John Davison, AFP
Last updated: 26 September, 2014

Hundreds of youth arrests fan anger in Arab east Jerusalem

Palestinian teenagers taunt riot police at a barricade in east Jerusalem, just moments after stun grenades fired by Israeli security forces send stone-throwing youths scattering.

The arrests and alleged mistreatment of hundreds of young Palestinians have deepened anger in Arab parts of the Holy City following the killing of a 16-year-old by Jewish extremists in July.

Muadh and Mohammed Salaymeh have both been taken from their houses during the middle of the night for questioning.

“I’ve been arrested twice,” said Muadh, 14.

“The first time I spent eight days in prison. They took me from my home at 4:00 am, searched me and questioned me. It was because I had been throwing stones.”

Anger has also been building with the growing presence of Jewish settlers in Arab areas, and the feeling of disenfranchisement of Palestinians in Israeli-annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

Walid Tuffaha, 18, said he had been arrested about 30 times in the past five years, most recently for protesting against the Gaza conflict.

“I’m out of prison now but have been sentenced to community service, working for the Israeli post office. But after I finish I won’t be allowed to work for any Jewish companies. I won’t find work, I’ll get bored.”

The Palestinian Prisoners Club’s Jerusalem director Jerusalem Nasser Qaws said recidivism was inevitable.

“A kind of extremism develops in prison,” he told AFP.

“When in the middle of the night, 20 Israeli soldiers come to a child’s home to arrest him and treat him roughly, he’s terrified,” he said.

“The boys think, after there’s a black mark on my name, why should I behave anymore?”

– Deep-seated tension –

Police say they have arrested more than 700 Palestinians in east Jerusalem, including at least 250 minors, since July when Mohammed Abu Khder was murdered in revenge for the killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank.

The murders, and the 50-day Gaza conflict between Israel and Hamas that followed, sparked ongoing clashes that are symptomatic of the deep-seated tension in east Jerusalem.

“I’ve never seen violence as widespread and as persistent as it is now,” said Daniel Seidemann, a prominent Israeli lawyer who tracks developments in east Jerusalem.

“Palestinians reside in Palestinian areas and don’t go elsewhere, and the Israelis in Israeli areas.”

That is, apart from the more than 2,000 Jewish settlers living in the middle of Palestinian neighbourhoods.

“They’re going in and out of their houses in convoys. They’ve stopped counting the rocks and the Molotov cocktails” thrown at them by the local youths, Seidemann said.

Earlier this month, a Jewish family from out of town who strayed into the flashpoint Arab neighbourhood of Wadi al-Joz said they were attacked in their car, just days after a Palestinian boy was shot by Israeli police.

– ‘You don’t count’ –

But simply ignoring the settler presence inside Palestinian areas has become impossible, according to Mahmud Qaraeen, spokesman for a community centre in the neighbourhood of Silwan.

Arab residents “are realising more and more that they’re being squeezed out, and that the face of the settlers is violent,” he said.

Israel seized control over the Arab eastern sector of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

The Palestinians want the eastern sector of the city as capital of their promised state, and the city’s future is one of the biggest issues of the conflict.

Some 200,000 Israelis live in east Jerusalem, mostly in Jewish-only settlement blocs, and there are 290,000 Palestinians.

A feeling of disenfranchisement, combined with July’s triggers, has caused a greater number of Palestinians to take to the streets.

Israel “just sends the message that is the underlying reality of the Palestinians of east Jerusalem — you don’t count, you can’t vote, you’re in limbo, you’re cut off from the West Bank, you’re not in Israel,” said Seidemann.

East Jerusalem Palestinians have residency permits but are not automatically granted Israeli citizenship, and many refuse to apply for political reasons.

“There could be an explosion much bigger than this,” Qaws warned. “If Israel continues to put pressure on this landmine, it will blow up.”