Police Denied They Had Deal With E. Jerusalem Residents. These Texts Prove Otherwise

According to locals, police agreed not to send policemen to schools during certain hours to avoid tensions ■ Text messages seen by Haaretz negate police's denial that deal was reached

Police officers patrolling Isawiyah, August 27, 2019.
Emil Salman

Israel Police violated an agreement made with schools principals in an East Jerusalem neighborhood to avoid patrolling near schools when students are arriving and leaving, text messages seen by Haaretz show, contravening police's denial that such a deal was made.

On Friday, residents of Isawiyah said that Israel Police reneged on an agreement it had made with the management teams of several schools in the neighborhood, in which they promised not to patrol outside the school grounds during times that students enter and leave.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 47Haaretz

In response to inquiries from Haaretz, the police denied the existence of the agreements.

However, correspondence seen by Haaretz from a WhatsApp group called "Isawiyah education coordination" showed an agreement was reached. The group, which included school principals, members of the parents' committee, municipal workers and police officers, had messages pertaining to police activity in Isawiyah during school hours.

A text from Police Chief Superintendent Niso Guetta sent in the group on Tuesday read: "Just so we're all on the same page… the instructions to the police are not to be near the schools during arrival hours in the morning or at the leaving hours in the afternoon. Other than that, patrols will move through the neighborhood freely and as needed."

Palestinian girls walk by Israeli police officers in the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah, on Friday, November 8, 2019.
Free Jerusalem
Schoolchildren in the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah during a strike on Monday, November 4, 2019.
Emil Salman

Schools in Isawiyah announced a general strike on November 2 after a student was arrested at the school. This followed months of an ongoing police crackdown on the neighborhood, which residents deemed intrusive and excessive. On November 4, an arrangement between the parties was reached, stipulating that officers would not operate around the schools at times when students arrive and leave. The next day, police violated the agreement.

School principals complained about the violation in the WhatsApp group,  which was followed by police officers leaving it the next day. Police claimed they were unaware of any agreements, saying: "It's unclear to us which sources have given this information, as Israel Police are unfamiliar with the aforementioned agreements."

A source that was party to drafting the agreement postulated that the commander of the Jerusalem District, Deputy Commissioner Doron Yadid, ordered his officers to back out of it.

"It's clear that he decided to crush the agreement," said the source.

Following the deal's collapse, Deputy Director of the Jerusalem Education Authority Yoav Zimran wrote, "It seems someone upstairs didn't like the agreement that was made with the officers themselves and caused increased activity near the institutions. Yesterday evening, three police officers left the group and have effectively ended the coordination."

Zimran wrote that he was still pursuing coordination with the district chief.

However, on Saturday overnight, clashes erupted between residents and Israeli security forces when Border Police raided the neighborhood, leaving several Palestinians and one policeman wounded in the altercations.

According to eyewitnesses, at least one policeman was wounded by a stone thrown at him by residents, and several Palestinians were reportedly wounded from rubber-tipped bullets, truncheons and tear gas during the raids

Throughout the summer, police conducted broad-ranging operations on the streets of Isawiyah, which included hundreds of arrests, ambushes and patrols in the neighborhood. Ahead of the new school year that started in September, parents announced that they will not be sending their children to school as a form of protest.

Isawyiah's mayor and Yadid then held two meetings with locals, in which they agreed to keep police away from the schools. The police did not uphold that initial agreement.