Israel police accused of ‘political’ traffic law enforcement in West Bank 11Aug13 August 11, 2013

Haaretz    -     10 August 2013

3902839750A human rights activist has accused Israel Police of politically-motivated traffic law enforcement in the West Bank, a region where police are often charged with turning a blind eye to traffic violations.

Ezra Nawi, a member of the Jewish-Arab Taayush organization, said that he had been a victim of petty faultfinding and repeatedly fined for minor offenses while driving on West Bank roads, which according to him was related to his political activities.

One such incident was in March. According to Nawi, he was driving through the southern Hebron Hills on the way to a Palestinian community he was helping when he noticed that an army jeep was following him. When he pulled over, so did the jeep, and when he started driving again, the jeep did too, driving slowly ahead of him on purpose. Every time Nawi tried to pass the vehicle, it sped up. Finally he managed to pass, partly in a no-passing zone.

As soon as Nawi overtook the jeep, he was ordered to pull over. A traffic policeman emerged from the army jeep and gave Nawi a ticket and summons to appear in traffic court. Nawi’s lawyer, Leah Tzemel, told the court that Nawi was the victim of police harassment because of his left-wing political activities.

One of the witnesses, the reserve officer who was driving the army vehicle, said that it was “a kind of a mission” to get Nawi to pass them. When Tzemel pressed him he declined to answer, saying: “ I don’t want to incriminate myself.” When asked whether it was usual practice for a police officer to ride in a military vehicle, the reservist said it was not.

Earlier this week, Judge Miriam Kaslasy dismissed the charges against Nawi, though it is yet unclear whether it was because she agreed that the charges against Nawi were incommensurate or that they amounted to premeditated and purposeful harassment.

Nawi has received numerous tickets in recent months. In one incident where he parked near Susya Junction, leaving his car running while he chatted with a Palestinian friend, a policeman cited him for leaving a running car unattended. In another instance, near the settlement of Yatir, Nawi left his car at the side of the road and began walking up to the settlement, along the shoulder, and he was cited for walking on the shoulder of the road. Traffic police also stopped him at one point for a “safety check” of his vehicle, citing him for a “broken fender” and fining him NIS 1,000.

Nawi is not the only victim of ardently vigilant police in certain cases of traffic violations. When the settlers of Yitzhar clash with their Palestinian neighbors in so-called “price tag” incidents, traffic police arrive at the settlement and give out citations to drivers going in and out of it.

Last year, Yitzhar resident Eran Schwartz was cited for parking on the side of the road while he was filming the police giving out tickets. When Schwartz appealed the citation in court, Judge Abraham Tennenbaum harshly criticized the police conduct.

“This was not reasonable conduct, but behavior that must not happen,” the judge wrote. “It is completely clear to me that the defendant had abided by police instructions. In the case before us the road is minor and the shoulders are wide so that even if the defendant parked there he wasn’t obstructing the traffic. Moreover, the police themselves were parked there. Without discounting the seriousness of parking on the shoulder, it’s clear to me that no one has ever been given a ticket for parking on the shoulder at that point since time immemorial.”

West Bank Palestinians, on the other hand, have been charged with traffic offenses only in accidents were people are killed or in cases of hit-and-run drivers. Wild driving in the region has claimed victims: Last month alone, two Palestinians were killed when a car passed in a no-passing zone; and in 2012, 27 people were killed in traffic collisions.

The Samaria and Judea District police declined to comment on the matter.

If you liked this article, please consider making a donation to Australians for Palestine by clicking on the PayPal link
Thank You.
Bookmark and Share

Add a Comment

required, use real name
required, will not be published
optional, your blog address