Judge supports violence against anti-withdrawal protester


TEL AVIV — In a defense of police brutality, a judge has termed the government crackdown against the civil disobedience campaign to block the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and West Bank a “war.”

Judge Hanan Efrati appeared to justify the behavior of police charged with assaulting an anti-withdrawal protester during a demonstration in 2005. Efrati suggested that police were defending an Israeli government besieged by massive protests against its decision to expel 16,000 Jews from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank.

“These were not ordinary times or ordinary demonstrations,” Efrati, a judge in the Tel Aviv Magistrate Court, said. “This was like in a war.”

On March 14, Efrati presided over a trial in which two police officers were charged with brutality. The officers allegedly beat and injured a handcuffed young demonstrator who was not resisting arrest during a June 29, 2005 protest in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan.

At the trial, a video of the protest showed police officers Eran Naim, 36, and Eliran Avraham, 33, pulling the protester to the ground. The officer handcuffed the demonstrator, Akiva Vitkin, 20, and then beat him around the face. In the video, Naim inserts his fingers in Vitkins nostrils and then yanks his head back. At the same time, an unidentified officer pokes Vitkin in the eyes.

The prosecution asserted that Avraham later again beat Vitkin in the police station. Vitkin was said to have sustained facial injuries. “The [prosecution] witness testified that he [Vitkin] did not resist arrest,” prosecutor Moshe Saada said. “There was the use of extreme force even when there was no life-threatening danger.”

The trial was one of the few cases in which authorities agreed to prosecute police officers alleged to have injured non-violent anti-withdrawal protests. Right-wing parliamentarians asserted that police were ordered to assault peaceful demonstrators to deter anti-government protests against plans to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

During the police brutality trial, Efrati expressed support for the defendants. Efrati demanded that the prosecution respond to the argument that the demonstration in which Vitkin was attacked was meant to launch massive anti-government protests.

“They called this a trial run,” Efrati told prosecutor Saada. “Argue in this direction.”

The attorney for the police officers said his clients were permitted to use force against Vitkin regardless of whether he resisted arrest. He said the right-wing protest was seen as threatening the country.

“This was an organized disturbance meant to threaten the public order in the state,” Lior Epstein said. Efrati expressed agreement. The judge suggested that demonstrators must accept the risk of police violence. “There aren’t any pet police and there aren’t any pet demonstrators,” Efrati said.

March 18, 2007 | 2 Comments »

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  1. Would anyone on in Israpundit be able to find out about Hanan Efrati’s other decisions? He needs to be confronted. Just today the district court in Nazareth recommended that compensation be paid to an Israeli Arab injured 16 years ago, even though he could not prove that he had been injured by the IDF’s negligence. Jews need to obey, but Arabs are granted compensation. There is no war with the Arabs, but Hanan Efrati can claim with impunity that there is a war with the Jews, thus justifying police brutality. In America he would be thrown off the bench and perhaps disbarred if he was a lawyer.

  2. From an American perspective – excluding Jonathan Pollard’s case – Hanan Efrati is advocating punishment of a class of people rather than judging the merits of an individual’s case. Such behavior would never be permitted in a Western democracy – excluding the Jonathan Pollard case. He has engaged in politics from the bench and has created a system not dissimilar to Russia, China or other totalitarian countries that control their populations through fear and coercion. It is time to overhaul the judicial system in Israel so that judges cannot set policy, but only be guided by the laws of the country as clearly stated by the Knesset.

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