WATCH: Police brutality in East Jerusalem mini-market

All the Salman family wanted to do was sit in their grocery store and have a nice lunch. That all changed when police stormed the place, tasered one and arrested three.

By Michael Salisbury-Coresh

On Tuesday May 26, Israeli Police arrested a group of Palestinians without entry permits in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa. Two brothers from the Salman family, who own a mini-market in the middle of the neighborhood, saw the arrests on the other side of the road and continued arranging the store unimpeded.

When the Salman family sat down to have lunch in their store at around 11:00 a.m., a man dressed in civilian clothing and armed with a taser ran inside.

“It looked like he was about to use the taser and I asked him if something happened,” said Talal Salman, who works in the store with his brother. “He told me that he is from the police and that he is conducting a search. So I told him to show me his police ID as well as a search warrant. If he didn’t have those I would ask him to leave. He refused to identify himself and demanded my ID. I told him that I have no problem giving him my identification card, and then he was joined by another police officer, this time in uniform, who asked what happened. The first officer said that I had attacked him and was refusing to identify.”

When Talal called his wife to ask that she bring his identification card, the officer in civilian clothing demanded he be arrested for assaulting an officer.”I have a disability, and I was very afraid of being arrested. I also didn’t understand how it turned from a situation in which a person enters my store with a taser in his hand to one in which I am arrested for assaulting a police officer. I refused to be arrested, and told the officers that they have no reason to do so.”

But the detectives and the officer involved were not willing to listen and, according to Talal, began violently attacking him and his brother Bilal. “They punched and kicked us, and then tasered me several times.” Other family members ran to the store and joined the chaos, including Bilal and Talal’s brother, Abed.

According to the brothers, the violence didn’t end even after reaching the Moriah Police Station. “The detectives in the station continued to curse at me. They told me ‘God will take you, we won’t leave you, will will continue to chase you.'” Bilal said that a number of detectives demanded he get down on his knees as punishment for attacking soldiers. When he refused they began beating him once again. “They told me that if I don’t kneel down they will add another charge that I pulled a gun on them. This was a form of punishment. They also made the handcuffs extremely tight on my hands and legs. I was in great pain after sitting on my knees like that for an hour.”

Read: The real roots of violence in Jerusalem

Both brothers were interrogated for suspicion of attacking a police officer and obstructing a police officer in the line of duty. They were left in the Russian Compound prison overnight and were released the following morning on conditions.

That same day the two brothers went to submit a complaint with the Israeli Police internal affairs division, despite being skeptical about how much good it would do. Bilal claims that he doubts that the police will stand trial for violence. “The internal affairs division simply helps frame suspects. They back each other up.” Talal, on the other hand, believes that the complaint will have an effect: “I think the state understands that if the situation in which the police attack civilians persists, what happened in Egypt will also happen here. Why did the revolution in Egypt start? Because of police brutality. The fact that I’m Arab makes no difference — the police attack everybody. Only a few months ago I saw a video of police attacking a Jewish man in Beit Shemesh and putting his face under the engine of a car. He was also charged with attacking a police officer.”

Jerusalem Police responded to the allegations:

Our investigation revealed that the suspects fled to the store, where they resisted arrest and those present attempted to prevent the police officers from conducting the arrests. The officers were resigned to use proportional force and arrested three suspects. Jerusalem Police will continue to act professionally and decisiveness toward lawbreakers, and will not allow harm to come to police officers during their service for the sake of the public. However, the suspects can turn to the internal affairs division, which will evaluate their claims, should there be any.

Michael Salisbury-Coresh is an anti-occupation and public housing activist based in Jerusalem. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

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