'Post' reporter blocked from Shuafat

Activist suspects special interests behind police tactics near camp.

shuafat 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimki)
shuafat 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimki)
As a group of right-wing activists were beginning their march toward a plot of land near the Shuafat refugee camp on Tuesday, a Jerusalem Post reporter entered the area in hopes of covering the story. The situation is a complicated one, with multiple groups of activists attempting in recent weeks and months to seize the land in the name of its Jewish owner. Arabs in the area recently built on the property, and an empty house lies on the plot of land near the outskirts of Anata, a village next to Shuafat. Previous attempts to take the land have been rebuffed by police and border patrol units before the activists could make it to the home, but tension in the village has been rising, as the Arabs there see the activists' actions as nothing more than a Jewish land grab. At the checkpoint, the Post reporter presented press credentials to border policemen and was allowed to pass soon after. "Are you sure you want to go in?" one of the officers asked. "I'll tell you now that it's not safe." After entering Anata, the reporter walked out onto the outer perimeter of the village - a direct path toward the disputed property, and out of sight of the congested streets and alleys filled with evening traffic. Less than half a kilometer inside, however, a private security contractor stopped and asked how reporters had gotten into the area. "What are you doing here?" he asked. "Do you have any idea where you are?" After a brief explanation and another round of press card verifications, the private security officer rolled up his window and started making calls on his radio. Five minutes later, a Border Police jeep showed up. Citing "personal danger," the jeep took the reporter back to the checkpoint to speak with the higher-ups. "You didn't bring a helmet?" one of the policemen asked on the jeep ride back. "You'll need one over there - they'll throw rocks at you if you go over there." Two weeks prior, however, the Post reporter was inside the village for two hours during an activist demonstration, and no such problems arose. Back at the checkpoint, Border Police and Jerusalem District Police officers scrupulously went over the reporter's documents. "I'm going to tell you this one time," said a police officer. "You are going to walk away from here and you're not going to come back. If you do, it will be as if you've broken the law, and you will be taken into custody." Asked if the area was a closed military zone, the officer responded that it was not. "No," he said. "But I've told you to leave, and you're going to listen to me." Speaking to the Post on Thursday, GPO director Danny Seaman said his office did not interfere with police policy on the ground. "Our job is to make sure reporters who hold our GPO card are not discriminated against. If the policy of the Border Police was not to allow reporters in the area, then that's what it is," he said. However, Seaman added that if no such policy were in effect and the officers on the scene simply threw a reporter out, it would be a problem. "If there was no closed military zone, then there would be an issue with that," Seaman said. But on Wednesday and Thursday, nearly every applicable office refused to comment on the incident. The IDF Spokesman's Office replied that the area was under the authority of the Border Police, and the Border Police referred the incident to the Jerusalem District Police. Both the Justice Ministry and the Jerusalem police spokesman failed to respond before press time. One of the right-wing activists, Ezra Klein, told the Post that he suspected special interests were behind the police tactics. "I'm not sure exactly what those interests are, but I don't think it has to do with the Arabs," Klein said on Wednesday. "Our problems are only from the police. The Arabs have never bothered us. But either way, they're definitely trying to keep people out of the area."