Israeli Police Agree to Limit Operations in East Jerusalem to End Residents' Strike

Sources in Palestinian neighborhood of Isawiya say forces agree with municipality, community organizers to curtail activity after summer-long police sweep

Israeli Border Police on patrol in Isawiyah, August 27, 2019.
Emil Salman

The Israel Police, Jerusalem municipality and residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah have come to an agreement to limit police operation underway there since early summer.

The agreement would see a reduced police presence in the neighborhood and the release of two detainees, and in exchange, Isawiyah residents will cancel the strike in schools planned for Monday, the first day of the school year.

For the past two months, the police have increased their operations in the village. They have set up roadblocks and increased patrols and ambushes, actions that almost always lead to clashes with village youth. More than 340 people were arrested and dozens of houses were searched. However, the police have been unable to compile evidence against those detained, and only five indictments have been issued against residents for stone-throwing.

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Summer-long police sweep strikes fear in IsawiyahHaaretz

On Thursday, after a week of clashes and arrests, the commander of the Israel Police’s Jerusalem District, Maj. Gen. Doron Yedid, asked to meet with the Isawiyah parents committee, who had announced that children would not be sent to school on Monday, the first day of the school year in East Jerusalem. During the meeting, parents complained about the way the police treat the village’s residents, claiming that it amounts to collective punishment.

The two parties decided that the police will partially reduce its forces in the village, will not enter the village unnecessarily and that officers would keep away from school zones during school hours. Sources in the village added that the police also promised to curtail the number of personnel entering the village in the evening, and residents say that in the past couple days, they can already feel a reduced police presence in the area.

Following the meeting, Yedid asked Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion to intervene in neighborhood matters that fall under the municipality’s jurisdiction. Lion met with the parents committee and other village activists on Saturday in Isawiyah. Shortly after, police released two detained members of the parents committee, who were arrested last week on suspicion of threatening the schools’ principals and pressuring them not to start the school year.

The parents committee then announced that they were ending the strike. Lion and municipality officials promised to advance issues relating to public spaces and education in the village.

Last week, before the agreement was announced, 41 Jerusalem school principals sent a letter to Lion demanding that he intervene in the crisis in Isawiyah. The signatories, part of a program for school principals run by the city’s education department in conjunction with the Center for Educational Technology, asked Lion to work with the police in order to help Isawiyah’s principals open its schools on time. About half the signatories were Jewish principals from West Jerusalem.

Lion’s office said the meeting with the residents and police had been “excellent,” and that “the two sides left feeling good” about the experience. “The mayor promised to help the neighborhood, and [they agreed on] cooperation between the two sides for the good of the neighborhood’s residents and their children.”

It is difficult to point to one factor that caused the police’s operation to enhance police enforcement in the neighborhood, which began in early June. Residents connect it to a masculine change in command in the Israel Police’s Jerusalem District last February. The police claim that its activities “are to safeguard the public order and to enforce the law everywhere at all times.” Some residents report that one of the senior officer told them will continue until he can “drive [in the neighborhood] with a cup of coffee without spilling a drop,” in other words, until no more rocks are thrown at police vehicles in the neighborhood.