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July 4, 2019 10:19 am

Israeli Commissioner: ‘Rioters Exploited Our Willingness to Allow Legitimate Protests’

avatar by Israel Hayom /

Acting Israel Police Commissioner Maj. Gen. Moti Cohen speaks at the Israel Police Independence Day ceremony in Jerusalem on May 5, 2019. Photo: Flash90. – Acting Israel Police Commissioner Maj. Gen. Moti Cohen sent a message to police officers on Wednesday ahead of another wave of protests by Ethiopian Israelis, after protests on Tuesday turned violent, referring to protesters as “lawbreakers,” according to Israeli daily Israel Hayom.

Cohen’s message read: “We are in the midst of an ongoing national police mission, one that is important and complicated. As the police force of a democratic, law-abiding state, we are obligated to preserve the delicate balance between allowing legitimate protests and cracking down on those who break the law. As professionals, we are obligated to restraint and containment.”

The acting police chief discussed protesters’ violence against police officers on Tuesday, saying, “There is the law and there is a way to protest. Along with the rights of the demonstrators, there is an obligation to uphold the rights of the public and the citizens. There is no place for attacks on representatives of the government, on institutions or against property, and there is certainly no place for unchecked rampaging.

“In the past two days … you, the police, have conducted yourselves admirably, with determination, professionalism and bravery. Some of you were even wounded during violent protests and continued to function alongside your comrades.”

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Cohen said that some of the demonstrators “exploited our willingness to allow legitimate protests, and were very violent with police and civilians as they rioted and blocked roads. We will not allow riots, roadblocks or violence. We will continue to be careful about proportionality and in differentiating between those who want to protest, as is their legal right in a democratic state, and those who incite to and perpetrate violence.”

Cohen warned police that the protests were not over, and they would face “additional challenges.” He said he trusted the police force to continue acting professionally and sent his wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded.

Earlier on Wednesday, the father of Solomon Tekah, a young Ethiopian-Israeli man who was fatally shot by a police officer in Kiryat Haim on Sunday, sparking the current protests, called on activists to avoid violence.

“I want to thank the Israeli people for their support of us,” said David Tekah. “I’m asking the demonstrators not to use violence, and I am calling on the police to behave with restraint and tolerance. I can’t have my son back, but we want there to be a fair trial and a just legal system. Let my son be the last, and let no more children be killed.”

Meanwhile, Nitzan Horowitz, chairman of the far-left Meretz Party, said on Wednesday in a Facebook post that Tuesday’s protests were “mild compared to what happened,” referring to police violence against the Ethiopian community.

“Everyone should support these protests because it’s not only for the Ethiopian community; it’s a fight for our freedom to live in this country without fear,” wrote Horowitz.

“This protest could not be more justified. But there are already those who are calling it ‘wild and dangerous.‘ They do the same for every protest, by the way. Always. Because they simply can’t stand protests and want everyone to keep their heads down,” he continued.

Horowitz said that the people who were “wild and dangerous” were the “police who fired without reason, who beat civilians.”

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