26 May 2016

When Israeli cops lynched an arab supermarket worker in Tel Aviv...

To start with a disclaimer: I have never been particularly enamored with our cops, being a normal citizen, inoculated by a healthy dose of that wariness toward the best and finest, shared by all citizens all over the world. The wariness tends to be at its peak where our border policemen are considered, knowing their special brand of sensitivity, compassion and gentleness.

To continue with a confession: this previous post of mine re our worthy new chief of police, Roni Alsheikh, was written as a byproduct of my search of material for this here post. I was searching for corroboration of my suspicions and just stumbled upon Roni Alsheikh's story.

So, when the story about a team of border policemen ganging up and beating to a pulp a defenceless Israeli Arab hit the media, I was incensed and revolted, together with all (not an exaggeration) the 99,9999 % of the Israeli population. I couldn't say it better, of course, than one of our best journalists, Ben Dror Yemini did:
Police brutality against a person - first of all a person - in the center of Tel Aviv. We've become Ferguson 2015. No need to jump to Germany 1936. It is a disgrace to Israel when she turns into United States. It's not happening only in central Tel Aviv, and not only to an Arab. And there's no comfort here.
Instead of joining the chorus, though, I've decided to wait for details. It seems that I was right at that. But first to the initial story, as it has appeared in all Israeli media sources of note. It sounds very simple and, border cops being how they are, believable:
The man was stopped by two undercover police officers who asked him to identify himself; they allegedly failed to present badges, and security footage shows multiple police officers striking the man.
This in a nutshell, allegedly supported by the security camera's recording:

And here is a clip (In Hebrew), where the innocent victim tells the story of unprovoked assault by a gang of 8 (eight) cops, savage beating and subsequent arrest.

The first clip comes courtesy of Haaretz and the second from the Israeli Broadcasting authority. No reason to doubt the sources, is there? Still, I have decided to stay away from the apparently clear cut evidence, for two chief reasons:
  • The incident occurred in Rabin Square, one of the most popular areas of Tel Aviv, where hundreds of people walk around at any time of the day (or night, for that matter). No matter how bloodthirsty the specific team of border cops was, it is kind of difficult to see them choosing this mighty conspicuous spot to do the dirty deed.
  • The recording of the event: I don't know about you, but without the ability to view the clip frame by frame, all I am able to see is a quickly escalating melee of unidentified folks going one at another in high spirit. Very inconclusive, to say the least.
One point has to be explained - the border police checking the identity papers. It happens to be one of the missions of the border police - to catch and expel any Judea and Samaria citizens of Palestinian Authority who are found to be here illegally (without a work permit). It is one thankless task, needless to say. Not that it justifies beating a man to a pulp, mind you...

OK, to make the story short: here comes a blow-by-blow analysis of the same recording you have seen above. Since the explanation comes in Hebrew, I'll have to go through the salient points:
  • The approach to the beating victim, Maysam Abu Alqian, was peaceful. Two cops approached him, one other (a female) remained in the background (checks out).
  • The cops both presented their police IDs or badges (check).
  • Maysam Abu Alqian still doesn't agree to show his ID card (check).
  • Another supermarket employee (white T-shirt) joined Maysam Abu Alqian, protesting something or other (check).
  • At this stage the White Shirt pushes one of the cops (check). 
  • Maysam Abu Alqian pushes one of the cops (check). 
At this point I have to stop the report and ask you a question: what do you expect would happen if and when you push an American/French/British/German/[choose your preference] cop? You know, don't you?

Well, nothing much to add to the story: several new cops appear on the scene, six new employees of the supermarket appear on the scene, the melee starts in earnest and the end of the affair is clear now.

To conclude, follows a summary of the whole event, by the same good old Ben Dror Yemini:
I was wrong. I apologize.

Immediately after the incident between the young Bedouin and the cops in the center of Tel Aviv, I published a short post blaming the police. Except the video, frame by frame, from Avi Ashkenazi's website, shows that the cops, apparently, have presented badges and they didn't start the pushing that led to violence.

I demand that others refer to the facts. Facts prove me wrong.
That's it, I would say. However, there is another point to make, and rather an important one. It so happened that all Israeli main media sources bar none picked up the story without any fact checking. And when I say "main media sources", I don't mean some anti-Zionist ones like +972, far from it. Both left-wing and right wing media simply jumped on the initial story and published it as is, varying only the headlines. Of course, a special mention is richly deserved by Haaretz, whose headline for their editorial (that I partially borrowed) was "When Israeli Cops Lynched an Arab Supermarket Worker, They Exposed the Government’s Brutal Face". Only after a while somebody high up in Haaretz' hierarchy chickened out and the word "Lynched" was replaced by "Assaulted".

I have made a few screenshots of the headlines and posted them below for your enjoyment.

One last thing: three days after the avalanche of publications not a single news source that published its incendiary article(s), came out with a reference to the above discussed analysis or its own analysis of the story. No scoop value, I guess...

Too bad.

And meanwhile:
Around 1,000 Israelis responded to the beating of Bedouin teen Maysam Abu Alqian by police by raising over NIS 100,000 for his tuition fees.

Afterword: A less important but still telling item I missed at first: the third article link on the first page. It starts with the following sentence:
Controversial CCTV footage allegedly shows plainclothes Israeli police officers pouncing on an “Arab-Israeli” next to a Tel Aviv supermarket.
So, "controversial" and "allegedly": RT, the Russian traditionally anti-Israeli, anti-Western, pro-conspiracy theory and otherwise deplorable media outfit is being more careful and moderate than Israeli media. Something to think about, I would suggest.

A partial list of articles on the subject.
(Click on the image to read in comfort)