Jerusalem is starting to resemble Tehran


After I heard the version of the police I concluded that the police and we, "the anarchists," were at two different demonstrations. For more than three hours we stood at the outskirts of Sheikh Jarrah - not a stone was thrown, not an arm raised, not a worshiper attacked, not a settler's home broken into. But for the police's disproportionate use of force and its false arrests, as a means of punishment and score-settling, one could say the demonstration was calm and orderly.

By Yossi Sarid

The coarsest slogan to be seen was "Fascism shall not pass," so familiar from hundreds of previous protests, and so ineffective: Fascism has clearly passed through many, many obstacles and roadblocks.

Another sign had the great honor of being tossed into a police van together with the person holding it: "Jews and Arabs don't want to be enemies." It will be submitted to the judge as evidence corroborating the anarchistic character of the entire demonstration. Indeed, in such a delicate and explosive place as Jerusalem it's best not to wave such subversive slogans, which disturb the peace.

In my long years of demonstrating I have never seen a protest so restrained, so not in need of a permit according to any rational interpretation of the law. Not every police officer - yea, not even every brigadier general - is authorized to declare it illegal. If the police views Friday's demonstration as a criminal act then the democratic right to demonstrate has been destroyed and Jerusalem begins resembling Tehran. Already it is not entirely clear whether what we have is the Israel Police or the Yisrael Beiteinu Police.

Since leaving active political life I have not attended demonstrations despite repeated requests; after all, there is no shortage of reasons to demonstrate in these parts. I told myself - I've paid my protesting dues, time to make way for the next generation. But Nitzan Horowitz and Ilan Ghilon and Shelly Yachimovich and Daniel Ben Simon are social-welfare-oriented MKs, and the removal of Palestinian families from their homes is not a social-welfare issue.

This time I could not refuse. All citizens, not just public figures, have a duty to resist. And so, on Friday afternoon the retired demonstrators came and filled the little square. The struggle in Sheikh Jarrah isn't over, it's just beginning. More Palestinian families are slated for transfer, and one cannot trust this government, the mayor of Jerusalem or even the city's judges to do the right thing.

When the judges rule in favor of the settlers the latter stop mocking them and celebrate the confirmation of their position; but when they rule against them, they blow them a giant raspberry. Months ago the High Court of Justice ordered the demolition of Beit Yonatan, in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, and it is as if it never happened. It's only when they agree with the decision that they follow it.

The cabinet ministers may be unaware that in their folly they are affirming the Palestinian right of return de facto. If Palestinians who have been in their homes since 1948 can be driven out and replaced with Jewish families on the grounds of ownership from time immemorial, then Nasser Gawi can return to his home in Sarafind (Tzrifin), using the same argument. Now Gawi sits in a tent with his large family next to the home in Sheikh Jarrah they were thrown out of. As a two-time refugee he watches the settlers in the rooms that still hold the smell of his family's means - and Sarafind calls to him.

He is not alone: The Arabs of Jerusalem, too, would be glad to return to their homes in the West Jerusalem neighborhoods of Talbieh, Bak'a and Katamon. And don't tell us, prime minister and your cabinet colleagues, that it is not you who are making this dangerous journey from Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem to Sheikh Munis, in Ramat Aviv, but rather Irwin Moskowitz and his wife Cherna.