The Cops of Chelm (*)


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The police captured an olive thief red-handed, but managed to spectacularly foul up the investigation, while impounding the olives as evidence

One morning in October 2009, T. went to pick the olives from the land he rented, near to Hawara. He noticed two Jews picking olives from his trees, but, assuming they were only taking a small amount, he ignored them. His suspicions were aroused when he noticed them the next day as well. On the third day, October 14th, he called the police.

The cops arrived after a long delay, and chased the thieves. They captured one of them, A., while the other one escaped. On the scene, the cops found several bags with names stitched onto them and full of olives; harvesting tools; drums filled with more olives, a vehicle; and also some marijuana and a bong. T. asked for his olives back; the cops told him they were confiscated as evidence.

A. provided the cops with a strange tale (we should note that the second page of his statement is missing from the copy of the investigation file we received, probably due to the police’s stellar record of record-keeping). He said he came to the place regularly in order to meditate. He went into a nearby house, and was completely surprised, upon leaving, to find the bags – which he admitted were his – full of olives. He has no idea how that came about. And besides, he said, the police officer who arrested him was an Arab and shouted at him to stop, or he’ll shoot.

About a week later, the police reached the second suspect, N. – which wasn’t particularly difficult, given his name was also stitched onto one of the bags. N. denied any involvement – I would do the same in his shoes – and presented the police with an alibi, which was somewhat hesitantly supported by his boss. One notes he had a week to prepare this alibi. The police did not bother to take the basic step of an identification lineup, and N. went home free and happy.

And then, errrr, nothing. In July 2010, i.e. nine months after the incident, goddess knows why, the investigators take a statement from the second policeman involved in the arrest of A. Two months later – 11 months after the incident – the investigators use the services of a mapping expert to ascertain that the plot from which the olives were stolen is indeed rented to T.

Then, on August 2011 – only 22 months after the incident – the investigators summon the victim, T., to an investigation. He is asked to show the investigators the rental agreement for the land. T., who does not understand what happened here, who does not understand how the police turned the case upside down, from the theft of olives by two Jews to a case in which he is semi-suspected of unlawfully working someone else’s land, is outraged. What do you want from me, he asks; I registered a complaint two years ago. You had a suspect. What do you want with me?

A week later, A. is summoned to a give a second statement. He repeats his strange version of the events: yes, the bags were his, but he did not fill them with olives, he went meditating and the “locals” filled them with olives in order to frame him.

And that’s it. That’s the sum of in the investigative actions in the file. On December 25th2012, that is 16 months after the last investigative action and more than three years after the incident, the police closed the file for “lack of public interest.” Not lack of evidence, not lack of guilt, not due to “perpetrator unknown” – lack of public interest.

We recently received the file – the police, in its famous efficiency, informed us of the closing of the case three months after it did so – and the recommendation of our lawyers is not to appeal. It’s been four years, after all. Who remembers what precisely happened? Who can be expected to identify the suspects? And, in the end, you are left with olives lovingly grown by their owners, confiscated as evidence by a police force incapable of recognizing evidence and left to rot, unused. Like the entire Samaria and Judea District Police.

(*) In European Jewish humor, Chelm – a small town in Poland – was populated by complete morons, who yet thought themselves to be sages.

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