For the past year Palestinian store owner Azzam Maraka has been displaying posters of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in his store windows near the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Today Israeli police arrived for the fifth time since the posters were hung to fine Mr. Maraka 475 Israeli shekels (equivalent to approximately 130 US dollars) totaling 2375 shekels (~$650) to date.
Azzam Maraka argues with Israeli police over his right to display posters in store window.
Maraka considers Erdogan a friend of the Palestinians partly due to Turkey’s participation in the 2010 flotilla to Gaza. Diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey have deteriorated after Israel refused to apologize for the killing of nine Turkish passengers on board the Mavi Marmara, a ship loaded with humanitarian aid bound for Gaza.
According to Maraka, the citations were issued in violation of a law prohibiting signs of any kind to be displayed on the street on which the store is located. Yet the signs of neighboring businesses and public buildings are of similar size and have not been targeted.
Maraka believes that he is being singled out because of political reasons related to strained relations between Israel and Turkey.
Israel’s seemingly political crackdown is further complicated because the neighborhood where the store is located is behind the green line, the internationally recognized border dividing Israel from the Palestinian West Bank.
Mr. Maraka intends not to pay the fines and is prepared to have the issue heard before the courts.
The author of this post is currently traveling in Israel/Palestine and would prefer to remain anonymous.