Save Jerusalem

Residents of Isawiya complain that they are mistreated, and claim that this type of police conduct is implemented only in east Jerusalem.

July 3, 2019 22:13
3 minute read.
AN ISRAELI flag held aloft on Jerusalem Day.

AN ISRAELI flag held aloft on Jerusalem Day. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

This past week, east Jerusalem became a war zone.

The death of Mohammad Samir Obeid, a 20-year-old who was killed by police after shooting fireworks in their direction, sparked riots and violence not only in his home neighborhood of Isawiya, but also in nearby Silwan and the Shuafat refugee camp.
The confrontations have been going on for days now, and it doesn’t seem like a solution is near.

The images emerging from clashes between rioters and the Border Police could be confusing: policemen wearing full gear entering the neighborhoods en masse, wielding large weapons and shooting live fire. From looking at this footage, one might think that it was taken in Gaza or Lebanon.

Residents of Isawiya complain that they are mistreated, and claim that this type of police conduct is implemented only in east Jerusalem.

These days, unfortunately, it is easy to see the contrast. An off-duty policeman killed 19-year-old Solomon Tekah in Kiryat Haim near Haifa two days after the incident in Isawiya. His death sparked riots and protests that were attended by hundreds. The rioters confronted the police, blocked traffic and set tires on fire. At some point, the rioters even stormed a police station.

Did we see armored vehicles and fully equipped policemen storming the streets of Kiryat Haim? No, which is good since police are not supposed to be like soldiers operating against civilians in urban neighborhoods. So why is Isawiya being treated differently?
Because it’s in east Jerusalem, which has been treated differently by the state since it became part of Israel more than half a century ago.

Despite east Jerusalem being legally annexed in 1967, the state sees it as some kind of separate territory.

One source of the problem is that the vast majority of the residents of the eastern part of the capital are not Israeli citizens. Politicians and officials therefore see them as pawns in the big game called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not as human beings with needs or rights.

On many occasions, we hear politicians talk about east Jerusalem residents as numbers, and as a threat to the country.
“We should get rid of the neighborhoods that pose a risk to the future of the city of Jerusalem,” MK Mickey Levy (Blue and White), a former Jerusalem police chief, said at an event in Beersheba on Saturday.

“When I was a young company commander in the Old City, they were 18% [of the population of the city]; when I was a deputy district commander, they were 24%. And when I was a district commander, they were 28%. We’re lucky they can’t vote in the Knesset.”
Another example is comments made by former prime minister and Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert, in an interview at the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York last month.

“If I would run a vote here in this crowd,” Olmert asked, pointing to the crowd, “‘Do you want to have the Palestinian refugee camp of Shuafat as part of the State of Israel?’ – I am not certain that the majority would support it. Why do we need it? Why do we need to add 300,000 Palestinians to the city of Jerusalem, [who] will become the majority in the city of Jerusalem?”

The problem with what Levy and Olmert said is that these people – the Arabs of east Jerusalem – are not numbers.

They are living their day-to-day lives in the city. They have schools, hospitals, restaurants and cultural life. Many of them want to be integrated, to different degrees, in Israeli society.

Israel needs to do more to make that happen. One way to begin is for the state and city to provide the same services to east Jerusalem as they do to people on the other side of town, and to give the capital city’s Arabs the same chances afforded to the rest of society.

If that happens, there might not be a need to march on a neighborhood with massive forces and machine guns.

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