Mordechai de Haas
Ger; Haredi; retired Lieutenant Colonel; Russian security academic

Excessive force by Israeli police should stop

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Israeli police are using disproportionate violence to enforce lockdown rules upon the Haredi community (and probably also upon the antigovernmental demonstrations, but I focus here on the Haredim). Time has come that the Knesset should install a formal enquiry into police violence before this country ends up in a civil war.

Initially, it looked like incidents, however the footage of recurrent police violence demonstrates structural use of excessive force. Such police force is typical for autocratic regimes as those of Belarus and Russia, however it goes against the principles of a democratic state like Israel. Internally, the police alienates itself from larger parts of the population. Externally, police violence damages Israel’s image abroad.

Let me be clear: when Haredim call the police Nazis, when they put garbage cans on fire, when Haredim throw stones to the police, or when they resist the enforcement of the lockdown rules, it is fully justified that the police uses proportional force to restore public order.

However, the last couple of weeks show a systematic use of extreme violence by the police. Footage, as available on all Israeli news sites, display police officers smacking down innocent spectators, beating up young boys, harassing young girls, kicking and beating a Hasidic man resisting arrest, throwing down a small boy on a scooter, etc., etc. The more videos I see, the more disgusted I get. How would these police officers feel if somebody would do the same to their children?

The principle task of the police is to be a guardian of the internal security of the state. It protects its population against criminals and terrorists in order that the citizens feel safe and society can function. That is how the policy should function in a democracy as the Israeli one. Dictatorial regimes such as Belarus and Russia use police and internal troops (comparable with Israel’s border police) for a different purpose: to guarantee the survival of the regime, no matter how much violence that takes. Perhaps some of the demonstrators at Balfour Street will claim that the Israeli police has a similar tasking, but luckily this state has a balance of powers that prevents such a development.

Nevertheless, the apparent structural excessive use of force by the Israeli police should stop before damage beyond repair is caused between the police and the population. Therefore, I call upon the Knesset to make an enquiry on police violence and, subsequently, take measures to prevent such abuse of power in the future.

About the Author
Lieutenant Colonel Royal Netherlands Army (retired) Dr. Mordechai de Haas is Affiliated Professor and Research Fellow on Russian security policy towards the Middle East, National Security Studies Centre, University of Haifa. He served with UNIFIL in Lebanon in 1980 as a conscript of the Dutch army. He holds an PhD on Russian security policy. At the Netherlands Defence Staff he was responsible for drafting the first Netherlands Defence Doctrine in 2005.
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