Police chided for response to riots

Barakei demands police restrain "fascistic" Right; Sarsur: If rioters were Arab we'd be counting dead.

By ETGAR LEFKOVITS
March 17, 2008 12:24
4 minute read.
Police chided for response to riots

Barakei 248 88. (photo credit: Knesset )

In an unusual move, two former Jerusalem police chiefs on Monday criticized the police's response to a heated right-wing protest in an Arab neighborhood of east Jerusalem a day earlier, saying police were not prepared for the violent confrontation that ensued. The bitter Sunday evening protest in Jebl Mukaber ended in violence after dozens of far-right Israelis pelted stones at Arab property and scuffled with police as they tried to approach the neighborhood home of the terrorist who murdered eight young students in Mercaz Harav Yeshiva on March 6. Former Jerusalem police chief Mickey Levy said Monday that it was "inconceivable" that police were taken by surprise over a demonstration that was advertised well in advance on city billboards. "The district police didn't need to be surprised. There was no need to collect intelligence; it was right there in the palm of their hand," Levy said in an interview on Army Radio. "Appropriate preparation was called for in order to prevent the violent demonstration," he said. Levy added that permitting riots of this nature to develop in the capital is "simply unthinkable." "This can lead us to anarchy, and we cannot allow it," he said. "There was enough time to prepare for the events in Jebl Mukaber, and it was clear to everyone what was going to happen," concurred former city police chief Arieh Amit. "This incident was simply poorly handled." Jerusalem police beefed up their outnumbered forces in and around the Arab neighborhood shortly after the protest turned violent, as police - some of whom had started leaving the site - were overcome by a small group of protesters who slipped into the neighborhood from nearby side streets and began rioting. By Monday, with a heightened police presence in the area, the violence had apparently subsided. Joining in on the chorus of condemnation, Arab parliamentarians on Monday also blasted the police's failure to contain the protesters. "If it were Arab protesters we would have been counting the dead," United Arab List chairman Ibrahim Sarsour said. "The police's hesitant response is a sign of callousness and contempt towards Arabs." Hadash chairman Muhammad Barakei called the rioting "pogroms" perpetrated by "fascists." "The sights that we were witness to yesterday are a dangerous escalation in the activities of the extreme right, who were aided, both covertly and overtly, by the police and security forces," Barakei said. "The pogroms perpetrated by fascistic groups are not only the result of the unruliness of the fascistic right but also the rotten fruit of the government's policies, which nurtures these groups and sabotages any progress towards peace and calm," he added. The protest began after several hundred far-right activists gathered at the Sherover Promenade in Jerusalem's East Talpiot neighborhood, above Jebl Mukaber, with placards reading "Expel the Arab enemy." Most of the the demonstrators were prevented by police from entering the Arab neighborhood. But, taking police by surprise, dozens of protesters managed to slip in via nearby side streets and alleyways in the adjacent Jewish neighborhood. On Monday afternoon, 18 of the 22 protesters who were arrested on the scene Sunday were brought to a Jerusalem court for a remand hearing, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court extended the remand of five of the six adults suspected of taking part in the disturbance by two days, while a sixth was freed but ordered to stay out of the Arab neighborhood for the next 15 days, police said. The remand of five of the minors was extended by another 24 hours, while the other seven were released on bail and ordered to stay away from the neighborhood. The assailant in the yeshiva massacre, Ala Abu Dhaim, 25, was killed at the scene of the attack and was later buried in his village. Israeli right-wingers and relatives of the mostly teenage victims have urged the government to demolish the home of the attacker, and are distressed that, 10 days after the shooting, the government is not supporting the demolition. Israel used to destroy houses of terrorists, but stopped the controversial practice after a 2005 study showed that instead of deterring others from anti-Israel activity, it actually spurred militancy. 250,000 Arabs live in east Jerusalem, and make up one-third of the city's population. The fact that the yeshiva attack was carried out by a Jerusalem resident renewed concerns among some Israelis that the Arab residents of the city were serving as a fifth column. Until now, the vast majority of the city's Arab residents have largely stayed away from Palestinian violence, preferring instead to focus on their jobs and the social benefits Israel offers them as city residents, such as health care, unemployment pay, and social security. Still, most of the terror attacks in the city over the last seven years were carried out with the assistance of east Jerusalem residents, who are unhindered by the travel restrictions facing Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.


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