Israeli Police Round Up Palestinian Protesters Out of Global Spotlight

“This is what we warned about. Israel will target us all when you stop looking.”

JERUSALEM - MAY 22: Israeli forces intervene in a demonstration by Palestinians on a call from Sheikh Jarrah locals in front of an Israeli forces' checkpoint in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem on May 22, 2021. (Photo by Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Israeli forces move against a Palestinian protest in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Saturday. Photo: Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Palestinian activists urged the world not to look away from their struggle for freedom and equality following the ceasefire in Gaza, as Israeli police began rounding up Palestinian citizens of Israel who took part in demonstrations described as riots by the authorities.

At least 74 Palestinians were detained by Monday afternoon, in the first hours of what Israel’s police force is calling “Operation Law and Order.” Palestinian rights groups called the planned arrest of up to 500 protesters — on charges ranging from attacks on the police to vandalism to online incitement — a blatant crackdown on dissent, timed to coincide with the dimming of the global spotlight on the conflict.

“Israeli forces and police are going on a mass arresting rampage in Lydd, and other Palestinian cities in an attempt to ‘even the score’ with Palestinians that spoke up against their ethnic cleansing,” the Palestinian writer Mariam Barghouti observed on Twitter, as video of two men being detained and blindfolded in the city Israelis call Lod circulated online. “This is what we warned about. Israel will target us all when you stop looking.”

“The world tends to look away as soon as Israeli lives are no longer threatened by rockets but it is stuff like this, that Israel does to Palestinians every day, that guarantees future rounds,” the writer and political analyst Yousef Munayyer commented on the same images.

“Don’t look away from the purge,” Jalal Abukhater, a Jerusalem-based Palestinian writer and civil servant, urged his international Twitter followers early Monday morning. “Don’t look away from the terror Israeli forces are planning to put in hundreds of Palestinian homes over next 48 hrs.”

“The massive arrest campaign announced by Israeli police last night is a militarized war against Palestinian citizens of Israel,” Hassan Jabareen, the general director of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said in a statement. “This is a war against Palestinian demonstrators, political activists, and minors, employing massive Israeli police forces to raid the homes of Palestinian citizens.”

Another brief video clip that sowed outrage showed a young Palestinian boy being arrested in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

A researcher for the rights group Defense for Children International-Palestine reported that the boy, who is 11, was arrested because Israeli settlers accused him of throwing stones. He was later released.

Palestinian citizens of Israel had started their protests before the fighting in Gaza, in solidarity with Palestinian families threatened with eviction from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, in occupied East Jerusalem, to make way for Israeli settlers. Israeli police used force and mass arrests to try to stifle those protests, detaining more than 1,500 people this month, and Palestinians also faced violence from Jewish supremacist mobs, including racist soccer hooligans and far-right settlers.

“Reminding us that [Palestinians] inside Israel are also fighting a military system bent on oppressing them, Israel has launched a mass arrest campaign to pick up those who took to the street the past 2 weeks,” Tareq Baconi, an analyst at the International Crisis Group commented. There were, he added, “no similar arrests for Jewish mobs – their violence was state sanctioned.”

Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, told The New York Times that about 70 percent of those arrested this month were Palestinian citizens of Israel, but a Palestinian lawmaker in the Israeli Knesset, Aida Touma-Sliman, estimated that the true share was closer to 90 percent.

As of last week, according to Nimer Sultany, the editor-in-chief of The Palestine Yearbook of International Law, 85 percent of those arrested were Palestinian, and many of the rest were left-wing Israeli Jews protesting alongside them. The first 116 indictments were all against Palestinians.

Three Jewish extremists who took part in a brutal mob attack on a Palestinian man in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam this month were charged on Monday with attempted murder and aggravated assault, Haaretz reported. As the newspaper also reported in its main, Hebrew-language edition, more than 20 attackers were seen on video beating the victim, but only four have been arrested so far, and just three charged.

Later in the day, a 17-year-old Palestinian accused of injuring an Israeli soldier and a civilian with a knife was shot and killed by a border police officer in Jerusalem. Pointing to video of the incident released by the police, and additional footage recorded by a witness, Defense for Children International-Palestine called the incident an apparent extrajudicial killing, since Israeli forces apparently fired at least three shots after the suspected attacker, Zuhdi Muhannad Zuhdi al-Tawil, “was incapacitated and on the ground.”

The wave of arrests of Palestinian citizens of Israel has been accompanied by evidence of casual brutality and racism from Israeli police officers. In one incident, captured on a surveillance camera in Umm el-Fahm — a majority Palestinian town in northern Israel where protesters marched last week — a food delivery driver who stepped aside as Israeli police officers were leading an arrested man away was first shoved off the sidewalk by one officer and then hurled to the ground by another.

Yanal Jbareen, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who reports for Haaretz 21, the Israeli newspaper’s journalistic incubator, posted the video on Twitter along with an interview of the driver, summarized in Hebrew. According to Jbareen, the driver said that while he was lying on the ground, one of the officers told him that he should be more respectful of the police in future, worshipping them instead of god.

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