One of the most devastating pieces of information we learned this year was Yonatan Shapira's revelation, in an Upper West Side church, that while Israel has fostered the creation of hundreds of new Israeli towns since 1948, no Palestinian towns have been founded, evidence of rampant discrimination. Below is a report from occupied East Jerusalem-- which Israel annexed in 1970 and considers part of Israel-- that shows the racial discrimination. Note that the neighborhood of Isawiya (also spelled Issawiyya) neighbors Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood that is now being colonized by Jews.
Yuri Pines wrote the report. Ofer Neiman translated it from Hebrew.
Background: The village of Isawiya is located just below the Hebrew University campus on Mt. Scopus, near the French Hill neighborhood. Between 16-18,000 people reside in the village nowadays (many – immigrants from more remote neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and some – holders of West Bank ID cards). The village suffers severe neglect; the municipality refuses to authorize the new master plan submitted in the name of the residents by the Bimkom association; infrastructure is crumbling, sanitary conditions are very bad, and there is a general sense of extreme deprivation and contempt about the municipality’s treatment of Isawiya.
The most salient manifestation of this attitude is the fate of the little playground built by the municipality in the village a decade ago (at the request of the French Hill administration – to dissuade the village children from going to the neighborhood’s playgrounds). After five years of leasing the plot, the municipality dismantled the facility in its entirety, leaving behind an ugly desolate plot in the entrance to the village. Contempt for the village and dereliction of municipal duties towards its inhabitants are nowadays more evident than in the past. Land that was once slated for development is now being slated for “natural reserve”/”national park” use; there is no minimal urban planning and driving on the village roads requires acrobatic skills.
The situation in Isawiya began to deteriorate last Friday (5 November) when the local youths stoned a Jewish vehicle which came (apparently by accident) within the boundaries of the village. As a result of this, the police decided "to teach the village a lesson" in the manner remembered by many of us from the first years of the Second Intifada. What follows are some of the actions of the police over the past two days:
* Renewed blockage of alleys and roads (licensed and unlicensed) which link the village with the outside world. New concrete road-blocks have been set up, and in a few places bulldozers have dug trenches and raised ramparts of earth in order to prevent movement in and out.
*In the main road of the village (the exit to the French Hill), concrete cubes have been set up which make travel very difficult indeed. In tandem with this, mobile police roadblocks have been set up. The greatest pressure was imposed upon the residents in the morning (Wednesday) at the time at which people leave for work. Every private vehicle is checked, and the police "look for" reasons to impose fines with respect to mechanical faults with the vehicles deemed to render them unroadworthy, or for other infractions: many dozens of fines of between 250 NIS and 1000 NIS [$70-$280] have been imposed upon residents. According to the residents, the policemen came with the explicit aim of taking vehicles off the road. In a similar fashion, the roadblocks have also been used to collect fines for other authorities (municipal tax, national insurance, license-fees for the Israeli broadcasting authority, and the like).
*Along with the fining (which delayed traffic at peak hours) and the meticulous checking (including bus passengers) there was an incident with a 15 year old boy who looks older than his age. He was denied the right to go out of the village because he did not have an I.D card. [translation note: minors are not required to possess an ID card].
*During the blockade that was imposed on village, the police patrolled its streets (on our visit we saw a 3 police patrols). One can assume that the target was to provoke and bring about stone throwing, as indeed happened. The reaction was uncontrolled tear gas shooting, including shooting into houses.
*Lately the pressure on the village people has increased by demolition of farming facilities, fining livestock owners etc.
• When will all this end? One of the police officers in east Jerusalem said the torture would end "when he can walk around Isawiya with the Israeli flag" and "when the village will be safe for him like King George Street [west Jerusalem] is". This is a classic example of the ‘show of strength’ and 'searing deep into Palestinian consciousness’ mentality.
• The residents reaction to this weeks events:
• Condemnation of Friday's violence. One of the activists claims he was the one calling the police regarding the stoning of the car; the answer he received was "find out for us if the driver being stoned is a Jew or an Arab".
• A sharp protest against the police's violent and provocative conduct. Many of the residents say nobody would dare close all of Mea Shearim [an ultra-orthodox neighborhood in west Jerusalem] after Arabs had been attacked by residents of that area, and in no Jewish settlement would the police imagine punishing an entire community because of criminal activity of individuals. One of the residents says, regarding the statement uttered by the police officer (see paragraph above): "You will be free to walk around Issawiya like you wander around King George street, as soon as Issawiya’s municipal development status is like King George street’s". /