Steinitz Rebukes EU for Asking Probe of Injured Activist

israel human rights
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Meretz MK Issawi Frej speaking in the Knesset Wednesday. MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler (UTJ) is in the speaker’s chair. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz loosed a sharp rebuke against the European Union on Wednesday over its request for a probe into the injury of an Arab human-rights activist at the hands of police during a protest demonstration.

The contretemps with the EU concerned alleged police brutality against Jafar Farah, chairman of the Mossawa rights group, one of 21 people arrested in the demonstration last Friday in Haifa to protest the bloodshed in Gaza. Farah claimed that a police officer kicked him and broke his knee while he was being held in a detention facility.

EU spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said that it was “important, as supported by the Israeli government, to conduct a swift investigation into circumstances surrounding events last week in Haifa … The European Union continues to stand for an open and conducive environment for civil society, within Europe, in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territory and around the world.”

“I’m still talking in a friendly tone, but it’s the height of insolence, the height of hypocrisy,” Steinitz told Radio 103, in reference to the EU statement.

Steinitz blamed the Palestinians for an uptick in EU criticism of Israel, saying that Hamas and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas have been “leveraging” the deaths of Palestinians in rioting along the Gaza border.

Most of the fatalities were members of Hamas and other terror groups, as the groups themselves have admitted.

Otherwise, he maintained, “I don’t see any change or new trend as far as Israel is concerned. Europe, over recent years, has sometimes been very annoying, but has been more friendly toward Israel than ever before.”

However, he said that the EU gives a misleading impression, that it “does not really represent the important countries in Europe. It’s less friendly than Europe itself.”

Meanwhile, the Knesset threw out a proposal by MK Issawi Frej (Meretz) to designate a parliamentary committee to investigate the Haifa incident.

In an acrimonious session, Frej traded insults with Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who defended the police.

Erdan said afterwards: “Regarding the demonstrations, some of them did not apply for a permit, and the police did not receive any preliminary information about the intention to block roads. The police told me that during some of the demonstrations, a large number of demonstrators rioted, blocked main traffic arteries, shouted abuse and even used violence, causing damage to private property and endangering human life. The violent behavior of the demonstrators was documented. Several demonstrators were arrested; and the police are currently working with the State Prosecutor’s Office to formulate indictments,” he was quoted by Arutz Sheva as saying.

“This is no reason to lash out at all the work of the Israel Police, so I do not understand how MK Frej says on the one hand that he is not biased, and on the other hand reads a headline from the newspaper of one policeman; and that is what reflects the Israel Police,” he added.

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