Gvirtz noted – are in general a violent bunch, especially when ordered to break up demonstrations.  In this country they prefer, of course, to beat up Arabs, but if there aren’t any in the crowd, they’ll beat up Jews – haredim, peaceniks, settlers, anti-disengagement protesters, university students, anybody. I used to think that once Israeli Jews found themselves the targets of police brutality, they’d stop doubting the accounts by Palestinians and “internationals” of their experiences at the hands of soldiers, police, Border Police, Shin Bet agents, etc. But no – when Palestinians or foreigners get bashed up or shot by Israeli security, the centrists here automatically accept the official version that the Arabs or goyim started it and have only themselves to blame, while the rightists couldn’t care less who started it – the Arabs and anti-Semites, including the Jewish ones, got what they deserved.

When you’re callous about what your “protectors” do to other people, then I’m afraid it’s poetic justice when they do it to you.

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    1. Richard Witty

      Why so cynical Larry?

      Violence that is not the worst, does not deserve to be listened to?

      Isn’t that the likud argument, that what is being done to Palestinians is nothing compared to what we experienced, the holocaust and previous attempted genocides, and is therefore inconsequential?

      Better that it be a seed. “This dehumanization is happening to all of us.” (J14 material. “We are all the 99%”)

      Mondoweiss had an effective film clip of Mandy Patimkin, speaking at a Peace Now gathering, in which he described his dismay at seeing Israel devolve politically/ethically relative to routine treatment of Palestinians.

      Not dismissal, but stimulating.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Alon

      Great article

      Reply to Comment
    3. sh

      What status does Mandy Patinkin have here as an authority on what is harmful to Israeli Jews? He was talking to a public that feels the same way as he does and delightful as he was (and is as an actor and performer), isn’t about to change the picture here.
      Violence “that is not the worst” has to be recognized as such in order to be opposed in any meaningful way. The police assists the border police and the army in East Jerusalem and all over the West Bank too; it also assures the safety of demolition crews and JNF personnel in the Negev. There is no wall high enough and no distance far enough to prevent the seepage of their modes of conduct in those places and against that “sector” (how I hate that term) into what considers itself to be the heartland of a country. Stimulating as Patinkin undoubtedly was, at what stage are those living here who point that out going to be allowed to be seen as realistic rather than cynical or negative?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Oded

      “I’m sorry, but when virtually nobody but the country’s “anarchists” have anything to say about the incomparably worse IDF and police violence used against Palestinian protesters – the peaceful as well as the rock-throwers – then I think people should shut up about police brutality against Jews”

      Why, Larry? Whether in the west bank or Tel Aviv, police brutality hurts us just as much.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Richard Witty

      Mandy Patimkin is a witness to change that has occurred in Israel.

      Formerly a relatively open society, closing in increments, a little here, a little there.

      Reply to Comment
    6. I see your point but:

      1. The picture sold to most Israelis is that the demos in the territories are violent because of evil Palestinian would-be terrorists, left wing anarchists who want to de-legitimise Israel and foreigners who want to cause trouble. Regardless of the truth, this is what many Israelis actually believe and they buy it when they’re told that the army had to react with violence to defend themselves.
      Being faced with the fact that the police can attack you even though you are a non-violent protester is news to a lot of people. In a way, it’s welcome news to anyone who’s thinking “well, duh”, because it might make people wake up to the reality of what the Israeli police is like.

      2. There has indeed been a change in the way the police have been handling demonstrations in Tel Aviv and this is why people are shocked. They’re not used to being treated like this and this is what they are crying out against. I put down their naive shock as the result of ignorance more than anything else, or, and this brings me to my next point…

      3. Remember how everyone in Europe freaked out about the Marmara because there were European activists on there? People who were fine with visiting Israel before that point suddenly started aligning themselves with the BDS. Compared to what happens every day in the territories, the Marmara was nothing, but it’s only when some white people got caught up in the mess you started hearing murmurs from white people beyond the immediate BDS and ISM circles. I was equally cynical then, but in reality, most people on the world only care about violence when they can envision it happening to themselves.
      Let’s hope people here will at least learn from this.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Caden

      Rich, mondoweiss is a blog that advocates the destruction of Israel and the deaths and dispersal of the Jews presently living there. But I have to admit that if you want to know the percentage of Jews in every facet of life. And what Sheldon Adelson had for breakfast. Phil, Annie, and the rest of them are on it

      Reply to Comment
    8. Elisabeth

      Bibi, Moti, Tzipi, Roni, Yuli, Buji, Avi, Rafi, Ami, Yossi, Dani… I have gotten used to it, but BAMBI??!
      What is it with Israeli names?

      Reply to Comment
    9. sh

      Elisabeth you left out the infamous Gandhi (Israel’s not India’s). Seriously, though, it’s like Larry for Lawrence, or Lizzie for Elisabeth. But it’s true that Jews seem to have a greater tendency to use nicknames and diminutives en famille than most. Israel took that one further and uses them semi-officially.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Philos

      Super like

      Reply to Comment
    11. Richard Witty

      If you notice, I’ve been banned from Mondoweiss, after posting there for 4 years, and an old family friend of Phil Weiss.

      I think the comments are often ludicrous, malicious, self-talk, and at the same time the 180 degree rejection of any criticism of Israel is also ludicrous, malicious, and self-talk.

      Better that we actually hear and actively construct good relations with those willing to, and there are many.

      The reactive approach ignores the many.

      I use Abraham as my example, “if there are 50 righteous will you spare the city?, how about 40, 30, 20, 10?”

      How about 40%, 30%, 20%, 10%?

      Reply to Comment
    12. There’s the sham that is the “Jewish and democratic” state.
      Poetic or not, when the same (or milder) police violence is directed at Jews – ie. those who partake in the aforementioned democracy – then this does indeed change how the Israelis view “the official version”.
      Change, however, is incremental.
      If more Israelis see the same tactics used against them, then they would be less likely to dismiss accounts of Arabs suffering brutality from security forces.
      Already there is talk of Shin-Bet agents in protests in Tel-Aviv. Already there are public figures (Dana Modan) appearing on Israeli TV (a medium that is generally loath to even acknowledge the protest) and saying the protests should be against the occupation, not the housing crisis.
      So whether or not this is “poetic justice”, as you put it, the point is it’s getting across. Some of that callousness is being eroded. Slowly.
      I’m not sure what your stance is on this – but it somehow feels unfavorable.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Rehmat

      Lest I called ‘a Canadian anti-Semite’ – I will let Miko Peled, son of Israeli Gen. Matti Peled, an Israeli soldier and brother of Professor Nurit Peled-Elhanan response on Israeli police/army brutality against Palestinian and Jews in Israel.


      Reply to Comment
    14. Rights are not majoritarian. Until your courts declare their institutional boundaries I think the abuses will amplify. The courts will not intervene for the sake of those being abused, but to prevent security from enlarging its perrogative against the courts.
      I see three branches to Israeli government: the Knesset with its administrative wing, the security establishment which is beginning to absorb the police proper, and the courts. Only the courts can alter this continued slippage against civil and human rights. There may well have to be more abuses before anything happens. But I think the security apparatus will eventually force the courts’ hand.
      Constitutional process is now becoming entwined with the occupation. An inevitable, necessary phase.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Seriously, Larry,
      These are people who knowing endanger their privileges so as to show that they are just that – privileges. And not rights, as we have been lead to believe.
      As you yourself note, only the “anarchists” [quotations in the original] speak openly about the brutality used against the Palestinians.
      Yet when centrist people show that the brutality is not restricted to the Arabs and can quite easily spread to the whole society, you suggest “people should shut up about police brutality against Jews”.
      Doing as you suggest would imply maintaining the status quo – whereby only Arabs are brutalized, and only “anarchists” speak up about the injustice and the brutality.
      ie. no change.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Elisabeth

      Arnon, it is clear that when Larry says “people should shut up about police brutality against Jews”, he means to urge them to protest brutality against Palestinians equally.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Elisabeth,
      I understand your interpretation of Larry’s words. I, however, don’t see how a “shut up about [brutality to Jews]” translates to “urge them to protest [brutality to Jews AND Arabs]”.
      Larry’s as much as relegated the duty of protesting brutality against Palestinians to “anarchists”. And no one wants to be that.
      The way I see it he’s dismissing the entire move off-hand. “Their outcry is kind of hollow,” he says.

      You may step in and correct my interpretation of your words anytime.

      Reply to Comment
    18. dickerson3870

      RE: “I used to think that once Israeli Jews found themselves the targets of police brutality, they’d stop doubting the accounts by Palestinians and “internationals” of their experiences at the hands of soldiers, police, Border Police, Shin Bet agents, etc. But no. . . ” ~ Derfner

      FROM GEORGE ORWELL: “…All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. . .
      . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them. . .” ~ George Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism” (1945)

      Reply to Comment
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