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WATCH: This is what a stop-and-frisk in East Jerusalem looks like

When Israeli forces started body searching Palestinians outside Jerusalem’s Old City, an Activestills photographer on the scene started filming. They detained and searched him too.

Text and photography: Faiz Abu Rmeleh / Film editing: Keren Manor

Faiz Abu Rmeleh, an Activestills photographer and resident of Jerusalem’s Old City, was detained by on Thursday outside Damascus Gate, after he filmed Border Police officers carrying out a body search on a Palestinian man.

The police officers tried to prevent Rmeleh from filming, then asked him to identify himself and undergo a body search as well. When he refused, he was forcefully taken to a nearby police post, aggressively pressed up against a wall and struck by the officers. Below, Rmeleh recounts the incident in his own words.

“Yesterday [Thursday], at 4.30 p.m. I was sitting on the steps outside Damascus Gate with friends. We suddenly heard police officers shouting and saw them grab a guy, who we realized was from the [occupied] territories. The police were hitting him and shouting, and started carrying out a body search in the street.

“I started to film on my phone. Two police officers came over and stood in front of me so I wouldn’t be able to see what they were doing to the Palestinian guy. I told them that if they were blocking my view it meant they were doing something illegal that they wanted to hide. When they’d finished with the guy and allowed him to go, the same police officers came over to me with back-up, asked me for my identity card and said I had to accompany them to undergo a body search as well.

“I refused, and said they could either search me where I was or take me to the police station if I’d done something illegal.

“The officers started arguing with me and forcefully took me to a police stand next to Damascus Gate, where they began frisking and hitting me. They pushed me up against the wall and moved my hands and legs apart by force. After they let me go, I went to take my identity card from the officer at the police stand, and told him that the behavior of his officers was not acceptable — that it humiliates and angers people.

“As we were talking I heard a child crying, and saw that the soldiers were trying to take a man with a boy in his arms for a search. I started filming again. They stopped another three people and searched them violently. The police arrested one of the guys, and continued behaving aggressively towards the other people standing in the street.

“More police forces, including some on horseback, arrived at Damascus Gate to disperse everyone. When I went back to the police stand to take the details of the Border Police officers, because none of them had been wearing their name tags, another officer there acted contemptuously toward me and even threatened to arrest me.”

Activestills photographer Faiz Abu Rmeleh being detained by Israeli police, Jerusalem, April 19, 2017. (Screenshot)

Activestills photographer Faiz Abu Rmeleh being detained by Israeli police, Jerusalem, April 19, 2017. (Screenshot)

Tamara Za’atari, who filmed the officers as they were detaining Rmeleh, describes what she saw:

“The way in which the police were trying to provoke people made me feel that I had to film what was happening. They were aggressively searching youths for no reason. They approached Faiz solely because he was filming them; they were rude to him and detained him. Afterwards they continued stopping people in the street and searching them without cause. There was nothing to justify the police officers’ actions, everything had been calm.

“What irritated me most is how they behaved toward a father who had his little child in his arms. The kid was so scared and crying… And also how they dispersed us all and wouldn’t let us sit by Damascus Gate. It made me feel bad. It had been quiet and calm, we were sitting and enjoying ourselves, and in an instant the police turned it into a battleground, a military zone. They came with their guns and horses and scattered everyone.

“Random checks, aggressive and public body searches and disrespectful behavior from the police are a regular feature of life for Palestinians in East Jerusalem and beyond, and a daily occurrence at Damascus Gate. That the officers are lording it over Palestinians can be seen clearly in the video. Every attempt by a Palestinian to assume his rights was met with violence by the Israeli forces. Why? Because that’s what they’ve decided, and because they can do whatever they like.

“Or, as one of the youngsters in the film says to the officers: ‘You’re a soldier, not the mafia, right? But I see you as the mafia.’”

Update 4/19/17:

In response to a request for comment on the incident, the Israel Police said that it occurred as police officers were on a security assignment, and claimed that “several youths started to cause disruption and interfered with and provoked the officers carrying out their work.” The police spokesperson further said that one youth had indeed been detained at Damascus Gate at that time and taken to the police station; however, they could not explain why an Activestills photographer had also been detained, and claimed that they weren’t familiar with his details.

The police spokesperson added that “the police officers did not use force during the incident except for in moving people away from the area.”

A version of this article also appears in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here

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    COMMENTS

    1. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      The policemen did not use excessive violence. When I was young in Switzerland we had to obey the police and to show our ID without discussion. If not it was jail during the night and then a punishment by the court. Our policemen and women do a good job to protect the Israeli citizens.

      Reply to Comment
    2. carmen

      What I see are police who are contemptuous of their jobs and the community they serve. Yeah, they serve a community with Palestinian residents. And it seems they love to push and love to repeat “I can do what I want”. In a normal society, police are held to a code of conduct that is not to be confused with a fucking thug with a weapon. These men and women behave as though they are above the law and, as expected, the law protects these thugs and imprisons their victims. Keep classless israel. And then ask, why do people hate us? ;^\

      Reply to Comment
      • Itshak Gordin Halevy

        I found them very patient with these arrogant teenagers. Everywhere in the world, Israel included, we must obey the orders of the police without discussion. There is no place for negotiation as in a souk.

        Reply to Comment
        • carmen

          Imagine these ‘arrogant teenagers’ are jews.

          Or these police you seem to love so much are palestinian and the ‘teenagers’ are jews? Would you still say “I found them very patient with these arrogant teenagers”?

          It’s very dangerous to give carte-blanche to authority and not question it. When they aren’t questioned and kept in check they become monsters; power corrupts. Are you oblivious to 20th and 21st century history?

          Reply to Comment
          • Itshak Gordin Halevy

            Jews or not, everybody must respect the law and obey the police instructions. On the other hand may I remind you that the Arabs are the 20 % of the Israeli population of the Auchwitz lines (before the 1967 war) but are also the 70 % of the prison population. We expect the minorities to have a perfect behavior in our country.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Carmen

            I don’t have to imagine. If American Jews went into an area with a heavy police presence in America where there was a fear of weapons they might very well get treated the same way. If they resisted the way those Palestinians were, they would get treated far worse. Jews, along with lots of other Americans, get arrested for hindering in America. This isn’t theoretical it happens and people are OK with it.

            Reply to Comment
      • Itshak Gordin Halevy

        If people hate us because our police is doing its job no problem at all, they must know that we do not like them too..

        Reply to Comment
    3. i_like_ike52

      It is unfortunate that official Palestinian society, including both FATAH/PA’s Abbas and the HAMAS regime encourages murderous violence against Jews in Israel, which puts the police on edge because it is their job to prevent this violence. Innocent Palestinians who unfortunately have to be searched should direct their ire at their Palestinian leadership and opinion makers to put an end to their drumbeats for terror.

      Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordin Halevy

          I have watched the video again. I confirm that the police officers were really very patient. The police of Lausanne, my origin towns in the quite Switzerland are much less patient. The son of a friend of mine told the policemen “son of the bitch” a Saturday day during an ID control. He was taken inside their car and beaten.

          Reply to Comment
          • Carmen

            Nothing to do with this article. Why don’t you wander over to arutz sheva?

            Reply to Comment
          • Itshak Gordin Halevy

            Of course, it has. The police of the quiet Switzerland (as well as the American, the French and all the Arab countries ones) is violent, but the Israeli police is very (too) patient. Israel has to protect itself from the ugly Arab terrorism.

            Reply to Comment
          • Jay Hamburger

            I have spent several years in Israel/Palestine…..much time in Jslm & the OT. More often I see police & IDF treat average non-threatening Palestinians with rudeness, contempt & anger. When I had an ‘issue’ at Kalandia…..they treated me with 98% more respect…..and have seen this dynamic many times with other Ashkenazim, etc.

            The State is primarily at fault, because they put 18 yr old kids in an untenable situation of enforcing unfair laws, etc. They obviously hate the work & therefore themselves (except the few psychopaths) and they act out toward the Palestinians. This is NOT reasonable security work, which, of course needs to be carried out in a hostile zone.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Jay

            How do you see Palestinians treat security forces? I see a lot of non-cooperation and the police forces being rather patient with it given the obvious high level of alert. I suspect American police would be considerably more aggressive if confronted with that level of non-cooperation in a security situation.

            For example the female officer tells the Palestinian to sit, “I don’t want to sit I have a broken leg”. Well first off he obviously doesn’t have a broken leg. That shows contempt, it is meant to instigate. It also possibly constitutes hindering an investigation. A worse situation is when there is an attempt to search and another passerby jumps in physically. That would be an arrest in America, NQA.

            Now obviously you are right about the age problem. There is also a training problem. The Israelis shouldn’t be arguing or shoving. There shouldn’t be an argument an officer issues a public safety order a civilian can comply or not comply, their opinion of whether they think it is a good order or not is irrelevant. If the Palestinian wants to not comply he might be free to offer an alternative suggestion politely with the understanding his alternative may be declined. And shoving is not a good idea. The Palestinian should be instructed to back up and arrested if they fail to do so.

            I watch this video and I see a group of police obviously concerned about something and getting non-cooperation from the population. One can be critical of Israel for having under trained law enforcement. But this situation isn’t about the laws. This is about a basic failure to understand the role of police on the parts of the civilians.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            First of all they are not citizens. They can’t vote. They are occupied. They are basically prisoners and these are police who behave like invading troops. And the power imbalance is total and the ability to effectively report police brutality is non-existent. And both sides know it. It is basically a form of constant harassment and intimidation to keep people in their untermensch place. That “one more word!” with the demeanor of the overlord. It is something I hear often. JeffB it is incredibly presumptuous of you to compare yourself, an American with all the protections that come with that, to these kids. There is no comparison. It is false.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Ben

            Residents of East Jerusalem can vote. They are entitled to full citizenship. They aren’t even remotely occupied. The Damascus gate, is part of Israel, the people on both sides are Israeli. Damascus Gate has been a place of rampant violence and the government of Israel is doing what responsible governments do when confronted with a violent flashpoint.

            One of the things that is most discrediting about the leftist critique of Israel is attacking Israel for things normal governments can and should do. It diminishes your credibility in issues of genuine concern. Putting a large police presence in an area of frequent gang violence (stabbings…) is a good thing There is nothing “overlord” about it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            That is not honest. They can vote in municipal but not national elections. They are disenfranchised. And the franchise is held hostage to their knuckling under and accepting “annexation.”

            The Arab residents of East Jerusalem are blatantly discriminated against in the most obvious fashion. You cannot deny this.

            “attacking Israel for things normal governments can and should do”

            You can pretend all you want that Israel is a normal government but it is not.

            “genuine concern”?

            Who defines the boundaries of “concern,” JeffB? You are the epitome of a cool racist overlord for whom the boundaries of “concern” are racially dictated.

            You continue to pretend that what is happening on the ground in East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories is directly comparable to what you experience in your American suburb. One of the words that best describes you, JeffB, is “presumptuous.” There are other words to describe you, and I’ve used them, but “presumptuous” is the most polite one I can find.

            Reply to Comment
          • carmen

            American police would be just as aggressive if:
            a) They’d received special training from israeli forces or
            b) They were dealing with non-white folks.

            “For example the female officer tells the Palestinian to sit, “I don’t want to sit I have a broken leg”. Well first off he obviously doesn’t have a broken leg. That shows contempt, it is meant to instigate. It also possibly constitutes hindering an investigation. A worse situation is when there is an attempt to search and another passerby jumps in physically. That would be an arrest in America, NQA.”

            Do tell how you’ve come to the conclusion that the man’s leg wasn’t broken as he claimed it was? Do you know the man, his medical history, anything at all? Of course you don’t. But you do love, love, love to speak with such authority and absolutely no knowledge. Please continue, it’s hilarious!

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @Carmen

            Do tell how you’ve come to the conclusion that the man’s leg wasn’t broken as he claimed it was?

            He’s putting well over 100 lbs of pressure on it repeatedly and freely. He’s not limping. He’s not wearing a cast. And more importantly he’s not a horse: people with broken legs sit all the time.

            Reply to Comment
          • carmen

            I haven’t concluded anything; I wasn’t there and I don’t know this man but living here has shown me everything isn’t as it appears and it requires a little more than reflexive thinking of arab=terrorist/uppity ungrateful wretch/intransigent upstart/jew hater (my fav) whereas the jew or jews here=victim/defender/rightful lord and master of all he/she surveys/god’s chosen person.

            I think that this young man could have had a previously fractured leg that did not receive adequate surgical fixation, postoperative management, physical therapy, etc., and the flexion and extension maneuvers required to sit, not on a chair, but the ground, would be exquisitely painful. Especially if the fracture was from say a gunshot wound that shattered his femur, tibia or fibula. Also I’m much more inclined to believe the victims and not the perps or their enablers.

            Reply to Comment
    4. bruno

      we do not have choice, some days ago 2 sisters asked to pass from gaza to tel hashomer hospital because one of them needs cancer treatment. during the ordinary inspection at the border- pass, were found explosive material. the same in Jerusalem.

      Reply to Comment
      • carmen

        That defense doesn’t work now and didn’t work then. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfbiStS1kG4

        “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana, The Life of Reason.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Ben

      You all should read Gideon Levy’s heartfelt apology. You have no excuse not to, it’s free, behind no paywall.

      A Heartfelt Apology to Haaretz Readers
      To all offended readers, I apologize for the one-sidedness. How could I not maintain a balance between the murderer and the murdered; the thief and his victim; and the occupier and the occupied?
      Gideon Levy
      http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.784352

      Reply to Comment
      • carmen

        Have read it; as usual Mr. Levy is brilliant.

        Reply to Comment
      • Itshak Gordin Halevy

        Fortunately Haaretz has lost thousands of readers the latest years. Israelis do not accept leftist delusions anymore. The power of the left is weaker every year. The power of the left of the left is inaudible. However a fact is important: Due to our birthrate there will be more Jews than Arabs in Judea-Samaria in 25 years.

        Reply to Comment
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