Israeli far-right supremacists shared selfies posing with guns and messages such as “Tonight we are not Jews, we are Nazis” during the occupation state’s recent crackdown on protestors, a new report by Amnesty International has confirmed. The brutal clampdown followed an unprecedented show of solidarity by Palestinian citizens of Israel, who staged a general strike in protest at Israel’s 11 day onslaught against the Gaza Strip which killed more than 250 people, including women and children.
The report investigated the conduct of Israeli police during May and June’s crackdown on Palestinians. It found that a catalogue of violations were committed by security officials against Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, including the use of unlawful force against peaceful protesters, sweeping mass arrests and subjecting detainees to torture and other ill-treatment.
The human rights group verified 45 videos and other digital media to document more than 20 cases of Israeli police violations between 9 May and 12 June. Hundreds of Palestinians were injured in the crackdown and a 17-year-old boy was shot dead.
Highlighting the systematic police brutality, the findings are as damning as they are deeply worrying. Israeli police actions were not only repressive, but were also discriminatory, targeting Palestinians disproportionately. The report found that Israeli officials failed to protect Palestinian citizens of Israel from premeditated attacks by groups of armed Jewish supremacists, even when plans were publicised in advance and police knew or should have known of them.
By 10 June, Israeli police had arrested over 2,150 people. More than 90 per-cent were Palestinian citizens of Israel or residents of East Jerusalem. The report found that most Palestinians were detained for offences such as “insulting or assaulting a police officer” or “taking part in an illegal gathering” rather than for violent attacks on people or property.
On top of the brutal crackdown, Israeli police also failed to protect Palestinians from Jewish supremacists who had organised attacks and publicised their plans in advance. Amnesty verified 29 text and audio messages on open Telegram channels and WhatsApp revealing how the apps were used to recruit armed men and organise attacks on Palestinians in cities such as Haifa, Acre, Nazareth and Lod between 10 and 21 May.
The rights groups paints a shocking picture of the hateful communal violence targeting Palestinians. Amnesty found that messages included instructions on where and when to gather, types of weaponry to use and even what clothing to wear to avoid confusing Jews of Middle Eastern heritage with Palestinian Arabs. It was then that group members shared selfies posing with guns and messages such as “Tonight we are not Jews, we are Nazis”.
Elected parliamentarians joined the wave of hate which was described at the time as “pogroms“. According to Amnesty on 12 May, hundreds of Jewish supremacists gathered on the Bat Yam Promenade in central Israel, in response to messages received from the political party Jewish Power and other groups. Verified video footage shows scores of activists attacking Arab-owned businesses and encouraging attackers.
The report also documented torture carried out by Israeli security forces. One example cited in the report involved torture at the Russian Compound (Moskobiya) police station in Nazareth on 12 May. An eyewitness is reported as saying that they saw Special Forces beating a group of at least eight bound detainees who had been arrested at a protest.
“It was like a brutal prisoner-of-war camp,” said the witness. “The officers were hitting the young men with broomsticks and kicking them with steel-capped boots. Four of them had to be taken away by ambulance, and one had a broken arm.”
Amnesty is calling on the UN Human Rights Council’s recently-announced Commission of Inquiry to investigate the alarming pattern of violations by Israeli police.