For the second time in a week, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) on Tuesday wrote to Police Inspector-General David Cohen, charging that the police are trying to suppress the protests against the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
"The violence of the police, the fact that they broke into an orderly demonstration and that they arrested seven 'fugitives' appears mystifying ... and detached from what was happening," wrote ACRI lawyer Tali Nir, regarding the protest held last Friday.
"It looks like the police [presence] at the demonstration was aiming to break the demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah no matter what. Otherwise, it is not clear why they decided to break into the demonstration and inflame the situation."
About 300 protesters gathered in a park near the compound where the former home of the evicted Palestinians was located, and where those evicted had set up a protest tent. The police barred the protesters from marching down the street to the compound.
Nir wrote that the commander of the police detachment, Tat-Nitzav Bruno Stein, told an ACRI representative at the demonstration that earlier in the week, the Magistrate's Court had ordered the seven not to attend any more demonstrations.
But the representative informed Stein that Jerusalem District Court had changed the order later in the week, allowing the seven to attend demonstrations as long as they were legal. Furthermore, the police had issued a permit for the demonstration.
Nir wrote that police had issued a permit for the demonstration on December 25. She charged that even after ACRI had clarified the situation to Stein, it took several hours before the protesters were released.
Nir also complained that after the demonstration was over, ACRI officials asked for permission to visit the members of the evicted family down the road, but that Stein refused without an explanation.
According to Nir, ACRI received reports that later that night and the following day, dozens of settlers threw rocks at the Palestinian homes and broke windows. Some of the Palestinians required medical treatment. The police allegedly arrived on the scene much later and took few measures against the settlers.
"The conduct of the police in this case was very different from their energetic and unequivocal behavior during the demonstration," charged Nir. "Those who were there felt that the asymmetrical behavior of the police was deliberate and aimed at suppressing the demonstrators and encouraging the settlers living in the neighborhood."
A police spokesman had not responded to these claims by press time.