Police brutality in the US and Israel

The death of young Black man Freddie Gray while in police custody in Baltimore, and the fact that his back was broken indicating extreme violence against him, has sparked a series of violent riots in Baltimore and other cities around the USA.  A similar case occurred in Israel at the same time, in the city of Holon south of Tel Aviv, that was caught on video.

A Black Ethiopian Jewish soldier in uniform was pushing his bike home along his street when he was stopped by the police because a suspicious package had been found nearby.  The policeman told him apparently that he could not continue, but since he lived so close nearby he argued with the policeman.  In response the policeman hit him and knocked him to the ground, then another policeman (a volunteer) came and helped to beat him.  Finally he managed to get away from them and picked up a rock, in response to which the policeman went for his gun.  At that point other police came and the man was arrested.   He was imprisoned, but later when the video was found he was released.  He said that the cause of the attack against him was racism.

The policeman involved in the attack has been suspended and the volunteer fired pending further criminal action. There was a demonstration and a minor riot in Jerusalem the following day protesting police discrimination against Black Ethiopians in Israel, that turned violent and several were arrested.  However, while this incident is similar to that in the States there was no loss of life and the scope of the problem is much smaller.  On Sunday night there was a major demonstration in Tel Aviv, during which mostly Ethiopians blocked the Ayalon Highway and then went to the TA City Hall, where riot police were deployed to prevent them breaking in.  The demonstration ended in violence with both police and demonstrators being injured and several arrests.

PM Netanyahu issued a statement condemning the beating of the Ethiopian soldier and no-one who has seen the video, and it has received widespread exposure, can claim that this was not a case of police brutality.  How is it that the police, who are supposed to be the public’s defenders, find is so easy to use violence against members of the public, especially if they are black?  In this case there is a procedure, the person who lives nearby is allowed to show his/her id card (Americans don’t carry ids) and is then allowed to proceed to their home.  In this case the situation is especially aggravated because the Ethiopian was wearing IDF uniform.

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