Video: Israeli police wrestle US citizen to ground, put knee on his neck

In this video which appears to have been shot on “Jerusalem Day” — marked this earlier this month by thousands of right-wing Israeli settlers who provocatively marched in Jerusalem — a young American Jew states his solidarity with the Palestinian people before being roughly arrested by Israeli police.

He says to the camera: “I say to the people of Israel that they must join the world consensus: the entire world has decided that the occupation must end.”

“My government is responsible and I’m here to say not in my name and not in the name of US citizens,” he adds.

The video also shows Israeli police attempting to seize the young man’s passport. At 20 seconds in, the video shows the young man being grabbed from the crowd by Israeli police who wrestle him to the ground. An officer puts his knee on the young man’s neck before his dragged by the kuffiyeh (the traditional checkered Palestinian scarf) he is wearing and loaded into a police truck. The police also confiscate his kuffiyeh.

The video does not mention the young man’s name or give an update about his situation. Will the US State Department attempt to track his whereabouts like they have tried to do with the Gay Girl in Damascus blogger? The blogger, who went by the name Amina, claimed to be a US citizen in Syria but now appears to have been a hoax and her reported arrest by armed men in Syria a fabrication. Someone claiming to be a US consular officer posted this query in the comments section of the Gay Girl in Damascus blog:

Or will the young man in this video be treated with indifference by the US State Department like Munib Masri, the young American citizen in Lebanon who was critically injured by Israeli fire during last month’s Nakba Day march? I blogged earlier this week about an exchange between a reporter and a US State Department spokesperson during a daily press briefing in which the spokesperson tries to evade commenting on Masri and his condition.

It’s hard to be optimistic that the US government will investigate the circumstances of the arrest of the young man in the video, given its total lack of effective action regarding the killing of US citizens Rachel Corrie, crushed by an Israeli bulldozer while defending a Palestinian family’s home in Gaza in 2003, and Furkan Dogan, executed by Israeli commandos who stormed the Gaza Freedom Flotilla’s Mavi Marmara in international waters last year.

It is clear that Palestinian lives are worthless to the US government, which gives a blank check to Israel each year, whether there is a Democrat or Republican administration, and shields Israel from any accountability at the UN or any other international arena. And it is clear that the welfare of US citizens is also expendable to preserve the special relationship between the US and its client state in the Middle East.

Jerusalem Day: “state-sponsored racism and hatred”

On Jerusalem Day, during which the young American man was arrested, thousands of Israelis truimphantly marched through East Jerusalem shouting slogans such as “The Jewish nation lives,” “Muhammad is Dead,” “Death to the Arabs,” and “Death to Leftists” as videos from the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity group document. Rather than Israeli security forces stopping them, they marchers were allowed to rampage through Palestinian neighborhoods unmolested.


The young man in the video was identified by Adam Horowitz at Mondoweiss to be Lucas Koerner (who participated in a delegation to Palestine that Horowitz helped lead). Koerner, a 19-year-old student at Tufts University and an activist with Students for Justice in Palestine, describes his arrest on his blog. Here’s an excerpt (his blog says an account of his time in Israeli jail is forthcoming):

I myself had elected to wear, along with my keffiyeh, a kippah adorned with a small Palestinian flag. This last article of clothing on my head contributed, I believe, more than anything else to the climate of collective bewilderment, especially among the youth. For them, Judaism and its physical symbol, the kippah, were inseparably bound up with the particular strain of ethno-religious nationalism associated with the state of Israel. It simply never occurred to them that a Jewish person would, in the name of Jewish ethics, stand in solidarity  with the oppressed Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom. I feel that it was precisely this cognitive dissonance on a societal level that formed the motivation for my arrest. 

As we walked up and down the sidewalk, waving our peace signs, many Palestinians of all ages approached to join us. With twenty or thirty people now gathered on the sidewalk facing the parade, we turned over leadership of what had become a demonstration to Palestinian activists, and we happily clapped and danced to their songs and chants. Standing on two feet high pylons, we tried to maintain our visibility as internationals in order to confer as much protection as possible to the Palestinians. The demonstration remained totally peaceful - just singing, whistling, and clapping. In fact, much to the chagrin of the paraders, we often danced to their music. Many Palestinians, fascinated with my kippah, approached me and exclaimed, “I love you”.  For a moment, a space was opened for Palestinians to freely gather in their own streets and protest, peacefully demanding their basic rights. We were soon to learn just how brief that moment would be. 

Suddenly, the police moved in without warning of any kind. Officers on horseback came so close to the sidewalk, nearly hitting some of the demonstrators. I stepped down from the pylon. In that instant, my impulse to flee was counteracted by the firm realization that, standing on a sidewalk waving a peace sign, I had every right to be there, and if I fled, who would stand with the Palestinians? I stepped back up on the pylon. Moments later, an Israeli police officer ran up, seized me, and dragged me to the other side of the street. He then punched me in the face, put me in a choke hold, and with four other officers, slammed me to the ground. I was eventually handcuffed and carried to the car; I allowed my body to go limp and refused to walk on my own in a gesture of nonviolent defiance. Throughout the whole affair, the only thing audible coming from the policemen was a constant stream of curses words, “motherfucker”, “piece of shit”, etc., which was to me a ringing confirmation of how infuriated and threatened they were by a 19-year old wearing a kippah and a keffiyeh standing with the Palestinians.





I can tell you the American government cares to a point. They were much better than I would have ever expected about my situation. At the same time if this happened in Iran I would be on the front page of the New York Times.


A suggestion for the next time Israelis use this slogan. Have bi-lingual posters/placards in Arabic and Hebrew ready that read "Yes, Muhammed IS dead, but so are Isaiah, Jeremiah, David, Solomon, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob".

Ridicule is a surprisingly effective weapon.

Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.