For two and a half months a police operation has been going on in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah. Every day dozens of members of the police and Border Police come to the small village for policing duties whose purpose isn’t clear. The police patrol the streets, set up ambushes, write tickets and get stones thrown at them. Early in the morning they also raid homes, conduct searches and make arrests.
Some 340 of the neighborhood’s young people have been arrested during this period; most have been released for a lack of evidence after a day or two of detention. Only five have been charged with anything, while three are still awaiting a decision. The dozens of middle-of-the-night home searches haven’t yielded a single gun. The police ended up confiscating books and cellphones.
These numbers show how ridiculous and purposeless this operation is. The police are using arrests, searches and tickets as a form of collective punishment.
>> Read more: Israel's collective punishing exacts price from this East Jerusalem neighborhood | Analysis ■ Let the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah be | Editorial
The residents pay the price; the overwhelming majority of them don’t throw stones, yet people’s daily lives have been destroyed. Dozens of residents have been wounded in confrontations with the police, parents are afraid to let their kids play in the streets, storekeepers report a sharp drop in business, and the local parents’ committee has announced a strike against the neighborhood's schools until the police operation is halted.
The futility of the operation also stems from the fact that the police aren’t pointing to any event that justifies it. In the months before the operation, there were no unusual events in or around Isawiyah. Even during the 10 weeks of the operation, no police officers or Jewish civilians have been wounded except for two officers who were hurt by a grenade thrown by a colleague.
The residents of Isawiyah repeatedly say that the reason for the confrontations is the security forces’ aggressive entrance into the village and their deliberate provocations. They say that if the operation continues, it will lead to an increase in violence and in the end someone will do something extreme, or an error in judgment will kill someone. When that happens, the residents say, and the violence escalates, the police are likely to use this as an excuse to justify the operation.
This collective punishment operation in Isawiyah is being led by Jerusalem’s police chief, Doron Yedid. Yedid has changed the approach under his predecessor, Yoram Halevy, which included the use of force along with dialogue and consideration for the community. Acting Police Commissioner Motti Cohen and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan must urgently call Yedid to order and tell him to stop the abuse of Isawiyah’s residents.
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