The Shin Bet security service has retracted its earlier claim that left-wing protests in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah were a security risk, Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor has written in a letter to Lea Tsemel, the human rights lawyer.
In its 2010 annual report, published in January, the Shin Bet wrote that the demonstrations, organized by the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity movement and attended by both Israeli and Palestinian activists, were a potential source of violence and should be monitored by the security services. The demonstrations have been taking place every Friday for the past year and a half to protest Jewish settler activity in the neighborhood.
The Shin Bet report referred to the protests under the headline "Extreme leftist activities," saying that "this year, activity by extreme leftist elements was particularly noticeable given the flotillas claiming to be trying to lift the 'siege' on the Gaza Strip, and specifically the attempt by the Turkish vessel Marmara. Activities by leftist elements against the security forces continued in several friction points, including Sheikh Jarrah, Nialin, Bil'in and Nabi Salah."
In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and Meridor, on behalf of the activists, Tsemel wrote that they were surprised to discover themselves mentioned in a Shin Bet report on terror. "Their activities over the past years were focused and continue to be focused on legal, democratic and non-violent protest against settlement trends in East Jerusalem . . . the phrasing of the report suggests the Shin Bet view these activists as similar to terrorists . . . as individuals seeking to harm the security forces," she wrote.
Meridor replied to Tsemel last week, saying that "it was decided there was no reason to include the protest activities in Sheikh Jarrah in the report." The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity movement thanked the minister for his prompt response but said that the main issue was not any particular statement in the report, but rather, how the security services treat political activists whose views are not in line with the government's. "The report is merely a marginal expression of this approach, and the approach needs to be changed completely," the movement said.
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