AMMAN: Despite the fact that locals are arrested daily and that a number of houses have been demolished, residents of Issawiya, a small neighborhood in East Jerusalem, continue to defy Israeli attempts to break their spirit.
Over the past two months, Israeli police have detained an estimated 200 residents of Issawiya — many of them children — in defiance of international law. Orders to demolish three more homes in the neighborhood were also issued this week.
According to data from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), more than 600 residents have been arrested since the launch of regular police raids in Issawiya. About a third of those, according to residents and lawyers are minors.
The ACRI has written to the Israeli attorney general saying that the systematic over-policing directed at thousands of people — most of whom have never even thrown a stone in their life — along with intimidation, arrests, and the use of gas, stun grenades, and sponge-tipped bullets “are not legitimate means” for imposing law and order.
“This policy serves only to exacerbate and foment the confrontations, and in itself causes disturbances, while using means intended to punish, humiliate, and oppress an entire population that is mostly innocent of any crime,” the Israeli human rights organization wrote.
Since June the situation in Issawiya, as described by the ACRI, has been intolerable. “Day after day, night after night, Special Patrol Unit and Border Police forces enter the neighborhood, patrolling the streets, haranguing youths, invading homes, ordering shops to close, blocking roads, handing out incessant tickets, and conducting arrests, many of which prove to be spurious.”
Yaser Darwish, an activist in Issawiya, told Arab News that the daily attacks would not deter people from standing up for their rights. “They have been attacking Issawiya almost every night, and this week alone they have issued demolition orders for three homes in the center of town, claiming that they (were) built without a license,” he said.
Another Israeli human rights organization, Btselem, said that in 2019 alone Israel has demolished 169 homes in East Jerusalem — 18 of them in Issawiya — more than had previously been destroyed in the years since 2004, and that those demolitions “resulted in making 328 Palestinians, including 182 children, homeless.”
Former Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Ziad AbuZayyad told Arab News, “(The Israelis) want to break their spirit and force them to kneel, but the people of Issawiya are stubborn and the entire town has stood up to the Israeli police and other Israeli officials’ efforts.”
Hanna Issa, head of the Islamic Christian Committee for Jerusalem, told Arab News that the constant attacks are a prelude to an attempt to displace this small neighborhood, which is close to Israeli institutions including the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus Campus and the Hadassah Hospital.
“They want to knock off the head of anyone that dares raise his head so that Issawiya will be an example to other neighborhoods, and so that eventually they can move these areas while widening the borders of what they call their unified capital,” Issa said.
Micky Rosenfeld, spokesman for the Israel National Police, told Arab News that police carry out regular patrols in the neighborhood of Issawiya, and “have done so for years,” in order to prevent and respond to security-related incidents whether caused by criminals or terrorists.
“Police officers have been attacked when on patrol by masked residents with petrol bombs, and have had fireworks fired at them from close range, causing the officers to be in a life-threatening situation,” he claimed.
Rosenfeld added that Israeli police officials “are in contact with the leaders of the community to discuss the general situation and coordinate.”