As Ir Amim previously reported, the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Al-Issawiya has been the target of an aggressive police campaign since June, marked by daily hostile police incursions, arbitrary harassment, and overall violent disruption of daily life. While there have been periodic reductions in police activity over the last five months, the situation in Al-Issawiya has deteriorated within the past two weeks with intensified police and para-military presence and operations in the neighborhood. There have been arrests of children almost daily with the majority released within 24 hours of their detainment and no charges filed. Ir Amim field researchers along with local community and Israeli activists have witnessed the use o f excessive force by the police, including stun grenades and tear gas.
On November 2, the police raided a local high school accompanied by the use of stun grenades and arrested a student on school property. The severe incident violated an agreement made with the local parents’ committee to reduce police activity during school hours and specifically refrain from targeting schools to ensure neighborhood children could safely attend school. While the student was released 24 hours later, the parents’ committee declared a neighborhood-wide school strike due to the police’s breach of the original agreement and the escalation of police operations in the community. Since the incident on November 2, schools in the neighborhood have remained closed.
The police responded by arresting two members of the parents’ committee on November 4 – the same two members who were arrested at the end of August directly following the committee's decision to postpone the opening of the new school year due to police violence on neighborhood streets. The arrested committee members spent the night in jail and were released today following a hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, however, now subject to a seven-day entry ban into their neighborhood.
Today, community residents organized a demonstration at the entrance to Al-Issawiya to demand a halt to the unrelenting police operations, which have completely disrupted the lives of 20,000 residents for the past five months, carrying long-term economic, social and psychological effects. Just prior to commencement of the demonstration, the local parents' committee met with the Deputy Director of the Jerusalem Municipality's Education Administration where an agreement was reached in which the municipality vowed to ensure no police presence in and around school grounds. The agreement does not, however, stipulate any limitation on other forms of police activity and collective punishment in the neighborhood. Following the meeting, the parents' committee declared a suspension of the scho ol strike.
The recent intensification of police operations in Al-Issawiya for no apparent reason coupled with the blatant absence of intervention from other Israeli authorities underscore the erosion of proper governance and accountability of state institutions in this regard. The police have effectively been given carte-blanche when it comes to operating in Al-Issawiya.
Such excessive policing and police brutality appear to be a new stage in the pressures and discriminatory policies leveled at the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem aimed at further suppression and displacement.