Jerusalem Mayor Nixes Meeting With Striking Palestinian Parents From East Jerusalem

Schools in Isawiyah shut down in wake of complaints about police; City Hall asserts parents have no authority to represent villagers

A Palestinian girl walks home after school as the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan is seen in the background June 19, 2017. Picture taken June 19, 2017.
REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat at the last minute cancelled a meeting between senior city officials and police officers and representatives of the Isawiyah parents committee, which was meant to end a strike declared by the parents earlier this week over police activity near the local schools.

The East Jerusalem village’s 4,300 pupils have been out of class since the committee declared the strike.

According to the parents, Border Police forces have been entering the village for several days every afternoon at about the time the children are let out of school. The parents claim the policemen deliberately position themselves near the schools to provoke disturbances.

The school principals and the parents have contacted police commanders and asked them to keep the border policemen away from the schools, but the police refused. There were clashes between policemen and pupils on Monday. A number of children and teenagers were hurt. Majad Mustafa, 16, had to have his spleen removed after he was hit in the abdomen by a sponged-tipped bullet. The police deny the parents’ claims, saying the police presence was necessary to deal with recent disturbances in the village.

A meeting was scheduled for Wednesday that was to be attended by representatives of the city’s education department, Jerusalem Police officers and the village’s parents committee, as well as the village mukhtar and representatives of the village’s larger clans. But, the mayor called off the meeting at the last minute. The mayor’s office contended that the parents launching the strike do not represent the village. However, the parents committee members say they had been elected by the parents to represent them and had previously held several meetings with municipal officials in this capacity.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
Olivier Fitoussi

The parents on Wednesday decided to continue the strike. “Instead of the mayor protecting the children from the police, he is justifying the police actions,” said parents committee member Omar Atiya. “I don’t believe that a logical mayor talks that way. I was elected and I have three daughters in the schools, and I have the right to defend them and not send them to school. There’s no security in the schools. It’s not worth having a child lose an eye for education; they’re better off at home.”

Mayor Barkat’s office responded: “A group of parents from the neighborhood chose to declare a general strike in the schools, and instead of instructing their children to refrain from violence the parents decided to inflame passions and present unreasonable demands and ultimatums to the police. This extreme group, which was never elected to represent the neighborhood parents, decided to impose the strike on the parents and enforce it through intimidation and threats.”

The office noted that following a conversation with the Jerusalem Police commander, “it was made clear that the police won’t speak to the strike leaders until there is quiet in the neighborhood and the repeated stone-throwing stops.” The office added: “The mayor has no intention of condoning extremists who encourage aggression and violence. Schools are meant to serve as a place for studies and instilling values, and not a focal point for violence and stone-throwing.”