The Jerusalem police have been putting a lot of pressure on the Palestinian residents of Silwan in what seems to be an attempt to break the social and political leadership of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem. The recent wave of attacks started a few weeks ago when Adnan Ghaith, one of the local leaders of al-Bustan neighborhood, received an order of expulsion from Jerusalem for four months.
Last week, Jawad Siyam, the director of the Madaa Community Center in Wadi Hilweh was arrested for three days and then released into house arrest. This was after a Palestinian man filed a complaint of assault against him, but Siyam was interrogated mainly about his political and social activity in Silwan. One of central reasons given for the extension of his arrest was a suspected conspiracy to commit a crime, yet the charges that were filed against him today mentioned only the alleged assault.
Probably the most severe, though, was the police attack on Battan Al-Hawa last Friday night and the arrest of Zoheir A-Rajabi. Battan al-Hawa is one of the most tense places in Silwan, if not in all of East Jerusalem. Tension there began when settlers built an illegal building, Beit Yonatan, in the heart of the neighborhood. The armed guards of the settlers, the armored jeep taking them in and out of their house and the added police patrols have been the focus of many quarrels, brawls, and in some cases stone-throwing incidents that ended in clashes with the police, tear gas in the streets and in the homes, injuries and arrests.
When I came to Battan Al-Hawa on Saturday morning, I could see the traces of what had happen the night before. Four armed policemen walked down the alley, attracting the attention of the children who were playing in the street. They were coming to man the military-post that the border police put up on the roof of one of the Palestinian homes a few months ago, without the required injunction.
According to what I was told, the previous night, their colleagues at the post were forced off the roof by some young Palestinians following a brawl which probably irrupted after one of the policeman talked to/watched/or touched a young Palestinian woman. The policemen left behind a box full of ammunition. Zoheir A-Rajabi, who is one of the local leaders, managed to get hold of the box and to prevent the youngsters from stealing and using its contents. He called the police and informed them that they could come and take the box, and so they did.
Two hours later, the police came back with a huge amount of cars and soldiers. They used massive amounts of tear gas, shock grenades and plastic bullets.
They entered Rajabi’s house by force, broke the door, and arrested him, not before breaking his computer and taking it away.
The police broke the door and took the computer
Watch the testimony of Rula A-Rajabi the wife of Zoheir a-Rajabi (in Arabic)
They also tried to enter his brother’s house. They used a shock grenade at the door, broke the glass and called the family out.
A Shock Grenade at the Door and the Broken Glass of the Door
Eventually the family managed to prevent them from entering but Zoheir’s brother was beaten up badly by the police, his rib was broken as well as his top jaw bone. Now, 48 hours later, Zoheir A-Rajabi is still in custody, probably under allegation of assaulting a policeman.
But this was not enough for the Jerusalem police: early this morning (Sunday 9/1/11), they arrested some of al-Bustan neighborhood’s activists. According to reports, about 10 people were arrested, including the son of Fakhri Abu Diab, one of the local leaders of al-Bustan, well known by the press and the diplomatic community as one of the spokesmen and social leaders of al-Bustan. Fakhri Abu Diab himself was summoned for an investigation at the police headquarters as well as Adnan Gaith.
What all this means?
It seems to me that the Jerusalem police have decided to try and break the local leadership of Silwan. These kinds of community leaders need be remarkable people. The Palestinian society in East Jerusalem is fragmented and crushed. Day-to-day hardships and the constant threat to the basic needs of the residents (home demolitions, expulsions and denial of residency, neglect of the infrastructure and social services) keep the residents busy dealing with survival. The police, the settlers and the secret services are using Palestinian collaborators and informers, making it almost impossible for the people to trust one another. Under these circumstances, the price of taking action to organize the people for any kind of activity can be very high. The local leaders of Silwan, together with many other Palestinians in their neighborhood, are trying to do the impossible and create a community ready to act in order to achieve common goals, and ready to stand up against the oppression of the Israeli authorities and the settlers in East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem police doesn’t want such leadership, and is trying to wear them down with investigations, arrests, expulsions and other means that would never be accepted in a democratic system. This is only a further example demonstrating that Jerusalem is not united: in West Jerusalem some form of a democracy is kept. In the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, there is occupation, and a fight for survival.