ISAWIYA, Dec 5 (JMCC) - The east Jerusalem
neighborhood of Isawiya
has in the last month seen an escalation in clashes between residents and Israeli police, closures, flying checkpoints and home demolitions.
The crackdown by the Israeli authorities began when a group of youths attacked the car of a Jewish Israeli that had accidentally driven into the neighborhood.
“We condemn this attack but Israel
is using this as a pretext,” says Hani Isawi of the Isawiyah Follow-up Committee. None of the citizens attacked by stones actually went to the hospital.
Ten children have been arrested and interrogated,” says Hani Isawi. “Fourteen young men have also been arrested, eight are still detained.” The accusation in most cases is stone throwing.
For over four weeks the main entrance to the neighborhood has been blocked, and flying checkpoints have been set up at other exits.
“We have witnessed an increase in the rate of flying checkpoints that are set up,” says Sergio Yahni, Program Director of the Alternative Information Centre that has been following events in Isawiya.
The checkpoints are being used for checks on residents by other Israeli regulatory bodies, including the Tax office. Tax officials accompany the police, checking that taxation payments have been made as police scrutinize identity cards.
The same practice is being used to check resident’s car licenses, and residents are being fined for minor faults with their vehicles. “Cars that have just passed their regular service checks are being failed in tests at the checkpoint,” says one resident.
Locals report that the police have told them that this is a form of collective punishment.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has condemned this practice. “Authorities have the right to enforce the law, but this cannot be used as a measure of punishment. East Jerusalem is the only part of the city where we see this happening,” says spokesperson Ronit Sela.
Sela also added that there is a severe lack of municipal services in Isawiya.
“The only service we receive from the municipality is garbage collection,” says Hani Isawi.
The demolition of residents’ properties has also increased in frequency.
Crisply dressed in a white hijab and pressed blue dress Maher Hesem stands amidst the rubble that a week ago was her and her family’s home.
The patch of ground now gives the first impression of being a meaningless wasteland. But the uprooted fig tree that still has green leaves, the pillow case on the cushion that pokes out of the cement is still clean are clues that this is a recent demolition.
“The police entered from here,” points Maher. “It happened in a matter of minutes.”
Residents say 12 farms have been destroyed in this area of Isawiya, that has been slated by Israel for the development of the settlement
The Jerusalem City council says the demolitions are carried out by a court order issued because the homes were built without permits. Palestinians maintain that Israel has no right to demolish homes in eastern Jerusalem, which is occupied territory.
Moreover, permits for Palestinians to build in east Jerusalem are issued rarely. “While we hear on the news of thousands of residential units built in West Jerusalem, here there has been no construction permitted,” says Riad Isawi from the IFC.
No building permits have been issued since 1990. We have no way to accommodate the natural growth in population.”