The Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee discussed on Tuesday claims of police violence against children during a recent demonstration in Hura against the plan to resettle the Negev`s Bedouins.
MK Ahmad Tibi, who initiated the discussion, criticized the ”vast” police presence at the protest in the Bedouin village, saying ”it was like a battlefield.” Tibi said that towards the end of the protest, ”which turned into a confrontation,” he saw police officers grabbing a boy of about 14 after he was arrested by a disguised officer. ”The officer threw the boy on the ground and pointed a gun to his head. I tried to free the boy but the officers claimed he was holding a rock,” Tibi said.
The MK asked why officers disguised as Arabs (mista`arvim) are present at demonstrations held within Israeli territory. Tibi said the officers acted violently towards him and that his watch was broken.
Negev Subdistrict Police Chief Peretz Amar said the police officer who grabbed the boy was not a mista`arev but a detective in civilian clothing whose gun fell from its holster during the arrest. The officer had no choice but to pick up the gun, Commander Amar said, adding that mista`arvim were activated only after six hours of clashes between the protesters and police.
According to Amar, some 1,000 people took part in the demonstration, and 300 police officers were present. Towards the end of the protest, Amar related, stones hurled by the protesters injured 50 police officers. He said demonstrators also threw Molotov cocktails and burning tires toward a nearby path.
”This is not freedom of expression,” Amar told the committee, adding that indictments have been filed against 17 protesters and 30 more will be arrested and interrogated.
MK Dov Khenin suggested that police consider starting a dialogue with the Bedouin population in order to calm the situation.
MK David Tsur stressed the importance of speaking to the protest leaders ahead of time and said the committee would ask the Prime Minister`s Office and the Defense Ministry to encourage dialogue with the Bedouin sector.