In Issawiya: ‘Police see no difference between Arab and dark-skinned man’

The killing of Obeid triggered violent clashes between dozens of Issawiya residents and policemen.

DATE IMPORTED: May 14, 2018 An Israeli police officer argues with a Palestinian woman outside Jerusalem's Old City's Damascus Gate, May 13, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
DATE IMPORTED: May 14, 2018 An Israeli police officer argues with a Palestinian woman outside Jerusalem's Old City's Damascus Gate, May 13, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
The killing of Ethiopian-Israeli teenager Solomon Tekah, who was shot by an off-duty police officer in Kiryat Haim on Tuesday evening, was yet another example of the authorities’ “negative attitude” toward Arabs and “blacks,” residents of the Isawiya neighborhood in east Jerusalem said on Wednesday.
The incident in Kiryat Haim occurred five days after police officers shot dead Mohammed Samir Obeid, 20, a resident of Isawiya. Police said Obeid, a former security prisoner, was shot after launching fireworks at policemen during clashes in the neighborhood.
The killing of Obeid triggered violent clashes between dozens of Isawiya residents and policemen. Sources in the village said at least 80 residents were injured during the clashes, which reached their peak after the young man’s funeral on Monday.
Tensions were still running high in the neighborhood on Wednesday, when posters glorifying Obeid as a “hero” and “martyr” were seen on many walls together with Palestinian flags.
The PLO’s Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), a small Palestinian Marxist-Leninist organization, has endorsed Obeid as one of its members. Along with the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction, the DFLP has always had a large following in Isawiya.
Located across the street from Hebrew University and Hadassah-University Medical Center on Mount Scopus, Isawiya is often referred to by its local activists as “The little Gaza” and “The Lions’ Den” because of frequent clashes between youths and police forces.
Some Isawiya residents have disputed the police version regarding the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of Obeid.
“He bought the fireworks in preparation for a wedding,” Ashraf Obeid, a relative of the slain man, told The Jerusalem Post. “It’s not unusual for people here to use fireworks at weddings and on other occasions, and the police are well aware of this phenomenon.”
Ashraf and other family members claimed that Obeid did not direct the fireworks toward the cops.
“The policemen were standing far from him, and there’s no way he could have endangered their lives,” said Akram Abu Sbeitan, who lives near the place where the shooting took place.
Although he did not witness the incident, Abu Sbeitan still believes that there was no reason for the police to use live ammunition.
“They could have fired tear gas or rubber bullets at Mohammed,” he added. “Where in the world do security forces kill someone for launching fireworks?”
Obeid’s older sister said she was at home on Friday night when she heard the shooting.
“I heard four bullets being shot,” she recalled. “The shooting was very close to our home. I rushed outside and saw many young men shouting and crying. When I tried to get closer to where they were, the men shouted at me to go away. Then one of them shouted at me: Your brother has been martyred! You should be proud.”
Several Isawiya residents are convinced that the police used live ammunition only because Obeid was an Arab.
“The police wouldn’t dare kill a Jew for launching fireworks,” said Widad Darwish, a local schoolteacher. “Look what happened when the Ethiopian Jews protested the killing of their son. The protesters rioted and set fire to police vehicles. They even attacked and overturned a police car, endangering the life of a policeman who was inside the vehicle. We didn’t see the police shoot any of the Ethiopian rioters. We all know why: because they’re Jews.”
Other residents, however, told the Post that the Tekah and Obeid killings was proof of the trigger-happy police policy toward Arabs and dark-skinned people.
“The two cases are a clear sign of how the authorities view Arabs and blacks,” said Ahmed Isawiya, a construction worker from the village. “One man was killed by the police because he’s Arab, while the second was shot because of the color of his skin. In the eyes of the authorities, an Arab man and a dark-skinned man are immediately seen as terrorists and criminals.”
Mohammed Abu al-Hummous, a political activist from Isawiya, said that the residents of his village have long been suffering from strict police measures. In the past three weeks, he added, police forces have been raiding the village and closing its entrances almost on a daily basis. “These provocations are putting too much pressure on the people,” he said. “They want the Arabs to leave Isawiya and east Jerusalem and move to the West Bank.”
A Jerusalem police officer said that the measures were in response to increased incidents of stone-throwing at policemen and Israeli cars passing near the neighborhood.