Instead of Quelling Violence in East Jerusalem, Israel Police Just Inflamed It

At a glance, Isawiyah looks the way policemen describe it in the television series “Jerusalem District”: A violent, rebellious neighborhood whose residents are driven by hostile forces. But a closer look reveals a different place entirely.

There is violence and crime – as in every East Jerusalem neighborhood – but in the center of the neighborhood there is a store for coffee pods and a great ice cream shop, while down the road there are a few trendy hairdressers. Most of the residents speak fluent Hebrew, work in the western part of the city and are seeking a way to live peacefully in an impossible situation.

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 48

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 48Haaretz

Over the past half year, the residents’ lives have been disrupted daily by an enforcement and collective punishment operation carried out by the police. The operation, which began in May, has included daily raids, checkpoints, ambushes, fines and confrontations. As a result, businesses have closed and parents are keeping their children off the streets. On July 2, the operation exacted its first death – Mohammad Abid, 19, who was shot while firing non-lethal fireworks at policemen. His death caused a spike in the violence, which in turn intensified the police's response.

The operation has seriously undermined the relationship between the residents and the police. What it has accomplished, if anything, isn’t clear.

At the end of August the neighborhood parents' committee declared a suspension of classes until the operation ended. Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon and Jerusalem Police Commander Doron Yedid met with representatives of the residents and came to an agreement that the riot control units would not operate near school entrances during the periods when pupils were arriving at or leaving school.


עיסאוויה עכשיו.

— nir hasson (@nirhasson) November 9, 2019

Only a few days later, police began to violate the agreement. Two weeks ago police were seriously embarrassed by a video in which policemen were heard admitting that the operation seemed to be serving no purpose other than to provoke the residents.

The situation in Isawiyah peaked again last week when policemen burst onto the grounds of a local high school, shoved aside the principal and the security guard and arrested a 10th grader on suspicion that he’d thrown a stone at them. The teenager was released the next day, because – as has happened in most of the hundreds of other arrests during the operation – there was no evidence against him.