"They took my shoes and beat me with a crowbar," says Walla Bayach, an Israeli of Ethiopian descent living in Be'er Sheva, who says that inspectors from Israel's Population and Immigration Authority assaulted him on Wednesday thinking he was a migrant.
The Population and Immigration Authority presented a different version of the incident, saying that Bayach had assaulted the Immigration inspectors first after they asked him to present identification documents.
Israel Police Commissioner Yochanan Danino met with Israeli Ethiopian representatives on Thursday in light of the recent violent incidents between police officers and members of the community.
Bayach left Ethiopia for Israel two years ago. The Be'er Sheva resident was on his way to the city's employment bureau to obtain a Letter of Good Standing (a certificate of absence of criminal record) before entering a new job, when three inspectors in civilian clothes approached him.
"They asked me if I was Sudanese or Eritrean and I told them I was Israeli, although I didn't understand who they were," he told Ynet. "They did not identify themselves, grabbed me violently, twisted my arm and put handcuffs on me."
Bayach says that the inspectors continued to act violently after he was restrained in handcuffs. "They knocked me down, removed my shoes and beat my feet with a crowbar."
"Then, they removed the handcuffs, pulled out my ID card and told me get into a car. I was very scared, I didn't know who these people who assaulted me were, and I ran to the city's employment bureau."
Bayach was questioned by the police about his account of the incident and was taken to the hospital for medical treatment.
"I still don't know what I am guilty of. I never stole or hurt anyone," he said.
Moshe Bata, the director of the Ibim Immigrant Absorption Center in Shaar HaNegev, met with Bayach on Thursday morning. "He is a noble man and a father to four children," Bata told Ynet.
"I don't believe that he attacked the inspectors. I know him well, he wouldn't hurt a fly. There were incidents in the past in which immigrants from Ethiopia were mistaken for asylum seekers. There are some people in the Israeli society who are racist towards Ethiopian immigrants."
The Population and Immigration Authority rejected Bayach's claims and said they were false: "In fact, a completely opposite scenario took place. The Immigration inspectors asked Bayach to identify himself as part of their routine operations. He refused to do so and started to assault the inspectors, forcing one of them to seek medical attention. The inspectors filed a complaint and it is being examined."
Protesting police brutality
The alleged attack on Bayach in Be'er Sheva joins a series of recent incidents in which Jews of Ethiopian origin were beaten by law enforcement officers.
Earlier this week, a video surfaced showing an officer carrying out an apparently unprovoked attack on an Ethiopian-Israeli IDF soldier in Holon.
In January, Avraham Mahari, an Israeli of Ethiopian origin from Be'er Sheva, said that officers poured boiling water over him while he was being interrogated. He later filed a complaint with the Police Investigations Department.
Israelis of Ethiopian origin plan on staging a protest Thursday evening against the recent incidents of police violence against members of the community.