Saturday, December 19, 2009

Police in the service of robbers

It happened on Friday afternoon. The brave and industrious men of the Jerusalem Police charged head-on at demonstrators who marched through the streets, some of them drumming and others dressed as clowns. Twenty-seven protesters were dragged into the police patrol cars and sent to spend the weekend behind bars at the Russian Compound detention center.

No, these protesters did not riot or block roads, nor did they violate public order. They just walked, quietly and orderly, on the sidewalk, bound to a protest demonstration at Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. A protest on the spot where settlers are, openly and in broad daylight, breaking into Palestinian houses, throwing the inhabitants out into the street and establishing themselves in residence, hoisting the Blue-and-White flag on the roof.

The Jerusalem police is very deeply concerned for the safety of these settler robbers. They must not be disturbed, either during the robbery or afterwards. Demonstrators must not be allowed to get to the vicinity of these houses, the police spokesperson explained – this is strictly forbidden. God forbid, the protesters might have actually prevented some of the settlers from returning in time to the house which they seized, there to hold Shabbat services according to the structures of Jewish tradition and to light Hanukah candles and sing of the heroism of the Maccabees.

Two hours after the detention of the protesters, the settlers and their friends came out to hold a public prayer in the streets of Sheikh Jarrah. Feeling elated by the prayer, they went on to throw stones there, beat Palestinians passing by, break into a house and there beat up two children, who needed medical treatment and were evacuated by ambulance. The Jerusalem police were apparently still tired of chasing peaceniks. For the settler antics the police had no energy left...

P.S. On Saturday night, the 27 detainees were brought before Judge Liran of the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, their fellow protesters demonstrating and drumming outside the building. The police demanded that they be charged with "rioting" and ordered to stay out of the city of Jerusalem for 90 days. The judge rejected this out of hand and ordered all detainees released on their own recognizance.

The police representative complained that "leftist demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah lay a great burden on the police". The court reiterated the obligation of police in a democratic society to allocate sufficient forces to safeguard the holding of political protest.

To be continued next Friday, in Sheikh Jarrah.