Hundreds protest ongoing police presence in Isawiya

Israeli, Palestinian and international protestors demonstrated against the police in Isawiya

Protests in Jerusalem for Isawiya (photo credit: RACHEL SCHWARTZ)
Protests in Jerusalem for Isawiya
(photo credit: RACHEL SCHWARTZ)
More than 250 Israeli, Palestinian and international activists demonstrated outside Jerusalem’s Russian Compound on Saturday night, calling for an end to alleged police brutality and violence in the capital’s Isawiya neighborhood that residents and human rights organizations say has been happening daily for nearly six months.
“There have been demonstrations in Isawiya in the past months… four weeks ago, we came to the sad conclusion that the police will not cease its violence unless they will feel further pressure from the municipality and public opinion, so we decided to begin protesting in west Jerusalem,” Shahaf Weisbein, a Free Jerusalem activist who helped organize the protest, told The Jerusalem Post.
Isawiya, located adjacent to Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus and Hadassah-University Medical Center, is home to an estimated 22,000 Palestinians. According to residents and activists, police have entered the neighborhood nearly every night since June 12.
Authorities originally increased their presence in Isawiya because of residents throwing stones, according to an October 6 report by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.
Israel Police did not provide a statement by press time.
On November 30, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion released a statement refuting the protesters’ claims of police violence, alleging that Isawiya residents toss Molotov cocktails at Hadassah-University Medical Center workers, stone Magen David Adom vehicles that enter the neighborhood, break into cars and apartments in the French Hill, and pour oil onto the nearby Rte. 1 highway that runs between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim, causing traffic accidents.
Israeli, Palestinian and international protestors demonstrated against the police in Isawiya, December 8, 2019 (photo: Tzvi Joffre)Israeli, Palestinian and international protestors demonstrated against the police in Isawiya, December 8, 2019 (photo: Tzvi Joffre)
Residents and activists also allege that police have arrested between 500 and 600 residents over the last five and a half months, including 300 children. Omar Atiya, a 53-year-old member of the community’s parents council, said only seven or eight of the arrestees have actually been indicted.
“Even according to their claims – those that say that there are a number of people throwing rocks – it’s not 22,000 people doing it,” Atiya said. “If there are 50, 60 people throwing rocks, you don’t need to punish 22,000 people. It’s really a collective punishment for the entire village.”
Demonstrators last night brought drums and dozens of signs in Hebrew, Arabic and English with a variety of messages including, “Stop police brutality,” “Let Isawiya live,” “Being Palestinian is not a crime,” and “West Jerusalem, wake up!” They also shouted several chants, such as “In the classrooms, in the streets, kids are taking beatings” and “Isawiya is asking to live in quiet.”
The protest was organized by Meretz Jerusalem, Hadash, Peace Now, Standing Together, Combatants for Peace, Ir Amim, All That’s Left: Anti-Occupation Collective and Free Jerusalem. Ta’al MK Ossama Saadi, Hadash MK Yousef Jabareen and former Meretz MK Mossi Raz were among those present.
Activists from All That’s Left and Free Jerusalem have protested outside Lion’s house on Saturday night for the past three weeks, demanding that the mayor pressure the police to alleviate their presence in Isawiya.
Organizers moved the protest from Lion’s residence to the Russian Compound because the mayor is currently overseas, as well as to directly “call on the police to stop the operation of organized police brutality in Isawiya,” according to Weisbein.
According to the B’Tselem report, “The harassment includes daily raids on the neighborhood, detaining of residents returning from work, issuing of traffic tickets for spurious infractions, serving of house demolition orders, acts of violence, and detentions – particularly of minors.
Residents and activists also allege that authorities regularly use tear gas and stun grenades, raid homes at night, set up checkpoints and conduct random searches.
“I’ve been there personally and I saw for myself how the village is completely quiet, how there is no conflict whatsoever, and then the police come in, vehicle after vehicle,” Weisbein said. “What we’ve seen on the ground as activists night after night after night is completely different than the propaganda. If you go there, you see how the police do their best to break the calm in the neighborhood.”
Lion told The Jerusalem Post on December 6 that he has no choice but to engage the police when things get out of hand in Isawiya.
“When disorders and violence occur, I can’t tell the police not to do their job. We had understandings [with local parents], but there is also a problem of parental authority,” Lion said. “I try all the time. The calm must return there.”
Lion also claimed in his statement that Isawiya is “a tool in the hand of the Hitorerut party that didn’t find any relevant argument against me and against the strong and stable coalition that I head.” He concluded the statement by telling members of Hitorerut to “drink a glass of water, take a breath of air. Everything is under control, and not because of you.”
Hitorerut responded in a Facebook post on December 1, saying that “Isawiya, in contrast to your claims, is not a ‘tool’ in the hands of Hitorerut. It is a neighborhood in Jerusalem, and it’s necessary to provide its residents with services and enforce law and order.”
Maayan Hoffman contributed to this report.