A convoy of police cars this week roamed the streets of the occupied village of Isawiyah, which Israel has annexed to Jerusalem. Members of the police’s special patrol unit Yasam drove slowly, in a provocative, lord-of-the-land fashion, and their goal was transparent – to inflame tempers so a stone would be thrown at them.
Samer Sleiman presenting the police search report in his Isawiyah home, August 5, 2019. Photo Emil Salman
In recent weeks, Isawiyah has become a training base for Yasam members. Here, they are trained in thuggery. Here they learn how to be even more violent and brutal than they usually are.
Here, it’s permissible to do anything – throw a stun grenade at a bound detainee; banish excited young campers on their way to Jericho; shoot a child in the face and make him blind; kill a young man who threw a firecracker; arrest, curse, kick and beat; invade houses in the dead of night to arrest innocent people; set up checkpoints whose purpose is abusive; announce ridiculous enforcement operations that mean checking whether every car in the village has a warning triangle for breakdowns – that’s how much they care about the residents’ security.
One of the many explanations for the recent crackdown in Isawiyah is that it’s due to the documentary television series “Jerusalem District.” Members of Yasam emerge from this series as macho men, daring fighters behind the enemy’s lines. They fell in love with their role as “fighters against terrorism.” They want more.
Contrary to what has been said ever since Nir Hasson’s stunning scoop about the police planting a gun in an Isawiyah resident’s home, the media organizations behind the series, Kan 11 and Koda Communications, deserve praise. They presented a credible, authentic series that portrayed the occupation in Jerusalem as it is: the ugliest and most violent occupation in the territories today.
The climax of the series was the planting of the gun in Samer Sleiman’s house. That was the moment of truth. That’s how the police operate in the territories. Sometimes they plant evidence, or make up a pretext for brutal behavior. And in general, they plant themselves in places where they shouldn’t be at all.
Right: Samar Sleiman in his basement. Right: Screengrab from the scene in Jerusalem District. Photo Emil Salman
It’s not just the planted weaponry; it’s all based on deceit – the supposedly unoccupied status of the supposedly united city; the dangers exaggerated to the point of absurdity; the security services who fight these dangers and make them worse by their very violent and provocative presence, in Jerusalem as in the West Bank.
Isawiyah would be a much quieter place if it weren’t for the daily incursions by the Jerusalem District police. Here, the police have not only marked their target in advance, as they did by planting the gun, they are also working to make their dream come true: The police want a violent Isawiyah so their forces can act violently, as they want to act, as they are trained to act.
Then they portray it as such in a television series to further prepare brainwashed, ignorant public opinion: Isawiyah is Gaza, a violent, dangerous place from which only Jerusalem’s policemen save us.
It’s all true, except in reverse. Isawiyah isn’t Gaza, and even Gaza isn’t what Israelis are told it is. Isawiyah is a village where most residents work in Israel, speak Hebrew and drive cars with Israeli license plates. It simply doesn’t want to lose its dignity and its identity.
But occupied Jerusalem has no room for that. That’s what the battle is about. The police are the contractors hired to do the work.
The home where the rifle was planted is the real story. I was there in January 2015, a few weeks after Saleh, who was then 12 years old, was shot in the face. Already, he could only see shadows. Jerusalem District policemen, the heroes of the series, shot him right in the face with a sponge-tipped steel bullet. He lost one eye, and the second gradually went blind. His father cared for him with boundless devotion.
Samer was a gardener who worked in Moshav Kisalon until he was crippled in a work accident. His son Saleh would wake up at night in a panic. Once he dreamed that a policeman was shooting him in the face, another time that the policeman was dragging him by the legs.
No policeman ever stood trial for this criminal shooting of a child. And three weeks later, policemen also shot his neighbor, Mohammed Obeid, then age 5, hitting him in the eye as well.
These are the heroes of “Jerusalem District,” whom Israel loves. Planting that rifle was the least of their crimes.