A court case revolving around a peaceful protest by Orthodox Jews against recently enacted Israeli draft laws has brought to light what appears to be institutional bigotry and unwarranted brutality by the Israeli government against Orthodox Jews.
Orthodox Jews who have expressed opposition to Israel’s draft laws, which have no security basis and are designed, instead, to instil within Israel’s population a worldview that is anathema to its Orthodox Jewish population, have been met with dictatorial methods of suppression, including, beatings and false imprisonment.
This suppression of free speech, while being carried out mostly by the police, has been instigated by the highest levels of government, including the Prime Minister who stated in parliament on 20 May 2017 that: “I expect all leaders to denounce these minority extremists who do not represent the Jewish nation”.
Aggressive actions against Orthodox Jews resulting in police brutality were carried out for activities such as handing out leaflets, and taking photos of police actions against peaceful protestors. Victims are often arrested on trumped up charges and thrown into jail after being beaten and humiliated. While in police custody they are further abused, beaten and assaulted.
These allegations were brought to the public eye last week when a video of an altercation between an Orthodox Jew and a police woman that resulted in judicial condemnation of five police officers was shown in court. Jerusalem Magistrate Court Judge Yaron Mientkavich on Thursday acquitted Aharon Grauman Halevi, an Orthodox Jew who took part in a demonstration at the intersection of Yehezkel and Shmuel Hanavi streets in Jerusalem last March, on charges of assaulting a policewoman.
The indictment alleged that Grauman Halevi hit the policewoman on her back and head several times with his fist, and spit at her, and when the policewoman could not get away from him, her fellow officers restrained him and took him into custody. In court, the alleged victim and four of her fellow police officers testified that Grauman would have continued his attack if they had not intervened to stop him. Two more witnesses added to the accusations against Halevi. One said he saw Halevi kick the policewoman. The other witness testified that Halevi was in a “bloodthirsty rage” and that if he had not rescued her from Halevy she would have still been in the hospital today.
However, the defense presented a video in court that showed the police testimony to be false, causing the judge to acquit the defendant. “The only contact between the defendant and the policewoman was that he pushed her hand … there were no punches to the back, no punches to the head, no kicking or spitting. None of the police officers rescued the policewoman from the defendant’s hands – because there was no need to rescue her. The policewoman knocked the defendant to the ground and only afterwards did the police reach him, beat him, and arrested him.”
In the verdict, the judge harshly condemned the policemen’s conduct and their testimonies. “I saw no alternative from the painful but obvious conclusion that the testimonies of the five policemen before me were false.”
The judge further noted that only the existence of the video saved Halevy from a guilty verdict and a harsh sentence.