Police Step Up Raids, Arrests in Jerusalem's Isawiyah Despite Mounting Protests

Demonstrators, political leaders appeal to mayor 'of all Jerusalem' to act to protect residents

Israel police officers during an operation in Isawiyah, August 26, 2019
Emil Salman

Israel Police arrested 12 people on Monday, including several minors, during an early-morning raid on the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah.

In a similar operation last week, police arrested 15 people, all of whom have since been released. A court has ordered most of the current suspects held for two to three days.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 50Haaretz

According to sources in Isawiyah, around 600 people in all have been arrested since police intensified their activities in the neighborhood around six months ago. But only a tiny fraction of them has been indicted for stone-throwing or other offenses. Altogether, police have this far filed some 20 indictments.

Isawiyah residents accuse the police of using arrests as a means of collective punishment.

“We’re fed up with arrests based on intelligence tips,” said attorney Mohammad Mahmoud, who has represented most of the Isawiyah detainees, at a recent bail hearing. “Last week, many people were arrested and released. It’s a lottery system.”

Israel Police officers patrol the streets of Isawiyah, August 26, 2019
Emil Salman

The stepped-up enforcement campaign means that police are present in the neighborhood in force almost every day, patrolling, setting up checkpoints and laying ambushes. And most evenings, there are violent clashes between police and young men from the neighborhood.

Last week, neighborhood residents said, the police presence actually eased off, with fewer policemen and shorter patrols. But last Friday, severe clashes erupted. Residents threw Molotov cocktails at a patrol car and hurled fireworks at policemen, who responded by using riot-control measures.

On Sunday afternoon, police entered the neighborhood’s central section just as students were leaving school. This goes against an understanding reached two weeks ago with school principals. Although police authorities have denied the existence of this deal, Haaretz obtained correspondence that showed they had indeed committed to refrain from entering the neighborhood during the school run. 

Saturday night, around 100 people demonstrated near the home of Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon to protest his failure to intervene in the confrontation. Most were Israeli Jews; only a minority were Palestinians from Isawiyah.

Demonstration against police action in Isawiyah, Paris Square, Jerusalem, November 16, 2019
Emil Salman

Last week, several city council members from both the coalition and the opposition demanded that Leon get involved.

“As mayor, and especially as someone who promised upon being elected to be the mayor of all Jerusalem residents, one would expect you to be involved in what’s happening in every Jerusalem neighborhood and to look out for the residents’ welfare,” wrote opposition city councilwoman Aliza Arens. “The steps you have taken, if any, have apparently not sufficed to restore quiet to Isawiyah.”

And two members of the city’s coalition, Laura Wharton and Yossi Havilio, wrote Jerusalem police chief Doron Yedid that “judging by the complaints we have received, it seems as if the police are ‘going after’ Isawiyah residents and engaging in aggressive enforcement beyond the requisite vital needs. Their claim is that police patrols in the village are increasing the friction between the police and the residents. This leads to additional police activity, which further inflames tempers, and so on.”