Arbitrary and violent: Israeli police conduct in East Jerusalem
On 10 January 2019, at about 2:00 P.M., three Israeli police officers in plain clothes came to the Al-Aqsa Medical Center in the Jabal al-Mukabber neighborhood of East Jerusalem. They spoke with the director, Dr. Dauod Hussein, and demanded that he hand over footage from the security camera installed on the building. They said they wanted to examine footage from 7 January 2019, the day the car belonging to a neighbor was torched.
Hussein explained to the police officers that the recording device was in the home of his son Muhammad, who lives on the top floor of the building, but that no one was in his apartment at the time. He phoned his son and they made up with the police officers that they would come the next day at 12:30 P.M. to get the footage, when Muhammad would be home.
However, contrary to this agreement, the three plain-clothes police officers showed up about an hour at the home of Hussein’s other son, Dr. Karim Hussein, adjacent to the medical center. Karim Hussein was at home at the time with his two young sons, aged two and four. The officers demanded that he hand over the footage, but he also told him what they already knew, that the footage was at his brother Muhammad’s home. The policemen demanded to search the home to verify this, but Karim refused and asked them to show him a search warrant. They insisted on searching the home without presenting a warrant. An argument ensued, and Karim and the police officers even got into a shoving match. In the meantime, other members of the family had gathered on the scene. One of them was Karim’s brother-in-law Dr. ‘Ali al-Kaluti (a dentist) who came running over. He shoved one of the police officers, all of whom – as noted above – were dressed in civilian clothing and were not wearing identifying badges. He assumed the men assaulting his family were civilians. Only at that point did the officers tell al-Kaluti they were police.
At that point, after other Border Police and Special Patrol Unit officers arrived on the scene, one of the three original policemen hit Karim Hussein over the head with a walkie talkie. Karim lost consciousness and was transferred to Shaare Zedek Hospital. He was discharged a few hours later. His wife, who is three months pregnant, traveled with him to hospital. En route, she had severe stomach pains. She underwent tests at the hospital and was only discharged home at 1:00 A.M.
In the meantime, the police arrested al-Kaluti and took him in for questioning for allegedly trying to assault a police officer. A few hours later, he was released on bail and placed under house arrest for three days. At about 4:30 P.M., after the incident was over, a commissioned officer went with Dr. Hussein to the home of his son Muhammad, as had been arranged to begin with, and was given the footage and the recording device (DVR).
No part of this incident, from start to finish, should have happened: The Hussein family had agreed to hand over the footage, and the policemen had agreed to come by the next day to pick it up. Yet, for no reason, the three plain-clothed policemen decided to ignore this agreement. They showed up at the home of a relative without giving any explanation or wearing identifying badges, and demanded to conduct a search without showing a warrant. From this point the incident began to escalate, as described above.
Both the escalation and the incident as a whole were a result of the officers’ conduct: Their insistence on entering the home without justification and without presenting a warrant; their assault on members of the family; the fact that only at a late stage of an incident did they identify themselves as police to some of the individuals at the scene; beating one member of the family on the head; arresting another. All of this happened because of arbitrary and violent police conduct. In a reality in which police know they will not be held to account for harming residents of East Jerusalem, incidents of this kind are no longer unusual.
Below are some of the testimonies collected by B’Tselem field researcher ‘Amer ‘Aruri from members of the family who described what happened that day:
Dr. Karim Hussein, 31, a family doctor, lives in Jabal al-Mukabber. He is married to Iman and has two sons. In a testimony he gave on 12 Jan. 2019:
At about three o’clock I came home with my two young sons. A few minutes later, three people in civilian clothing knocked on the door. They said that they were with the police and that they wanted to take the security camera footage. I told them that the recording device was at my brother Muhammad’s home, not mine.
The policemen demanded to come inside and search the house, claiming that they wanted to make sure that I was telling the truth. I asked them whether they had a court warrant. One of them said that he had a warrant, but he wouldn’t agree to show it to me. Another said that they would arrest me for obstructing an officer. I told them that my young sons were at home and that I couldn’t leave them alone. Then the policeman held my arm behind my back and tried to arrest me. He and another officer shoved me and I shoved them back. My boys started to cry. My sister Najat, who lives in another apartment in the building, came and tried to get the police officers away from me. She and the policemen also shoved each other. My father also showed up. He tried to talk to the two policemen, but they shoved him too and wouldn’t let him come near. The third police officer didn’t take part in the assault and just tried to keep me and the other policemen apart.
In the meantime, more police arrived. They were Special Patrol Unit and Border Police. ‘Ali al-Kaluti, my sister Najwa’s husband, also showed up. One of the police officers pointed at him and told the Special Patrol Unit officers to arrest him. I don’t know why. He also told them to arrest me. One of the Border Police officers came up to me, twisted my arm behind my back and grabbed me by the neck. Then one of the three officers who had been there from the very the start hit me on the head with a walkie-talkie. I fell down and lost consciousness. I only woke up when I was at Shaare Zedek Hospital. My head hurt and I couldn’t see properly. They did a CT scan and other tests and found that I had concussion. I stayed at the hospital until ten o’clock at night. My wife was also at the hospital. She’s three months pregnant and she had bad stomach pains. They ran tests on her and transferred her to the gynecology department for observation. They let her go home at one o’clock at night.
Dr. ‘Ali al-Kaluti, 28, is a dentist who lives in Shu’fat. He is Karim Hussein’s brother-in-law, and he has two daughters. In a testimony he gave on 12 Jan. 2019 he said:
When I got there, I saw two men shoving my father-in-law Daoud and hitting Karim, who was shoving them. A third man was standing to the side and wasn’t getting involved. I didn’t know that the assailants were police officers because they were wearing civilian clothes. I shoved one of them. Only then, the man who was standing off to one side said, "Why did you do that? He’s a policeman!" So I stopped immediately.
Special Patrol Unit and Border Police forces also arrived. One of the policemen in civilian clothing pointed at me and told one of them to arrest me. One of the Border Police officers went up to Karim and tried to push him into a corner so that he could arrest him. At the same time, one of the three policemen in civilian clothing hit Karim on the head with his walkie-talkie. Karim fell down and lost consciousness. His head was bleeding. His sister Najat wanted to check on him, but the police officers wouldn’t let her go near. I tried to go over to the medical center to bring first aid, but one of the policemen wouldn’t let me go. He told me I was under arrest. He handcuffed me with my hands behind my back and took me to a jeep.
They took me to the police station at Jabal al-Mukabber. There, they moved the handcuffs round to the front, gave me water, and let me use the bathroom. I waited for a few hours, during which time they threatened to take away my dentist’s license. Then they also put metal restraints on my legs and took me for interrogation. The interrogator accused me of attempting to assault a police officer. I told him that I hadn’t known that the three men were police officers, and that I shoved the officer because he had tried to hit me. As soon as I realized he was a police officer, I stopped immediately.
I was questioned for about an hour and then they called my father to post bail for me. It was 3,000 shekels [approx. USD 820]. I also posted self-bail in the same amount. I sat and waited until I was released at ten o’clock. I was put under house arrest for three days, so I can’t go back to work until Monday morning.
Iman Hussein (Yunes), 29, a physical therapist and the mother of two boys, is three months pregnant. In a testimony she gave on 12 Jan. 2019 she stated:
When I got home I saw Special Patrol Unit and Border Police officers by the entrance. They wouldn’t let me approach. I spoke to them in Hebrew and said that it’s my house and then they let me in. I saw my husband Karim lying on the ground. His head was bleeding. I went inside to see how the children were, and I saw that they were crying and trembling with fear. Najat was with them and was trying to calm them down. I tried to too.
I went back out to my husband, who was lying on the ground in the courtyard outside our home. Then a team of paramedics arrived and took him by ambulance to Shaare Zedek Hospital. I went with him and on the way I felt strong pain in my stomach. One of the paramedics asked me whether my husband has any neurological problems, because he was having convulsions and there was foam coming out of his mouth. He was unconscious. I told them that he’s healthy. When I looked at him I started to feel even worse.
At the hospital, Karim was taken to the trauma unit. I left the room because I couldn’t stand any longer and I was screaming in pain. I was taken to the gynecology ward, where they checked my baby’s pulse and gave me an ultrasound. Karim was discharged three hours before me and one of our relatives drove him home. I was released at one o’clock. My brother-in-law Muhammad was waiting for me and he drove me home. They told me to rest at home for a week and I’m supposed to go back for another test in a week. My mother, my sister and Najat looked after our children while we were in hospital.
The next morning, my son Amir, who is four, told me everything that happened before I got home. He was shaking with fear when he told me. Even now, I still get nervous every time I see or hear a police patrol car near our house.
Dr. Muhammad Hussein, 36, is a pediatrician. He is married and has four children. In a testimony he gave on 19 Jan. 2019 he said:
When I got home, I was told that my brother-in-law ‘Ali had been arrested and that my father was with him at the police station at Jabal al-Mukabber. I was also told that Karim and his wife Iman had been taken to Shaare Zedek Hospital. I drove over to the police station and met my father there. He told me that after Karim had been taken away, another commissioned police officer had come to the house and asked for the camera footage. My father went up with the officer to my apartment. My wife, who was already at home, opened the door for them. The police officer stayed for about ten minutes, took the DVR and left. Then I drove to the hospital to check on my brother and his wife. My brother had a head injury and was suffering from general exhaustion. He told me that Iman had been taken to the gynecology ward and that she had stomach pains. I stayed with him until he was discharged. Relatives took him home and I went to be with Iman. I wait with her until they let her go at 1:00 A.M.
The next day, Friday, a policeman called me and asked for the code to the DVR. On Sunday, 13 January 2019, my father, Karim, ‘Ali and I went to file a complaint with the Department for the Investigation of Police against the police officers who had come on Thursday. My brother-in-law ‘Ali didn’t manage to file a complaint because he doesn’t speak Hebrew and there was no interpreter at the station.
On Thursday, 17 January 2019, I went to the Jabal al-Mukabber police station and they returned the DVR. That was after we’d already contacted them several times about this.