East Jerusalem Villagers: Israel Police Subjecting Us to Collective Punishment

Up to 50 residents of Issawiya have been arrested over the last month, accused of throwing stones or firebombs; police forces are consistently on site, and a legal crackdown is ongoing.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

Israel Police and residents of the East Jerusalem village Issawiya have been engaged in constant clashes over the last month: Up to 50 Palestinian villagers have been arrested during that time, and residents claim that the police and other Israeli authorities have been subjecting them to collective punishments.

The tensions in Issawiya, located near the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University and the French Hill neighborhood, have intensified since the arrest of village resident Samer Issawi.

Issawi, an activist in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was released from jail after 10 years during Israel's prisoner exchange for abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. He was subsequently arrested again in July, after violating the conditions of his release by remaining in Palestinian territory. He has been on a hunger strike since August, and his condition has since deteriorated.

Village residents organized a march in solidarity with Issawi last month. The procession ended in clashes, as residents hurled stones and police responded by firing tear gas and stun grenades. Since then, stone-throwing has become a near-daily affair, and the police have in turn embarked on a wave of arrests.

Seventeen of the 50 residents who have been detained are minors, suspected of throwing stones at police officers or at vehicles belonging to Jews.

A police unit has been deployed at the entrance to the village, and checks almost every vehicle that leaves the village. Traffic police and inspectors are consistently on site, checking for safety problems, removing vehicles from the road, or imposing fines on drivers.

Employees of Jerusalem's water and sewage company, Hagihon, came to the village two days ago to remove water meters and solder the pipes at several homes that had run up a debt.

Inspectors from the Nature and Parks Authority also came to the village a few days ago to fine residents in possession of wild birds.

A police force enters the village almost every evening to carry out arrests, and usually encounters stone throwing and responds with tear gas and stun grenades.

"There's an intifada here, but it's an intifada of the police and not of the residents," said Hani Issawi, a village resident. "In the past days, there have been no demonstrations, no marches, nothing – only police provocations."

The Jerusalem Police denied the villager allegations of disproportionate collective punishment: "As a result of the large number of incidents of peace disturbances, and stones and firebombs being thrown at civilians and members of the security services, and after meticulous preparation, we have opened campaign to arrest suspects in the Issawiya neighborhood.

"The activity of the police and the Border Police will continue at the site until all the suspects have been arrested and order has been restored," added the police.

The East Jerusalem neighborhood IssawiyaCredit: Alex Levac

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