How did we get here?
We are in the midst of a difficult culmination of events that began in Jerusalem and spread throughout Israel and south to Gaza. The unprecedented, reprehensible violence in Israel’s mixed cities is keeping many of us up at night, as are the thousands of Hamas rockets raining over Israel, killing a number of civilians. Meanwhile, the death toll from Israel’s retaliation in Gaza continues to rise.
This violence has unfolded against the backdrop of decades of violating basic rights, neglect, discrimination, brutality, and over-policing against Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories: the discriminatory “Absentee Property Law;" the decades-long public struggle of Sheikh Jarrah residents against home evictions; and the series of unreasonable and ineffective police decisions to restrict prayer and celebrations throughout the holy month of Ramadan.
After decades of discrimination and an unequal allocation of resources, there is a deep and widening gap between East and West Jerusalem, and this disparity has been especially stark in the policing of these communities. This past week, we were horrified to see the Israeli Police desecrate the Al Aqsa Mosque with stun grenades, tear gas, and sponge-tipped bullets that left hundreds of Palestinians in the hospital. As the protests against events in Jerusalem spread to other places in Israel, we are seeing the concerning pattern of disproportionate use of force to disperse demonstrations and arrests applied towards Arab-Israeli citizens nationwide, as well. Last night, the violence escalated to hostilities across the country. As a response to events in Jerusalem, Hamas rockets rained over Israeli cities, reaching Jerusalem and forcing Israeli families to huddle in bomb shelters. Israel’s retaliatory strikes in Gaza killed dozens, including children, and, at the time of this writing, it was announced that two Israelis have been killed by rockets in the southern city of Ashkelon. We are deeply saddened and concerned—all of this could have been prevented.
Once again, the attempt to maintain the occupation and, at the same time, enjoy democracy and good relations between the Arab and Jewish populations within the country is doomed for failure. The violent conduct of the security forces in the Occupied Territories is trickling into the country, hatred and incitement has become normalized, and human rights violations have become routine.
In times such as these, when tensions are high and there is increasing incitement by extremists who wish to escalate the situation, the authorities and elected officials must work to put out the flames. The Israeli Police must fulfil its role and exercise discretion in the field, and act in accordance with the law and its procedures.
We are working around the clock to hold the authorities accountable and deescalate this highly volatile situation:
Yesterday, we appealed to remove the checkpoints and barricades in Sheikh Jarrah that violate the freedom of movement and expression.
We continue to appeal against the use of skunk water and violent crowd control measures against protesters throughout East Jerusalem.
We are filing a Freedom of Information request into the Israeli Police’s use of crowd control methods in East Jerusalem.
We demand that the authorities deescalate and prevent further hostilities.