RAMALLAH, September 12 (JMCC) - A report released last week by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) says there is a growing trend of police discrimination against Palestinians in East Jerusalem
. Police enforcement of the law is in many cases selective in favor of Jewish settlers, report residents.
One year ago, Ahmed Qarae'en was shot in the legs by an off duty soldier. Now permanently crippled, he leans on his crutch as he tells JMCC.org the story.
“It was Ramadan, and 5.30 pm. I was sleeping when some guys shouting waked me. I saw a man, who I thought was a settler, hitting my son. I shouted in Hebrew, 'Why are you hitting my son?' He shot me in the right thigh. While my son was crying over me he shot me in the other leg.”
Police questioning significantly delayed a journey to the hospital - for 15 minutes he and his friend were stopped despite the fact that he was losing dangerous amounts of blood. He was then repeatedly interviewed while in hospital and detained after his surgery. The soldier who shot him, though arrested at the scene, was freed after 24 hours.
ACRI cites this case in its report. Attorney Tali Nir, who helped compile the report, investigated further. “There is a security camera there, [the police] have the film [of what happened] but they won’t give it to us.”
The report, explains Nir, was inspired by an increasing number of complaints about police conduct in East Jerusalem. “We got complaints before making the report. We are in touch with different neighborhood committees, and they asked us to do something about it.”
The growing number of settlers in East Jerusalem may be one of the reasons for the increase in the number of police violations of conduct reported.
“I think it is a combination: the number of settlers in neighborhood has grown, but the end of the day it is both political and personal. The more settlers that come to the neighborhood, the greater the tension it causes and it is easier for police to identify with the Jewish side - one incident leads to another.”
Jews and Muslims living in such close quarters has resulted in the Old City being the most tense location in East Jerusalem says Nir. “I think all the area of the Old City is very tense; there is violence on different levels on both sides.
A security guard an Old City yeshiva says police protection of Jews in the Old City is necessary. The Arabs living in the Old City are aggressive, he believes “There are a lot of children in the Jewish quarter. It is dangerous for them – a young person cannot go alone.”
Ali Jeddeh, a member of the Old City's African community, says “In many cases the police behave brutally, especially when there are troubles between locals and settlers. There are too many examples; the settlers are often provocative, and when the locals respond, the police side with the settlers,” he says, recalling a recent incident.
The reports of police discrimination are also supported by Nir’s personal experience. “I have seen it personally [in court]. The police think they can do things in East Jerusalem that they wouldn’t do in other places.”
Prior to publishing the report ACRI submitted it to the Jerusalem police for comment. The greatest numbers of complaints were about the Shalem and David stations. The police responded: “we request that you allow us additional time to investigate the incidents described in the report and to examine your allegations in a serious and thorough manner.”
“This was very frustrating,” says Nir. “It is very easy to say general sentences, 'Give us the facts.' The organization waited one and half months for explanations, but none were forthcoming.
The fact is, she maintains, “when it comes to Jewish complaints, police do their job. When it comes to Palestinians, they do the contrary. This is what we show in the report, [which is] not about blaming Jews or Arabs.