Joint List MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash) filed on Sunday, April 11, an official complaint against with the Israel Police after he was beaten by officers during a protest in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem two days earlier, Friday, April 9. Cassif had gone to Sheikh Jarrah that day to participate in a solidarity protest with Palestinians residents facing imminent eviction by Israel. When violence broke out, the police were well aware that Cassif was a member of the Knesset, but did not care.
Arriving at offices of the Police Internal Investigations Department (Machash) on Sunday of this week, Cassif remarked that “the violence against me is a symptom… [as well as] a violation of the sovereignty and honor of Knesset.” The Communist MK condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, warning that their inaction in addressing police brutality “puts the next political assassination around the corner.” Cassif added, “The poisonous mushroom that is Netanyahu grew from the blood of [former Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin [who was assassinated in 1995 by a right-wing settler], and we will not let more such mushrooms sprout.”
When first questioned by Machash, officers involved in the incident initially contended that Cassif had initiated the violence, hitting them. However, the most recent version of events offered by police purports that the Knesset member had incited the officers to attack him, allegedly saying that he dared them to hit him. Speaking to the Kan public broadcaster Sunday morning, Cassif described the police claims as “a string of lies.” The MK from Hadash said he intends to file a complaint with the Knesset Guard about death threats he has received in the wake of the incident.
Background to the Ongoing Protests in Sheikh Jarrach
In recent months,an Israeli court has ordered the eviction of 58 Palestinians, 17 of them children, from seven homes in Sheikh Jarrah. The families are descendants of refugees from the 1948 war who took up residence in the neighborhood in 1956 under an agreement with Jordan, which occupied East Jerusalem from 1948 until 1967. Peace Now says that settler groups are pushing for their eviction by arguing that the land belonged to Jews prior to 1948. Israel supports the return of Jews to lands they lost in the 1948 war while barring Palestinians from doing the same.
Today, Friday, April 16, another demonstration will be held in the East Jerusalem neighborhood under the banner “Stop the Evictions in Sheikh Jarrah – the Struggle Continues!” According the organizers, “After the forceful protest last Friday, which was met with the brutal police attacks aimed at silencing us, we will return with all of our might to Sheikh Jarrah at 4pm… and once again take part in a joint protest with local residents against the decision to evict them from their homes – a decision with aims to Judaize Sheikh Jarrah and East Jerusalem. We will not allow police violence to weaken or frighten our movement – we are calling upon you to join us and to decry in a clear voice the racist and violent decisions upheld by Israeli law and the police.”
Information on the protest planned for Friday, April 16 against the evictions of Sheikh Jarrah residents – (Hebrew, Arabic and English): https://www.facebook.com/Alittihad44/videos/515617552786079