Hebron police chief to MKs: All Palestinian complaints against Jews are investigated

Follows claims by human rights groups and left-wing organizations that police do nothing to prevent such attacks.

hebron 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
hebron 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
All Palestinian complaints against Jews in the Hebron area are examined by five investigators from a special police unit, Hebron police chief Asst.-Cmdr. Avshalom Peled told the Knesset Law Committee on Tuesday. Peled was speaking at a meeting convened to discuss recent attacks against Palestinians in the area. Representatives of a number of human rights and left-wing political organizations including Breaking the Silence, Peace Now and B'Tselem charged that the police did nothing to prevent these attacks. B'Tselem also submitted a list of 51 incidents of violence against Palestinians reported by the organization to the police over the past six months in which the police or the army either arrived too late or stood by when Palestinians were attacked. "I blame you for letting these things happen," Hadash MK Dov Henin told Peled and the other law enforcement officers attending the meeting. "You aren't doing what you're supposed to be doing." But Peled rejected the allegations that the police acted in concert with settlers and said officers favored neither Left nor Right in the dispute over Hebron. The special unit to examine Palestinian complaints was established in the wake of the Shamgar Commission of Inquiry into 1994's Baruch Goldstein massacre at the Cave of the Patriarchs in the city. "In the Hebron area," Peled said, "there is a unit that deals only with Palestinian complaints against Jews. Each case is investigated by a team of five police officers." There is no parallel unit to investigate complaints by settlers. One of the reasons for Tuesday's Law Committee meeting was the police's recent barring of Breaking the Silence and B'nai Avraham from conducting tours of Hebron as they had been doing for three years. The organizations said the police were acting at the bidding of settlers rather than defending their right to freedom of speech. But according to Peled, the police clamped down on the tours because the organizers held an illegal protest on April 25 while under police protection. "Until then, no one who wanted to tour the city had a problem. I never dreamed of stopping the left-wing tours because it was a matter of freedom of expression," he said. Peled said that in the period leading up to April 25, the tours started becoming "more activist." For example, the participants began renovating a Palestinian home near Tel Rumeida, a Jewish enclave in Hebron. On April 24, the tour received police protection," he said. "Suddenly, we found ourselves in the midst of a protest on the part of several groups. In my opinion, an organization that enters Hebron under police escort and acts insensitively and harshly near Jewish homes, that is something that will incite the entire area. We had managed to reduce disturbances in Hebron by 40 percent in 2007. And the worst thing about this was that the protest was taking place under police protection." A participant in that tour told The Jerusalem Post the participants marched down Shuhada Street, the main road in downtown Hebron, from Beit Romano to the Cave of the Patriarchs, carrying signs in English, Hebrew and Arabic such as "Down with Apartheid," "Forty Years of Defiling God," and "Holiday of Liberation for All." Peled said he would provide the committee with statistics to prove that the police acted even-handedly regarding the settlers and the left-wing and human rights organizations. The Law Committee meeting will resume at a later date. Meanwhile, the High Court of Justice has agreed to add the Cooperative Society of the Jewish Yishuv in Hebron as a respondent to a petition filed by Breaking the Silence against the refusal of the police to enforce the organization's right to conduct tours in Hebron. And Justice Elyakim Rubinstein upheld a provisional agreement between Breaking the Silence and the State Attorney's Office allowing the organization to conduct tours in Hebron on condition that they are coordinated with police. Breaking the Silence has charged that the police ordered the organization to stop two tours of Hebron since the agreement with the State Attorney's Office was signed because of threats by settlers, even though the tours had been coordinated in advance with the police.