Posted by on August 04, 2009 in Blog

How I was detained and interrogated for expressing solidarity with the expelled Palestinians.

The moment I heard of the expulsion of the families I knew I must go there and share their grief. Since the expulsion of Umm Kamel last November I regularly visit her tent. It was there that I also met and became friendly with Mr. Gawi who was this morning expelled with his family from their home.

The police had set up a vehicle block on the road leading to the neighborhood. I passed it and innocently passed the policewoman. She immediately jumped up and asked – where are you going? To visit friends in trouble, I said. You can’t pass – she said. I told her: This is my city, my friends live there. But she insisted. Do you have any official paper to show me? I asked and took another step. To my astonishment, muscular policemen jumped up from all directions, physically blocking me with their bodies touching mine (this, I would later hear, meant that I was assaulting them). I did not know what to do. I sat down on the road, my eyes to the ground. They told me to get up and go away, but I reiterated that this was my city, my friends were living nearby and I was on my way to try to [console] them on the day of their disaster. One of them told his fellow: “Well, she is going to spend some days behind bars”. Indeed, within a few minutes I was told that I was under arrest. They called the Zinzana (detainees’ car). Meanwhile, another group of riot police showed up, who formed a tight circle around me “so that she could not be seen and photographed being taken into the Zinzana”. From my vantage on the floor, I could see about twenty pairs of black commando shoes all around me. Two policewomen arrived and grabbed my arms dragging me into the vehicle.

I have spent an hour sitting there. We went deeper in the neighborhood, into the area where the families had been expelled from their homes. I could see the ultra-Orthodox men and women, in their distinctive clothing, walking quietly along the road, towards the grave of Shimon the Tzadik. No police blocked their way. I reflected that I was seeing the beginning of an innovation. No longer simply a “Jews Only” road. From now on, roads would be reserved to a specific kind of Jews, to those who “look Jewish”, those who – as PM Netanyahu once said “have not forgotten what it means to be a Jew.” Nor did the bars prevent me from seeing that Umm Kamel’s tent, where she had been living since her own expulsion, was also gone. The ground where it had stood was completely bare, the whole area infested with police – hundreds at least, possibly thousands. From the floor of the police car I saw what looked like a complete Judaization of the neighborhood. I would not be surprised if they also take off the very name of Sheikh Jarrah from the signs and the map.

Finally, I was taken to the Russian Compound Police. Under interrogation it turned out that all by myself I have held an illegal gathering and (as mentioned) assaulted a police officer. After this interrogation and waiting and giving all my biometric secrets to the police’s Criminal Identification Department, I was offered to be released in return for a pledge not to arrive at Sheikh Jarrah in the following two weeks. I agreed.

The expulsion of the families slams shut the door on any chance of dialogue with the Palestinians. It is a slap in the face of the Obama Administration and of those in the International Community seeking to promote a political process in our region.

The expulsion of the families is designed to create once again the supposed “Jewish togetherness” of “The whole world is against us” and of “Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.”

When the history gets written, the expulsion of the families, this so brilliant strategic move by Netanyahu and Barak, might get compared to Sharon’s ascent of Temple Mount, the act which sparked off the Second Intifada.

The expulsion of the families is the prelude to the next war!

The erosion of freedoms is only the beginning – the freedom of speech, the freedom of demonstration and protest.

Ever escalating measures are taken against any civil, non-violent resistance to the occupation.

During the next round of violence, the level of governmental violence against dissidents will reach levels not known before.

I saw the writing on the wall: In Sheikh Jarrah, on the floor of the Zinzana, through the bars.

Ofra Ben Artzi is the sister-in-law of Sarah Netanyahu.

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