A number of prominent jurists, intellectuals, writers and leftist public figures have co-signed a letter that accuses the Jerusalem District police of "illegal and inequitable" conduct toward protesters in the predominantly Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem.
In the letter, which was sent yesterday to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, the signers demand an investigation against what they believe is unequal enforcement of the law "that is based on political leanings."
Among the signatories to the letter are former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair, retired District Court judge and legal commentator Boaz Okun, former education and justice minister Amnon Rubinstein, renowned legal scholar Mordechai Kremnitzer, former deputy attorney general Yehudit Karp, former civil service commissioner Yitzhak Gal-Nur and the former head of the Israel Bar Association, Shlomo Cohen.
Other notable names who signed the letter include authors David Grossman and Ronit Matalon; professors Yehuda Bauer, David Shulman, Ariel Hirschfeld, Zeev Sternhell, Avishai Margalit and Moshe Halbertal; and former Meretz MKs Shulamit Aloni, Yossi Sarid, Zehava Gal-On, and Mossi Raz.
The signatories argue that left-wing demonstrators protesting Jewish settlement activity in Sheikh Jarrah are denied permission to stage protests near the homes from which Arab families were evicted, even though right-wingers are allowed to conduct activities at the site. The writers also claim that the police refrain from enforcing restraining orders against rightist activists while making sure to remove leftist protesters who have been similarly ordered outside the area.
According to the letter, police officers resorted to excessive violence against left-wing protesters and then lied about it in court. "All of these [incidents] and others arouse a heavy fear of political favoritism and flaws in the conduct of the Jerusalem District Police, the gravity of which does not need to be put into words," the letter read. "We have evidence that the Jerusalem police broke the law and acted inequitably."
The police are also accused of adopting the settlers' view of the disputed neighborhood as a Jewish area, despite the overwhelming Arab majority.
"Even though the disputed neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah is home to hundreds of Palestinians and a handful of Jews, the Jerusalem police insist on treating the neighborhood as a Jewish one on all levels," the letter states. "In its official memorandums and during their court appearances, police officers refer to the disputed area as 'the Simeon the Just neighborhood' even though such a neighborhood does not exist in Jerusalem."
"Such a symbolic gesture reveals a political and moral stance that falls outside the Jerusalem police's jurisdiction and provides an explanation into the conduct of officers on the ground and before the court," the letter continues.
The signatories demand that Weinstein agrees to meet with them so they could present him with the facts, which would serve as the basis for an investigation.
In support of the letter, left-wing groups prepared a report that detailed what they believe to be false claims made by the police in court. During a January court hearing, officers said that demonstrators blocked the main street, Nablus Road, leading to Sheikh Jarrah, even though police showed the judge a photograph of a smaller street nearby that was cordoned off during the protest.
In another instance, officers claimed that they arrested protesters for injuring policemen despite the fact that the demonstrators were never questioned for assaulting officers, nor were they indicted on any such charges. The left-wing organizations also offer video evidence which they say proves that the police turned a blind eye to the presence of rightists in Sheikh Jarrah, even though they were banned from the area by a court order. The groups also accuse police of permitting Jewish settlers to harass neighboring Palestinians.
Left-wing protests in Sheikh Jarrah began nine months ago. Since then, close to 100 activists, most of them Israeli, have gathered every Friday to stage demonstrations, some of which lead to violent clashes with police. Thus far over 100 people have been arrested and 44 indictments have been filed in court.