JERUSALEM (AP) — A video circulating online shows Israeli police punching a member of parliament and wrestling him to the ground at a protest against planned evictions in east Jerusalem on Friday.
The video shows a scuffle between Israeli police and Ofer Cassif, the only Jewish member of the Joint List, an alliance of Arab parties in Israel’s Knesset. The police can be seen punching him and trying to put him in a headlock before dragging him to the ground. One of the officers can later be seen briefly kneeling on his chest.
Cassif was left with a swollen eye, his shirt torn. Ahmad Tibi, a fellow lawmaker from the Joint List, was among those sharing the video of the scuffle on Twitter, calling it a “brutal assault” and a violation of parliamentary immunity.
Israeli police said in a statement that Cassif attacked the policemen, who used “reasonable force” in response and released him as soon as they identified him as a member of parliament. It said Jerusalem’s police chief, Doron Turgeman, has ordered an investigation into the incident.
Cassif was taking part in a weekly protest in the mostly Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where rights groups say dozens of people are at risk of being evicted after a long court battle with Jewish settler groups. Jewish and Palestinian activists have been holding small weekly protests against the threatened evictions.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognized by most of the international community. Israel views the entire city as its unified capital, while the Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state.
An Israeli court recently ordered the eviction of 58 people, 17 of them children, from seven houses in Sheikh Jarrah, according to the Israeli anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now.
The families are Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation who Peace Now says took up residence in the neighborhood under an agreement with Jordan, which controlled east Jerusalem from 1948 until 1967.
Peace Now says settler groups are pushing for their eviction by arguing that the land belonged to Jews prior to 1948. Israel supports the return of Jews to lands they lost in the 1948 war while barring Palestinians from doing the same.
Some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in what is now Israel during the 1948 war. They and their descendants now number more than 5.8 million and are scattered across the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Their fate is one of the most divisive issues in the Middle East conflict.