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Police take sides in Old City land dispute

Thursday, July 4, 2019, 9:52 In a land dispute between yeshiva students in the Old City of

Screenshot from first incident; Photo credit: Free use

Screenshot from first incident; Photo credit: Free use

Jerusalem and their Arab neighbors the police took sides and detained only the yeshiva students, despite video documentation which shows that the Arabs were violent. Later the police escorted the Arabs who came to clear the students’ belongings from the site, without a warrant or a permit. The Honenu Attorneys who represented the detainees criticized the “scandalous and discriminatory conduct.” For a considerable length of time there has been a dispute between yeshiva students in the Old City of Jerusalem and an Arab residing near the yeshiva. Two weeks ago the neighbor, who is known by the nickname “Abu Ali”, and his friends approached “HaGiva” (the hill) a resting place and seating corner for the students which is located outside of the yeshiva, but within its yard, and began to remove lecterns, tables and other objects. Despite requests from the students to stop, Abu Ali and his friends continued to clear out the site and began to physically attack the students, waving metal chairs and throwing rocks at them. Video documentation shows that one of Abu Ali’s friends waved a metal rod at the students and started physical violence. The students called police forces who were nearby, but there was no response. Later two border policemen arrived at “HaGiva” and attempted to stop the dispute. Abu Ali falsely accused the students of throwing rocks at him. At the end of the incident several of the yeshiva students were detained. No known action has been taken against Abu Ali. The day after the dispute several students heard Abu Ali speaking on the phone and describing to the police how they had thrown rocks at him. The police detained several students who spent the night at the Kishleh Police Station and were released under an order distancing them from “HaGiva”. On the same day that a hearing was held for the detainees, following an additional complaint about rock throwing, an additional student from the yeshiva was detained and also a seven and a half year old boy. They were released after several hours. Last week the situation worsened when on Wednesday (June 26) Abu Ali arrived escorted by two policemen and began to clear out “HaGiva” with the policemen protecting him. The policemen had neither a warrant nor a permit ordering the evacuation of the site. A student from the yeshiva, a minor, was detained as he attempted to prevent the destruction of the site. When the student was brought before a judge the following day, Judge Oren Silverman ruled that the situation is “a civil land dispute that should be resolved in the appropriate forum, and not by the involvement of the police.” Additionally, Judge Silverman released the minor on condition of distancing from “HaGiva” only, not from all of the Old City of Jerusalem, as the police had demanded. This week detentions of the yeshiva students continued as they encountered an Arab sitting on an easy chair taken from “HaGiva”. As they argued with him, he became annoyed and smashed the chair. When the police arrived the Arab complained that the students threatened him and again several students were detained. Honenu Attorney Moshe Poleski, who represented some of the detainees, stated that, “The provocation started when several local Arabs arrived at a site which was under the control of Jewish residents and began to violently remove lecterns and chairs that were in use for the students’ studies. The [assailants] trespassed, threatened the students with violence and endangered the lives of the Jewish youths, as is documented by the video clips which were transferred to us.” Poleski added that, “Also when the Jewish youths requested that they stop the destruction, they began to throw rocks and any objects that they could grab at the youths. The clash began when the Jewish youths demanded that they stop the destruction and leave the site. The policemen present at the site did not prevent the assailants from throwing objects. Surprisingly, the assailants left, except for one minor who was detained. Among the Jews, who had only requested that the assailants stop, two minors and one adult were detained. “We have again witnessed the unfortunate phenomenon in which instead of detaining the Arab provocateurs the police allow their destructive behavior and in the end the treat the Jews with an iron fist, even though they only attempted to prevent the Arabs from taking control of the site.” Honenu Attorney Rehavia Piltz, who also represented some of the detainees, stated that, “The site is within the yard of the yeshiva. The yeshiva students put up a shade canopy for protection from the sun. The site serves as a rest and relaxation space for the yeshiva students. “The Arab neighbors are not interested in Jews residing in their midst, and approximately a month ago began to hassle the students by stealing equipment, throwing rocks, destroying the canopy, assaulting and threatening the yeshiva students. The police are cooperating with the Arabs instead of controlling the assailants. Time after time, the assailants have destroyed the canopy. In the incident two weeks ago a minor was assaulted within sight of the policemen, and the assailant was not detained.” Piltz further stated that, “In court the police representative claimed that the site is private property and therefore they [the police] are operating at the site. When she was asked who owned the property she did not have a response. She admitted that the police are operating without a legal warrant. In Judge Oren Silverman’s decision he wondered why the police took sides in a real estate dispute. He rejected the police demand to distance the minor from the Old City of Jerusalem for 15 days. It would be appropriate for Minister [of Public Security Gilad] Erdan to intervene concerning the scandalous and discriminatory conduct of the Kishleh Police Station towards the Jewish residents of the Old City.”

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