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Leftists in Sheikh Jarrah: Police discriminate
By Ronen Medzini
Leftist protestors in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah claimed Sunday that officers policing the area are more violent towards them than towards right-wing activists, and that the latter group`s behavior was leading to their arrests.
The protest in Sheikh Jarrah is over a number of Jewish families who recently moved into the Palestinian neighborhood, causing the eviction of many of the permanent residents. On Friday 20 activists demonstrating there were detained for 36 hours.
The leftists say police are treating ultra-Orthodox protestors and settlers less harshly, and that officers have falsely accused them of breaking into Jews` homes in the neighborhood in order to justify their arrests.
`The police are calling us outlaws and anarchists, despite the fact that the crowd here is mostly composed of professors from the Hebrew University and Jerusalemite teens who sing protest songs to the sound of drums,` said Avner Inbar, a left-wing activist.
He added that 90 of his colleagues have been arrested in the past month over claims that they attacked their right-wing counterparts.
`While the officers suppress our protests, sometimes violently, haredim and settlers riot unhindered in the neighborhood and attack Palestinian residents – sometimes to the point at which they require medical treatment,` Inbar said.
`Jerusalem Police see themselves as the operating arm of the settlers in east Jerusalem, and this conduct harms the police`s credibility.`
Support for the leftists` claims has come from a surprising source. Yehuda Glick, who chairs the Organization for Human Rights on the Temple Mount (OHRTM), also said police were behaving violently towards the activists protesting in the neighborhood.
`Every man has the right to express his opinion and it is the police`s job to defend and not to hinder freedom of speech,` he told Ynet in an interview.
Glick recently published a statement condemning the arrests in Sheikh Jarrah as anti-democratic. `Jerusalem is such a complex city, and instead of allowing freedom of speech there (police) are using excess force,` the statement said.
Additional criticism against the police came from Professor Amnon Rubinstein, who was also present at demonstrations. `The haredim have unlimited freedom of protest,` he told Ynet in an interview. `Only when they resort to serious violence is there a response.` He added that he would appeal to the ministers of justice and interior to change this.
Strip searches and dirty sheets
Sarah Beninga was arrested on Friday, and 36 hours later found herself in a holding cell being interrogated on grounds of rioting.
`I was standing next to an ultra-Orthodox family that had entered the neighborhood and the officers just jumped on me and took me to their car. I didn`t push anyone or do anything,` Beninga said in an interview with Ynet.
She added that she was held in inhumane conditions. `I found myself undergoing a strip search and handing over all of my personal belongings,` she said. `The sheets in the holding cell were dirty, and when I asked for a blanket I got a wet one. I wasn`t treated like a human being, but like a criminal.`
Beninga also claimed police were discriminating against leftists. `The haredim who protested at Intel torched garbage cans violently and without permits, but almost no one was arrested,` she said.
`On Friday settlers attacked Palestinians in the neighborhood and threw stones at them. One of them sustained a head injury and had to be taken to the hospital. All of this ended when a Palestinian was detained for questioning, but none of the settlers were arrested.`
But Jerusalem Police denied the claims vehemently. `In recent weeks leftists and anarchists have held illegal protests that disturbed the peace time and again. The protestors tried to break into Jewish homes, blocked roads, and attacked Jewish passersby and police officers,` the police said in a statement.
`Officers arrested a few dozen protestors when they refused to respond to calls to disperse. They were brought before a court and released after indictments were filed against them. Law enforcement will continue without discrimination, and no violations will be allowed in Sheikh Jarrah or anywhere else.`
Efrat Weiss and Anat Shalev contributed to this report
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