For the past six months, Israeli police have subjected Issawiya’s residents to daily raids, arrests and beatings, alongside constant drone surveillance. No one seems to know the goal of the operation – including the police.
In the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, Monday evening looked like this: Border Police and riot police jeeps roving constantly; officers arresting a young Palestinian and beating his peers who try to protest; cops pepper-spraying an elderly man; and a police drone circling over people’s homes, reminding them who is watching them from above.
It was, relatively speaking, a “calm” evening, the latest in a police operation in the neighborhood that began six months ago. Its purpose is still unclear to residents, political activists, journalists — even some police officers.
I joined a group of Israeli activists who go to Issawiya every evening to show solidarity with its residents, in the hope that their presence and documentation of cops’ behavior will somewhat reduce the level of police violence. The Israelis team up with local activists to patrol the streets, in an effort to help residents go about their lives without being arrested or wounded.
Since the start of the operation in May, Issawiya has experienced daily and nightly police raids, searches, arrests and roadblocks. It is difficult to explain why the operation began then; there were no statements from the police about violent activity in or around the neighborhood in months prior.
In late June, police shot dead 20-year-old Mohammed Obeid. In August, a report in Haaretz revealed that police had planted a weapon in the home of a local resident for the purposes of an Israeli reality television show called “Jerusalem District.”
Toward the start of the school year, the local parents’ committee threatened to suspend the start of the semester in protest of the operation. The police arrested several committee members, but agreed that officers would refrain from entering Issawiya — an agreement they breached only a few days later.
In October, another Haaretz article reported that in footage from a police body camera, an officer stationed in Issawiya could be heard saying, “Our policy [here] is completely messed up.” His colleague replies that the aim of the operation is “to cause more problems.”
Last week, parents in the neighborhood suspended the semester after police arrested a student while he was in school,...Read More