Video shows police beating Israeli politician in Jerusalem

Ofer Cassif was attending a protest against Jewish settlements in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Israeli policemen detain Israeli MP Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of the predominantly Arab Joint List electoral alliance, during a demonstration against Israeli occupation and settlement activity in Sheikh Jarrah, occupied East Jerusalem [Ahmad Gharabli/AFP]

An Israeli lawmaker has said that police beat him while he took part in a demonstration against a Jewish settlement in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of the mostly Arab Joint List party, was attending a protest against the expansion of a Jewish settlement in Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem.

“They started to beat me, they broke my glasses … they went crazy,” Cassif said on Friday in the Channel 13 footage.

“They didn’t care that I’m a member of parliament,” he said.

Cassif appears in another video with a swollen eye, his shirt torn, wearing a broken set of glasses.

Cassif’s spokesman Itai Aknin told AFP news agency the injured lawmaker had been taken to hospital and that the demonstration had been “peaceful and calm” before police arrived.

A police statement said initial investigations showed a protester had “attacked one of the officers”.

“The attacker” was released once it “became clear that it was a member of parliament”, the statement added.

Ahmad Tibi, a fellow parliament member from the Joint List, was among those sharing the video of the scuffle on Twitter, calling it a “brutal assault” and a violation of parliamentary immunity.

Right-wing lawmaker Gideon Saar tweeted after the incident that “the police’s brutal violence against him (Cassif) is a murderous blow to the parliament and to parliamentary immunity”.

Saar, who said he “despises” Cassif’s worldview, is a former loyalist of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and supports Israeli settlements.

Centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid called the incident “shocking” and urged police to investigate.

Cassif said that police beat him while he took part in a demonstration against a Jewish settlement in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem [Ahmad Gharabli/AFP]

‘Demographic balance’

Rights groups say dozens of people are at risk of being evicted from Sheikh Jarrah after a long court battle with Jewish settler groups. Jewish and Palestinian activists have been holding small weekly protests against the threatened evictions.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognised by the United Nations and most of the international community. Israel views the entire city as its unified capital, while the Palestinian Authority wants East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state.

An Israeli court recently ordered the eviction of 58 people, 17 of them children, from seven houses in Sheikh Jarrah, according to the Israeli anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now.

Sheikh Jarrah, located on the slopes of Mount Scopus just north of the Old City, is home to 3,000 Palestinians, all refugees who were ethnically cleansed from their homes in other parts of historical Palestine during the 1948 Nakba (the “catastrophe” in Arabic).

They took up residence in the neighbourhood under an agreement with Jordan, which controlled East Jerusalem from 1948 until 1967.

Grassroots Jerusalem, an NGO that is a platform for Palestinian community-based mobilisation, previously told Al Jazeera that there has been an influx of Jewish settlers since 2001 “who have been responsible for forced evictions and terrorism in the neighbourhood”.

Since the 1970s, the Israeli government has been working on implementing a “demographic balance” in Jerusalem at a 70-30 ratio, limiting the Palestinian population in the city to 30 percent or less.

This urban planning has been executed by a number of policies such as land confiscation, displacement and colonisation of Palestinian neighbourhoods.

Some 750,000 Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in 1948 in the run-up to the establishment of Israel. They and their descendants now number more than 5.8 million and are scattered across the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies