Eight Sheikh Jarrah Activists Acquitted of Disorderly Conduct at 2010 Protest

Protesters were demonstrating against Jewish takeover of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Eight left-wing activists demonstrating against a Jewish takeover of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem in May 2010 were acquitted Sunday of disorderly conduct.

The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court also said the police were wrong to designate the protest in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah as illegal and upheld the protesters' right to passive resistance.

"Given that the disruption to traffic was tolerable and caused minimal discomfort to passersby, the procession was not held during rush hour and the defendants did not act violently, it is possible to rule that their conduct did not provide sufficient grounds for concern that they were engaged in disorderly conduct," wrote Judge Yaron Mientkavich.

One of the protesters was convicted of interfering with police activity, though the rest were acquitted. Assaf Kintzer kicked a police officer and called him a Nazi, the judge ruled, saying that "his actions clearly crossed the line between legitimate resistance and violent resistance."

The eight protesters, including Rabbis for Human Rights co-founder Rabbi Arik Ascherman, were among at least 250 who had been demonstrating weekly against a Jewish takeover of Palestinian homes through the use of ownership documents dating from the British mandate period. The activists arrested were also protesting a police decision to allow right-wing activists to hold a Jerusalem Day rally in Sheikh Jarrah even though police banned the left-wing activists from entering the neighborhood.

Four protesters were taken to the hospital to be examined after police attempted to break up the demonstration by using what protesters said was excessive force.

Police said the eight protesters who were indicted had been blocking traffic by sitting in the road and resisted police officers attempting to get them off the road. "Blocking the entire street creates friction," Amir Arzani, a police superintendent, testified at the trial.

But Mientkavich said video footage of the scene did not accord with police statements about the protesters' activities.

"It is clear that the junction was not blocked," he said. "The protesters did sit on the road across from the police barrier, but did not completely block the road. The road was blocked to vehicle traffic because the police barrier had been set up."

Arzani also said that one of the defendants, Assaf Sharon, enticed others to engage in disorderly conduct by using a megaphone to motivate the crowd. But Mientkavich said no megaphone could be seen in the footage.

"My ruling regarding the protestors' conduct is mainly based on what can be seen in the video," he wrote. "The event is significantly different from its dramatic description in the indictment."

Mientkavich ruled that even if the police had been right to designate the protest illegal, there was no evidence that the defendants had intimidated the public in any way, as police had said.

"I watched the footage and put myself in the shoes of someone present at the scene," he wrote. "This was a noisy demonstration and a significant portion of what was being said wasn't pleasant to hear. Needless to say, a person in a democratic country has the right to say things that those who hear them may not agree with. The acts of the accused were certainly a nuisance, but were not threatening. The footage shows passersby crossing the intersection, including ultra-Orthodox people. Most of them seem indifferent to their actions, and no one seems threatened or scared." 

Mientkavich also upheld the protesters' right to passive resistance, saying it did not constitute interference with police activity.

"The defendants didn't make it easy for the police to remove them, but were not violent and did not physically hurt police officers while they were being evacuated," he ruled. "Passive resistance during a demonstration or protest is reasonable and does not constitute an offense. The defendants' actions did not cross the line and were not illegal. The reason for this is the lack of justification for the decision to remove them from the intersection."

Protestors in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem.Credit: Emil Salman
Flag march on Jerusalem Day in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Credit: Daniel Bar-On

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