Confronting Police Brutality in Haifa

Seven protestors required medical attention after the Israeli police violently dispersed a demonstration in Haifa on Friday night. The seven were protesting the deaths along the Gaza border.

Among the injured in Haifa was Jafar Farah, the founder and leader of Mossawa: The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, who emerged from custody with a broken knee and was hospitalized.

Farah was one of 21 people arrested during the Haifa demonstration and claims to have been arrested for simply being present at the protest. During detention, Farah said he asked one of the officers where his son was. “One of the officers inside the Haifa police station decided to strike my leg and break my knee. He kicked me,” he recalls.

Doctors confirmed that Farah’s knee was broken. Video footage of Farah being arrested at the demonstration shows him clearly walking without injury to the police car. Farah also charges that the police tried to intimidate doctors in Haifa’s Bnei Zion Medical Center into releasing him even though he required further treatment.

A Haifa court ordered that Farah and the other protesters be released.

Farah is a veteran human rights activist. He founded Mossawa in 1997 to promote economic and political rights and equality for Israel’s Arab minority.

NIF and several dozen member organizations of the NIF community sent a letter to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh protesting the brutality of the police in Haifa and demanding an investigation into police conduct.

The letter said, “The incident sets off a red light for every citizen who holds dear the basic right of freedom of expression and protest – the arrest of Mr. Farah and his unexplained injury creates a sense of crisis with respect to law enforcement authorities.”

Farah says he will sue the police. “It’s time for the Israeli police to educate its cops to respect freedom of speech and not oppress people.”

NIF Board Member Oudeh Basharat wrote in Haaretz, “It wasn’t enough for the police to arrest Jafar Farah, they did a victory lap around the streets of Haifa parading him in handcuffs. He is not only a leader of Israel’s Arab community but of all of civil society—Arab and Jewish. He has led campaigns not only for equality for Israel’s Arabs but for all the country’s oppressed, Arab and Jew alike.

May 2018