Jewish National Fund - We Only Have ONE ISRAEL

Open Letter: Rabin's Police Brutality

August 2, 1995

Mr. Uzi Gafni
Israel Ministry of Tourism
16th Floor
800 Second Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10017

Dear Mr. Gafni:

I recently returned from a trip to Israel with a group of tourists, where I encountered a shocking experience. The group had decided to visit sixteen teenagers from Hebron who were arrested and imprisoned at the Russian Compound in Yerushalayim. Upon our arrival at the Courthouse, we proceeded to enter in an orderly fashion, going through the metal detectors, and following the normal procedure for entrance. We carried no signs, and kept our voices at a speaking level. There were about fifty of us crowded into the narrow hallway outside the courtroom, and despite the heat and the disappointment about being unable to bring some drinks and light refreshment to the children, there was an orderly atmosphere.

An argument apparently broke out between one member of our group and a police officer. Instead of handling the situation in an appropriate fashion, the officer immediately called for four or five others to help him pummel, punch, and carry the young man, Shlomo Ben Zakeen, off to the jail. I witnessed the attack on Shlomo, and was so caught up in it that I was unaware of what was happening at the other end of the hall. There, policemen were abusing other members of my group, knocking them down, punching, kicking, etc. When the melee was over, many were bruised and battered. Walter Zakes (of Texas), a Christian traveling with us, was taken to the hospital with a severely bleeding eye, needing the aid of oxygen. Then I learned that my son, (attorney) Barry Freedman, had also been arrested.

When I was finally allowed to see my son being interrogated in the jail house, I was appalled to see his shirt ripped to shreds, and bruises on his chest. Witnesses in the group reported that they were stunned to see Barry being attacked and brutalized by the police. Not one of the group saw him do anything to provoke such action. After a full day of contacting lawyers, Itzhak Shamir, Ehud Olmert, Terry Leech, at the American Consulate, and the press, Barry and Shlomo were released.

When we were able to rejoin the tour group, two days later, everyone was recovering from his wounds, and very concerned about getting the story out to the American and Israeli public. Forty of us filed affidavits with the American Consulate, and a few of us were successful in filing complaints at the Police Investigation Bureau at 11 Bet Hatfuse Street, Yerushalayim. When twenty of us showed up at the Machlekhet Ha'Chakirot to lodge our complaints, we were told that they would have to be delivered one by one. Walter Zakes was the first one interviewed. Three hours after he entered, he emerged. In the interim, most of the people had left, discouraged.

I returned the next day, determined to lodge my complaint. I then understood why each testimony took so long. The "English speaking" interrogator worked with an antiquated typewriter that looked as though it came from a toy store. Typing with ONE FINGER, he translated my complaint into Hebrew. The process took two hours. It struck me as a deliberate procedure to keep people from speaking out. Surely, in a country as modern as Israel, a leader in so many technical innovations, a system better than the one we encountered could be devised. Yes - there is a complaint bureau. Does it work? - NO.

The above is just a brief outline of my experiences on my trip to Israel July 11-27, 1995. There is so much more I could write about the fear that grips the entire country - the distrust of the government determined to destroy its own people, and the total lack of a feeling of safety in the land. While we were there a bus was blown up in Ramat Gan in another terrorist attack. All of Israel is in danger from this disastrous "piece" accord. The by-pass roads and tunnels being built for Israeli free passage will only provide terrorists with more specific targets for their heinous deeds.


A Jewish mother in mourning,

Helen Freedman

Mr. Gafni's Response

Dear Ms. Freedman:

Please be advised that I have read your letter dated August 2, 1995, expressing your deep concerns regarding recent events in Israel. it will be forwarded immediately to the proper authorities in Jersusalem.


Uzi Gafni
Consul for Tourism Affairs
Northeastern Region

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