An Israeli lawmaker said police beat him while participating in a protest against a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem annexed by Israel.
Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of the predominantly Arab party, was participating in a demonstration against the expansion of a Jewish settlement in Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem.
“They started beating me, they broke my glasses… they went crazy,” Cassif said in Channel 13 footage on Friday.
“They didn’t care that I was an MP,” he said.
Cassif appears in another video with a swollen eye, his shirt torn, wearing a broken pair of glasses.
Cassif spokesman Itai Aknin told AFP news agency that the injured lawmaker was taken to hospital and the protest was “peaceful and calm” before the police arrived.
According to a police statement, the first investigations showed that a protester had “attacked one of the police”.
“The attacker” was released after “it became clear that he was a member of parliament,” the statement added.
Ahmad Tibi, a parliamentary colleague from the Joint List, was among those who shared the video of the brawl on Twitter, calling it a “brutal assault” and a violation of parliamentary immunity.
Right-wing lawmaker Gideon Saar tweeted after the incident that “the brutal police violence against him (Cassif) is a deadly blow to parliament and parliamentary immunity.”
Saar, who has said he “despises” Cassif’s worldview, is a former loyalist to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and supports Israeli settlements.
Center opposition leader Yair Lapid called the incident “shocking” and urged police to investigate.
Rights groups say dozens of people face eviction from Sheikh Jarrah after a lengthy court battle with Jewish settler groups. Jewish and Palestinian activists staged small weekly protests against threats of evictions.
Israel seized East Jerusalem in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move unrecognized by the United Nations and most of the international community. Israel sees the entire city as its unified capital, while the Palestinian Authority wants East Jerusalem to be the capital of its future state.
An Israeli court recently ordered the eviction of 58 people, including 17 children, from seven homes in Sheikh Jarrah, according to Israeli anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now.
Sheikh Jarrah, located on the slopes of Mount Scopus just north of the Old City, is home to 3,000 Palestinians, all refugees who were ethnically cleansed from their homes in other parts of historic Palestine during the 1948 Nakba (the “catastrophe” in Arabic).
They took up residence in the neighborhood under an agreement with Jordan, which controlled East Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967.
Grassroots Jerusalem, an NGO that is a Palestinian community mobilization platform, previously told Al Jazeera that there has been an influx of Jewish settlers since 2001 “who are responsible for forced evictions and terrorism in the neighborhood.”
Since the 1970s, the Israeli government has been working to implement a “demographic balance” in Jerusalem at a 70-30 ratio, limiting the city’s Palestinian population to 30% or less.
This urban planning has been executed by a number of policies such as land confiscation, displacement and settlement of Palestinian neighborhoods.
Some 750,000 Palestinians fled or were forced to leave their homes in 1948 in anticipation of the establishment of Israel. Today there are more than 5.8 million, they and their descendants, scattered in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.