Knesset panel debates rock-throwing youths in J'lem

At Knesset hearing on youth violence in Silwan, arguments erupt between National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari, United Arab List MK Taleb A-Sanaa.

Sanaa with Haniyeh (photo credit: Associated Press)
Sanaa with Haniyeh
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The Knesset’s winter session opened with a raucous emergency meeting of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on Monday morning to discuss the issue of Arab minors throwing rocks at cars in east Jerusalem.
The meeting was organized after an incident on Friday in Silwan, when Elad head David Be’eri hit and lightly injured two Arab children with his car as they were throwing rocks at it.
RELATED:Elad director runs over rock-throwing youths in Silwan
“We don’t want to see any children injured, period,” said committee head Danny Danon (Likud). “But we also don’t want to see children involved in destructive activities.”
The meeting degenerated into yelling matches between Arab MKs and MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union).
Danon removed Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab List-Ta’al) from the hearing after he questioned, “Is this a committee in favor of children or settlers?” Ben-Ari repeatedly called both Sanaa and MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta’al) “terrorists” and told Tibi to “go wear a dress with [Libyan leader Muammar] Gaddafi.”
He later said in the meeting, “Even a child, if he is endangering someone’s life, should be shot at.”
Tibi retorted, saying “This meeting was organized because a kid was thrown into the air, and you guys are like a party of drunk people who have lost your heads!” said Tibi. He also called the east Jerusalem residents a “group of fanatics.”
“This committee needs a psychiatrist – you guys are all crazy,” he said.
Outside of the hearing, Sanaa told the media, “I intend to complain to the head of the Knesset on the cynical use of the committee, which has changed to be a committee in favor of settlers and not children.”
“I will demand a concerned and objective discussion,” Sanaa continued. “Instead of protecting children whose rights are being trampled, discussions are being held about the rights of settlers who have nothing to do in Silwan and in the Palestinian territories.”
Since July, there have been 450 cases of rock-throwing in Silwan, with an average of four cases a day. Border Police and policemen on patrol regularly face barrages of rocks. On Monday afternoon, a border policeman was lightly injured near Beit HaDvash, a Jewish-owned building in Silwan.
During that same period, the police arrested 76 people for rock-throwing incidents in Jerusalem. Thirty were aged 12- 18 and 46 were adults. Of those arrested, 17 youths and 10 adults were charged. Some of the youths are in detention, while others were put under house arrest.
Supt. Yoram Sa’ar, a youth officer for the Jerusalem district, said that the police are doing everything possible to halt the rock-throwing incidents, but the young age of the perpetrators makes stopping them difficult.
At the meeting, Jewish residents from east Jerusalem neighborhoods, including Ma’aleh Zeitim and Beit Yonatan in Silwan shared stories and videos of frequent rock-throwing incidents. The residents said groups of children had been at the main intersection in Ras al-Amud near the Mount of Olives cemetery every day for the previous two weeks, throwing rocks at passing cars throughout the day.
Rock-throwing is nothing new in the area, but it has intensified since a private security guard killed a Silwan resident on September 22 after the latter threw rocks at the security vehicle during an early morning patrol. Because of the high number of security cameras in the area, almost every rock-throwing incident can be taped and made public almost immediately.
During the meeting, Sa’ar announced that the police had arrested three suspects in connection to the Friday afternoon incident involving Be’eri, the head of Elad, a group that runs the City of David archeological park and financially supports 62 Jewish families in the Silwan neighborhood.
Be’eri was driving in the area on Friday afternoon with his son when he was confronted by four youths throwing rocks at his windshield.
While trying to flee from the area, he accidentally hit two of the youths, a Elad representative told The Jerusalem Post. The incident prompted outcries from around the globe after photographs of the incident were published in international media.
Be’eri was not present at the meeting on Monday.
Meir Indor, the head of the Almagor Terror Victims Association, testified about his experience on September 29.
Indor said that he was the target of a potential lynching on the road between the Mount of Olives cemetery and Hebrew University when he was stuck in a traffic jam and students from a nearby school pelted his car with rocks.
“This is an area where Jews have been buried for 3,000 years, and now people are afraid to go to the cemetery,” he said.
He said he had been at two funerals of terror victims where people leaving the ceremony had been stoned at the same intersection.
“Both times it’s happened when the funerals end at the same times as school lets out,” he said. “It’s like [rock-throwing] is part of their school program.”
“Every time a child throws a stone, they should arrest the father,” Indor told the Post outside the meeting. “This worked in Judea and Samaria, and it could work here.”
Following his attack, Indor is starting a citizens’ forum to enforce security in the area near the Mount of Olives cemetery.
During the meeting, Danon showed a series of photographs depicting a boy walking to school with his backpack.
Along the way, the boy would pick up large stones and throw them at cars.
Lack of police presence or action by the authorities was a consistent complaint among the Jewish residents of east Jerusalem.
“I stand on my balcony with the Border Police and I watch the kids throwing rocks, and the police leave the scene even before they stop. They don’t do anything to stop it... they were even throwing rocks at 7:30 this morning!” Beit Yonatan resident Eldad Rabinovich said.
“The police is trying to prevent recurrences of these serious events, with a response to the events in the field or in discussions with factions in the area,” Sa’ar said.
He noted that when the suspect is under 12, the age of criminal responsibility, the police talk to the child’s parents.
The Committee for the Rights of the Child said that they will appeal to the public security minister and the welfare and social services minister to prepare action plans for young rioters and their families, as well as review changes in legislation designed to punish parents of minors under 12 who participate in terrorist activities.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.