Haredi riots continue throughout Sunday night

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL, JPOST STAFF
November 6, 2006 15:51
3 minute read.

Riots over Attorney General Mehahem Mazuz's decision to allow the parade continued throughout Sunday night. Some twenty haredi protesters were arrested for allegedly throwing rocks at police - four of whom were reported lightly wounded - and a Ha'aretz photographer was also wounded for the second time while trying to cover the violent protests. Police reported that a number of streets in the Ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood have been blocked off in an attempt to prevent the residents from setting dumpsters on fire, as they have on several occasions since the anti-parade riots began. Mazuz's decision quickly reverberated across Jerusalem's haredi neighborhoods, as residents of Mea She'arim, Geula and Romema took to the streets, blocking Rehov Sarei Yisrael and Kikar Shabbat with burning dumpsters and tires. On Sarei Yisrael, people in the crowd threw rocks at police officers, and five protesters were detained for questioning. A failed attempt was made at blocking Rehov Tzefania and the major artery and frequent flashpoint Rehov Bar-Ilan, and similar protests were also held in Bnei Brak. It was this effect - and worse - that police had feared when they held a situation assessment Sunday morning, at which the country's top law-enforcement officials decided that the risk to human life was too high to allow the parade to be held. In the meeting, held at the national headquarters and presided-over by Insp.-Gen Moshe Karadi, Jerusalem District Police chief Cmdr. Ilan Franco told the assembled officers that the police had concrete intelligence indicating that allowing the parade to take place would present a real danger to human life. Former deputy inspector-general and current Israel Beiteinu MK Yitzhak Aharonovich backed up Karadi's decision, saying that "when freedom of expression stands juxtaposed to human life, preservation of human life takes precedence. The relocation of the march to another city should be considered." But other politicians saw in the decision an all-too-familiar pattern of behavior. "Threats of violence cannot be allowed to close mouths in a democratic country. Giving in to violence means that we did not learn anything from the murder of Rabin," said Education Minister Yuli Tamir (Labor). "The debate today centers around whether it is permissible in a democratic country to cause people to not march by issuing threats." Following that meeting, police said that they would not allow the parade to continue as planned, and turned to Mazuz for final approval of that position. But when Franco and Chief of Police Operations Cmdr. Bertie Ohayon met with Mazuz, the attorney-general told police that he did not believe that their decision would be upheld in a court of law. Open House director-general Noa Sattach had already promised that the organization would petition the High Court of Justice about the police decision as early as Monday. Mazuz told Franco and Ohayon that "we must decide either to surrender to threats or to make do… Surrendering to threats threatens democracy and thus the police's recommendation not to hold the march is unacceptable." Mazuz did, however, recognize that the march in its current format presented insurmountable challenges to the police's ability to protect the marchers. The situation, he said, "demands an effort to find a format that will enable security." He told police that he would approve a "more modest march to be held at a time and place to which all of the sides can agree." Senior Jerusalem police officers were quick to portray the meeting as anything but the surprise that it was. "Mazuz listened to us, understood the gravity of the intelligence information and in accordance instructed us to meet with the parade organizers to find an acceptable plan and route," one officer told The Jerusalem Post. Sattach, after expressing anger and disappointment earlier after the police announcement that the parade would be canceled, welcomed Mazuz's decision. "The new route will ensure the safety of all participants," she said. "We are very glad that the decision has been made to allow the march to go ahead. It is a victory for freedom of speech and democracy in Israel…" But some members of the anti-march camp warned Sunday night that Mazuz's compromise plan would not achieve its desired ends. "The decision to continue with plans for the march at any price could bring about serious violence and major damage to daily life in Jerusalem," said MK Yitzhak Levy, one of the march's most vocal opponents in the Knesset. "I call on Mazuz to read the writing on the wall and to reverse [his decision] before it is too late." Simon Williams contributed to this report.


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