Israel is a democracy, right? That’s what all the press releases say, don’t they? But I wonder how those who praise said democracy to the skies manage to reconcile that with horror stories like the ones I’m about the recount.
Israel’s Channel 10 News ran a series on police violence and abuse. It featured incidents between citizens and police officers which escalated into extreme violence. Before it aired the national deputy police commander called the news director, Reudor Benziman, and threatened him and his staff with violence if it wasn’t cancelled. In fact, this very threat should be investigated as a violation of the law. When Benziman declined, the officer bellowed:
We too can act against you. We know where your studios are and your personal vehicles and we can [lie in] wait for you.
The police also refused to provide any statistics to the station for its report including the number of complaints filed and those found to be justified (presumably this is publicly accessible information required to be made available by the police–which would make the refusal an act of mere petulance). Local police commanders also routinely refuse to allow access to any of the Channel’s reporters.
Lest you doubt the level of violence of which these people are capable, listen to the police “explanation” of its behavior:
It’s already been a half-year since the Channel began a shameful, partisan campaign to recruit citizens and amass material against those who uphold the law. The fantastical complaints raised by the news reports of alleged threats [by the police] reflect the level of journalistic integrity of the entire project…
Israeli police officers receive the unconditional backing of the national command for the full-fledged use of force as permitted by law. In a nation that functions properly, the law-abiding citizenry stands beside its police and not against them.
This reminds me so well of the response by Dick Cheney to the civil liberties whiners who complained about the civil liberties violations brought on by the USA Patriot Act: no one who obeys the law has anything to worry about; only those who break the law will be affected by it. Except that didn’t turn out to be true and never does in a police state. The innocent are as likely to be dredged up from the sea bottom as the guilty. And the innocent are treated no differently than the guilty. In fact, because of the presumption of guilt in such cases, the innocent find it difficult, if not impossible to prove their innocence.
You’ll notice in the passage quoted above that the police have stabbed two targets at once. They’ve smeared the Israeli media as being not only their enemy, but in effect an enemy of the state (because who do the police represent if not the state?). Alongside the media, those citizens who register complaints against the police are in effect on the side of criminals (and certainly little better than them).
The sentiment above is confirmed by this Haaretz report on a Knesset hearing at which the boss of the police bully above testified about the record of police abuse and violence against the said citizenry:
Police Commissioner David Cohen…appearing before the State Control Committee, spent much of the meeting speaking out against critics that have alleged a pattern of abuses by the Israel Police. He said the organization “works with its head, not with its hands.”
…The police commissioner expressed outrage that citizens who have complained of police violence were allowed to attend the meeting, saying “they shouldn’t be here.” Committee chairman MK Yoel Hasson told Cohen they could not be barred from attending.
This is the nation’s top police officer appointed, as one of my Israel apologist commenters tutored me recently, by democratically-elected representatives, who himself doesn’t believe in democracy. The state police chief believes no citizens who complain about the police should be allowed to attend a public hearing about the police. Once again, he feels these citizens are offenders who should be barred and that their very complaints are an act of disloyalty against the police and by extension, the state. Apparently, the only citizens who should be allowed to scrutinize the police are those who approve of the job he’s doing. As the old song lyrics go: “Nice work if you can get it.”
As I wrote here recently, the police are a state unto themselves. They run roughshod over those they are sworn to protect. They face virtually no public control as this salient passage from the Haaretz story reveals:
The Justice Ministry has never run an internal inquiry into the operation of the department, according to presenters at the meeting. The State Comptroller’s office looked into the department’s work in 2005…
The Israeli equivalent of the U.S. Justice Department has never run an internal inquiry into the actions of the national police force. The State Comptroller last reviewed its work five years ago. Think about that. Who polices the police? In Israel? No one. Just as no one polices the intelligence agencies nor the IDF. Which is why the claim that Israel is a democracy is so completely divorced from the everyday reality. When you are an Israeli and you encounter naked police power and aggression you might as well be walking down a Mississippi highway in the dark circa 1962. They will do with you what they will. And you will thank them for it. If not, you might end up wedged in an Israeli equivalent of an earthen dam. Hyperbole? Perhaps. But just review in my post of a few days ago, the massive amount of data from Eyal Clyne confirming the levels of violence and retribution meted out by the police to those who brook them. Then try to argue against my concerns.