Monday, July 12, 2010

Arrests in Jerusalem

As it happens, people whom I know here in Jerusalem have been affected by the arbitrariness and partiality of the police in two recent instances. On Friday, July 9, during the weekly demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah against the establishment of Jewish settlers in houses formerly occupied by Palestinians (who have been evicted from their homes of several decades), eight people were arrested by the police for attempting to leave the usual place where the police permit them to demonstrate and go to the houses from which the Palestinian families have been evicted. As far as I know, no one whom I knew was arrested there, but several people I know were roughed up by the police in the course of their pushing back the demonstrators. People whom I trust who are involved in these demonstrations have told me of the partiality that the police show towards the demonstrators - they refuse to interact with them in any way (for example, by talking to them), they do not obey court orders which permit the demonstrators to go to the houses that have been occupied by the settlers (and in front of which the evicted Palestinian families have set up tents to live in), and they act roughly and sometimes quite violently towards peaceful protesters. The police appear to have taken the side of the settlers.

Then, today, a friend of mine, Anat Hoffman, was arrested at the Western Wall (Kotel) when she was participating in the monthly prayer service by the Women of the Wall (נשות הכותל). This is a group that has existed for over twenty years, since 1988, with the goal of leading a normal morning prayer service in the women's section of the Western Wall - including the wearing of tallitot (prayer shawls) and reading from the Torah, which is normally done on Rosh Hodesh (the first day of a Jewish month, which is today). Over the years the group has been attacked physically by Haredim - I remember times when I was in Israel from 1988-89 that they threw chairs at the women, cursed them, threw bags of garbage at him, physically pushed them, etc. (At one prayer service that I attended I was knocked down twice because I was wearing a tallit). Eventually, the Israeli supreme court ruled that the group could pray at the Kotel (Western Wall), but without wearing tallitot and reading from the Torah. To do that, they have to go outside the Western Wall plaza to an area under what is called Robinson's Arch (after the archaeologist who discovered it) - it is a continuation of the western wall of the Temple Mount but it has not been turned into an open-air ultra-Orthodox synagogue, which the Kotel area has been. The police have forbidden the women, for the last several months, from taking the Torah scroll out of its container while they are still in the Western Wall plaza. Today, apparently, Anat did take the scroll out before they arrived at Robinson's Arch, and the police arrested her. She spent several hours in a police station in the Old City and was ordered not to return to the Kotel area for the next 30 days.
Update: She's also apparently being fined 5000 NIS!

Both of these incidents are testimony to the ascendancy of right-wing religious forces in Israel. The settlements in Sheikh Jarrah are funded by a rich American Jewish businessman, Irving Moskowitz, and the people who live in them are right-wing religious Zionists. The fact that the Women of the Wall even need police protection is because of the violence of the Haredim, right-wing religious Jews who are usually anti-Zionist. If Israel is to survive as a democratic state, both of these kinds of religious right-wing forces need to be defeated.

No comments:

Post a Comment