Mohammed Abid, a 20-year-old resident of Isawiyah, was shot dead by police last Thursday. There are almost no disagreements about the facts: Abid was shot during a confrontation between young Palestinians and policemen in the village, which is located right beneath the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University. According to police, Abid shot firecrackers at a group of policemen, and one of the police drew his weapon and shot him. The bullet hit Abid in the chest and he died of his wound soon after.
Firecrackers are a very common weapon in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Tens of thousands of firecrackers are fired every year, some of them directly toward policemen. Yet there have been few, if any, injuries from these firecrackers, raising questions about the level of risk posed to the policeman in question and the need for him to use live fire to neutralize it.
>> Read more: Israel's collective punishing exacts price from this East Jerusalem neighborhood | Analysis
As with the police’s attitude toward Israelis of Ethiopian origin, here too there are broader questions that must be asked about police behavior in Isawiyah and the rest of East Jerusalem.
In recent years Jerusalem police have adopted a policy of wide-ranging enforcement campaigns against entire neighborhoods, in which hundreds of officers block the exits and carefully check every vehicle coming or going to try to find a reason to issue a ticket. There are also armed patrols conducted to demonstrate a police presence. Sometimes these police operations involve other authorities as well, to collect taxes or levy various types of fines. The undeclared message, conveyed repeatedly in conversations between the officers and neighborhood residents, is that the operation aims to make the residents stop throwing stones at policemen who enter the village. In other, less subtle words, these are collective punishment operations.
The Isawiyah operation started three weeks ago, and includes daily raids on the village and harassment of the residents. Most business owners in the village have closed their shops for now, and residents are shutting themselves in their homes for fear of encountering policemen. Events in the village had escalated before Abid’s death. His death, as well as the fact that police refused to release the body to his family for four days, assured the continued violence. Dozens of residents have been injured in the confrontations.
Police behavior toward Isawiyah is illegal, immoral and ineffective. It’s a policy that punishes a population of 20,000 people for the acts of a few, and increases the sense of humiliation and rage among East Jerusalem residents, which in turn sparks the violence against policemen. It would behoove the police brass to order a halt to these enforcement operations and instead conduct a thorough investigation of the events that led to Abid’s death.
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The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.