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OccupyTLV: Tel Aviv Police Commander suspects criminality by police in the camp

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OccupyTLV, May 13 - in an April 29 letter to Dr Joseph Zernik of OccupyTLV, Tel Aviv Police Commander Benzi Sau informed Dr Zernik that conduct of police, relative to the April 25, 2014, violence incident in the OccupyTLV camp, was forwarded to the State Counsel, Department of Police Investigations, for investigation of suspected criminality by police. [1]

The April 25 violence incident involved former police special-unit officer Uriel Benveniste, who is also a former prisoner on violent crimes, and who also has a long track record of violent conduct in the OccupyTLV camp. Restraining Order banning him from the camp was not enforced. And police apparently again failed to take action against him following the April 25 incident.

The April 29 letter from Tel Aviv Police Commander came in response to an April 28 letter by Dr Zernik to Commander Sau, [2] which included the recording of an April 25, 2014, phone call between a senior Tel Aviv Police Intelligence Officer and a policeman on the ground in the OccupyTLV camp. [3-4] The phone conversation details evidence for various types of criminal conduct, and concern by the officer on the ground that such conduct may lead to a murder.

Following the letter by Commander Sau, Dr Zernik wrote today to the office of State Counsel, and asked to provide additional evidence related to the investigation. [5]

In his letter today, Dr Zernik states that the incident of April 25, 2014, should be examined on the background of the Israel police conduct in the camp throughout the past year and a half. Moreover, Dr Zernik alleges that such examination is likely to lead to the conclusion that the Israel police in collaboration with the Tel Aviv Municipality are involved in the establishment of violent, lawless environment in the OccupyTLV camp.

The OccupyTLV camp is the only camp remaining in Israel following the mass Social Protest movement that started in 2011.

The recent case from the OccupyTLV camp follows a series of other cases, which raise concern regarding conduct of the Tel Aviv Police, relative to Social Protest and Civil Society activists.

Earlier this year, attempt was made by the Israel police to prosecute Daphni Leef and other Social Protest leaders, on bogus charges of violence against police. The prosecution was supported by false testimonies by policemen on the stand in the Tel Aviv court. However, that effort failed, when it became evident that police was lying, and videos showed police violence against Leef. On April 1, 2014, Attorney General Weinstein announced the dropping of the prosecutions against Leef and other Social Protest activists. [6]

The Tel Aviv police are also prosecuting Tax Authority whistleblower Rafi Rotem on charges of insulting and harassing policemen on duty. The case of whistleblower Rafi Rotem has been going on for some 12 years now. Around 2002, then highly commended, senor Tax Authority intelligence officer Rotem complained of corruption of higher officers of the Tax Authority, involving undermining the investigations of NIS tens and hundreds of millions of tax liabilities by businesses related to organized crime, tycoons, and persons close to the authorities. [7] Since his whistle-blowing, Rotem was subjected to harassment, intimidation, and retaliation by the Tel Aviv police, while the justice authorities have refused to fully investigate his allegations, and also refused to accord him protection, due to whistleblowers under Israeli law. As part of retaliatory measures, Rotem, who had won a number of commendations by the Israel police previous to his whistleblowing, has been subjected to false arrests, humiliation, and beating by police. No policeman has been disciplined for such conduct against Rotem, but now the Israel police are prosecuting Rotem for his words to such policemen during the incidents of his abuse. The case of Rafi Rotem has become a major cause of the Israeli Social Protest movement in recent months.

Overall, concern is that the Tel Aviv police are resorting to methods employed by repressive regimes against legitimate Social Protest and Civil Society activists. That, on the background of the glaring failure of the Tel Aviv police in investigations of organized crime, including assassinations in broad daylight in Tel Aviv center. [8]

The conduct of the Tel Aviv police should be viewed on the background of profound transformations in Israeli society and governance in the State of Israel since the assassination of Prime Minister Yizhak Rabin in 1995. Although the assassination is often attributed to opposition by extreme right elements to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the evidence shows that it also led to the establishment of an American-style neoconservative regime with matching consequences. [9]

During most of the period since the Rabin assassination, the Israeli economy has continued its healthy growth. Regardless, during the same period poverty and homelessness levels in Israel have soared, and housing has become unaffordable for working people. A huge gap has emerged in income and asset distribution, and the economy has become dominated by a handful of tycoons with close ties to government. A medieval-style debtors' court system has been established in the Israel, where fraud is rampant, exorbitant interest rate and attorneys fees are applied to the debtors, as well as unusual penalties, including, but not limited to, imprisonment, denial of the right to travel out of state, and until recently - revocation of driving licenses. [10-11]

Public trust in the political system in general, and in the justice system in particular, has plummeted. A recent European survey found that only 22% of Israelis believe that judges in Israel do not take bribes... [12] Recent OECD reports show that Israel is the nation with highest poverty level among developed nations and 5th- largest income gap. [13]

Such transformation is astounding in a nation that was for most of its history a welfare state, which successfully absorbed in its early years about a million refugees from post WWII Europe and from Arab nations, and which in the early 1990s successfully absorbed another 400,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

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Dr Zernik's core research pertains to e-government and its significance for Human Rights and Civil Society.

His work won appreciation in Israel and abroad: * Prof Uzzi Ornan - "All power to you! I hope that you see your tremendous efforts (more...)
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