The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department (PID) interrogated on Tuesday, May 22, the officer who injured Arab civil rights activist Jafar Farah after a demonstration last week in Haifa against Israel’s deadly policy in the Gaza Strip. The officer was questioned under caution – as someone who might be charged with a crime. The officer, a patrol cop, denied using any force against Farah, head of the Mossawa Advocacy Center.
Farah declared that after he was arrested at the protest last Friday, May 18, the police officer attacked him in the presence of some 18 other demonstrators and broke a knee bone. Farah had been videoed walking that evening at the demonstration, but was later hospitalized and arrived the next day for a hearing at the Haifa District Court on crutches.
On Tuesday Farah said he gave the PID the name of the officer who attacked him, even though “he did not have a name tag, but his colleagues called him by name all the time. He is the one who hit me and I gave his name and where it happened.”
Farah related how “The police officer knocked me to the ground and handcuffed me with force. It was all very fast, a few seconds. He told me to get up and I could not. He pulled me by the coat and took me to the bathroom [where] another police officer searched me … After the bathroom they threw me on the floor again. I told the police officers it hurt; they tried to calm me down. They let me sit on a chair only when my lawyer arrived.”
Earlier, the European Union had condemned Israel’s crackdown on the Arab demonstrators, and called for “a swift investigation into circumstances surrounding events last week in Haifa which appeared to result in serious injury of Jafar Farah.”
Farah said that, on Tuesday, “an investigator from the [police investigatory unit] came and asked for my signature on a medical confidentiality waiver. I assume they have already received the information from the hospital [where he was treated]. We will give them [the unit] a chance.”
Meanwhile, staff at the Haifa headquarters of the PID questioned other officers who had been with Farah after his arrest. Farah’s wife, Asmahan Farah Atwan, ripped into the police, telling Haaretz, “This was a political arrest. They broke his leg but not his dream – a people’s right to live in dignity. His leg will mend. However, those who broke it will pay a heavy price. The [officer] and others who beat children under arrest will be dealt with legally – each will face a civil suit.”
On Sunday night, May 20, several hundred people, Jews and Arabs, attended a protest in Haifa’s German Colony organized by Hadash, the Communist Party of Israel (CPI), Standing Together and Combatants for Peace. They protested the mass killing of Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza Strip and the arrest of Farah and all demonstrators the previous Friday.
Among the demonstrators were the chair of the Joint List MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash – Joint List), MK Youssef Jabareen (Hadash – Joint List), and Secretary General of the CPI, Adel Amer.
Participants in the left-wing demonstration carried placards saying, “We oppose the occupation,” “Jews and Arabs together,” “You won’t silence Haifa” and “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.” They shouted: “Blood-soaked regime, stop killing children,” “Fascism won’t be tolerated” and “Gaza, don’t despair, we’ll end the occupation.” At the same time, a few dozen far-right demonstrators held a counter-rally under the banner “Return Haifa to Israel,” where they displayed Israeli flags and sang the national anthem.