A descendant from the horse: the motorbike is affordable and a nippy way of getting around. Its use, growing, unnerves Israeli police,
‘You’re suspected of stealing a motorcycle,’ one of the cops said as he beat me. I told him I owned the bike and I was the one who’d called the police, but he kept calling me ‘Mohammed” and two other cops started kicking me.
By Michael Mansour, Haaretz premium
August 18, 2017
You never know how an evening might turn out that begins with an intimate dinner along the Israeli sea. The Manta Ray restaurant, located where Tel Aviv and Jaffa meet, was full on that Sunday evening three weeks ago, as it always is, with the elegant, international clientele that frequents it. The fish that I ordered was delicious and the atmosphere was serene. There was no hint I would end the evening wallowing in my own blood, humiliated and in restraints.
Because I had drunk a little over dinner and the sun had not yet set, I decided to take a walk on the seafront promenade and leave my motorcycle at the restaurant, on which I had driven there. A short time later I got a call from a friend who works there. “Michael, listen,” he said. “Your motorcycle isn’t here. I think it’s been stolen.”
Because I was no longer near the restaurant, I called my brother, Peter, and asked him to go to Manta Ray. He rushed to the area and after talking to several passersby, told me that some of them had seen people dragging the motorcycle away.
In the past, every time the pampered cats that hang around outside the café that I own in an expensive, mixed Arab-Jewish part of Jaffa spread themselves out on my motorcycle, I would get a notification from my alarm company. But this time, even though the cycle was dragged a considerable distance, I never heard from them. I called the company to notify them of the theft, but a short time later I was pleased to be informed that Peter had already found it — thrown on a sidewalk. My helmet was missing.
The Yasam (Hebrew: יס”מ) is the Israel Police Special Patrol Unit. This motorbike squadron is a riot police unit dedicated to continuous security, riot and crowd control, and other special operations.
I grabbed a cab and called the police to let them know that the motorcycle had been found, and I asked that they come to take fingerprints. It was already dark when I saw three men in civilian clothes approach me. In truth, I didn’t attach any particular importance to them. My sights were set in the distance, looking to see if the police were getting close.
The three men came closer and one of them started rushing at me. With great force, he knocked me to the ground, turned me over and handcuffed me. He identified himself as a policeman and started punching me in the back. Three or four other men showed up suddenly behind my brother, who was standing closer to the motorcycle. They pounced on him, handcuffed him and started hitting him. One of the men also called for reinforcements.
“You’re suspected of stealing a motorcycle,” one of the men told me as he beat me. Every time I tried to explain that I was the owner of the bike and that I was the one who had called the police, he would say, “Shut your mouth. I’ll screw you. Not a word!” As he continued to hit me, referring to me constantly as “Mohammed,” two other men began kicking me from the sidelines.
I felt totally helpless, saying nothing, sustaining the blows and only wishing that they would stop. Ultimately they were good enough to check to see if I really was the owner of the motorcycle, and, surprise, surprise, it turned out that indeed I am.
While I was still in restraints, one of the policemen picked me up off the ground, but didn’t take the cuffs off. He took me over to the motorcycle.
“What are you doing?” I asked. “Give me my property back. I’m going to complain to Machash,” the Justice Ministry’s police-misconduct investigation unit. “You interest me as much as my left nut,” he replied.
The men then said they were sorry, explaining that it was a case of mistaken identity. If they had really caught the thieves, we would have kissed them for it, they said, as if they were doing us a favour.
I asked for their personal details. Some complied. Others didn’t. I told one policeman, who was also in civilian dress, that he was a disgrace to his police uniform, meaning that he had exploited his authority as a policeman.
“Either you seem to want to eat a little more sand from the ground or you want to spend the night in jail,” he replied. “I don’t care about you or Machash.”
My brother had been wearing shorts and flip-flops. His legs were covered with blood and he had a bump on his head. Fortunately I wore jeans that day. The incident left me with red marks and bruises on my arms and neck, cuts on my legs and scratches on my head. For a long time it was hard to move my head from side to side and my back still hurts. My brother and I went straight to the hospital, where they took X-rays.
I went to Machash the next day to file an official complaint. I have to say they were very efficient and took me seriously. They even went with me to the location of the incident so I could explain what I had gone through.
I actually hadn’t intended to write this article, but a regular customer of mine who works at the newspaper convinced me to. After writing about the incident on Facebook in Arabic, Jewish customers from my café didn’t stop asking me about it. Maybe they used Google Translate. I’ve probably had 50 people ask me about it. Every time, I have to start from the beginning, even though I don’t feel like recalling what happened and rehashing the details. Maybe now I won’t have to describe it again.
Michael Mansour is owner of the Finjan café in Jaffa.