Police Arrest Rabbi for 'Inciting Palestinians' in East Jerusalem

Arik Ascherman, head of Rabbis for Human Rights, arrested for encouraging opposition to excavations.

Meron Rapoport, Haaretz Correspondent
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Meron Rapoport, Haaretz Correspondent

Israel Police on Thursday arrested Arik Ascherman, the executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights, for "inciting Palestinians to oppose the police" in East Jerusalem.

Heated tensions between residents of the Silwan village in East Jerusalem and the Israel Police erupted over excavation works that have recently began in the village. The excavations are being carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and are sponsored by Elad association, which promotes the "Judaization" of East Jerusalem.

Silwan residents say the excavation work is being carried out directly underneath their homes, and have proceeded to set up a demonstration tent on a private lot belonging to one of the village residents. A few confrontations subsequently broke out, and the residents maintained that the police deliberately harassed them.

On Wednesday another spat occurred between the local residents and settlers on behalf of Elad, and the police detained Ascherman for questioning.

The police requested that Ascherman promise to stay away from Silwan for 15 days and upon his refusal to oblige, he was arrested and will be brought in front of a judge Friday for his remand to be extended.

Ascherman's attorney on Thursday said the investigator had accused her client, a well-known human rights' activist, of encouraging Palestinians to oppose police forces, and also of preventing the evacuation of a wounded settler to hospital.

The attorney further stated that Ascherman adamantly denies the allegations.

"This is a ridiculous arrest," his attorney said. "In the past, the court has refused to adhere to police demands for issuing restraining orders against Israeli activists in Silwan."