Police admit arresting Palestinian man to prevent him from protesting

Police arrested Muhammad Abu Hummus to prevent him from peacefully demonstrating against the Jerusalem Marathon — then lied about it.

By John Brown*

Illustrative photo of Israeli Border Police arresting a Palestinian activist. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)
Illustrative photo of Israeli Border Police arresting a Palestinian activist. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

In March of this year, Israeli police arrested Muhammad Abu Hummus, a resident of the village Issawiya in East Jerusalem, where he serves as a member of a community organizing committee. He was arrested along with two other residents for alleged disorderly conduct.

At 4 a.m. on March 18, approximately 20 police officers arrived at Abu Hummus’ home and took him to the local police station for interrogation, even though a simple summons would have sufficed. The police, however, did not proceed to interrogate him over disorderly conduct of any sort.

During his detention Abu Hummus claimed that he was being held in order to prevent him from demonstrating against the annual Jerusalem Marathon, which was set to take place that day, partially in East Jerusalem. Lo and behold: after the marathon came to an end, he was released.

When Abu Hummus asked an interrogator at the station whether he was in fact detained to prevent him from protesting, he was told he was mistaken. Even the police spokesperson rejected the claim, telling the press that “the three were arrested over suspicion of involvement in disorderly conduct, with no connection to the marathon.”

Following his arrest Abu Hummus filed a civil suit against the police over false imprisonment and distress. Now the police is admitting in its statement of defense that they lied, and that Abu Hummus was indeed arrested to prevent him from protesting the marathon:

Alongside this and in retrospect, the defendant believes that under the circumstances, her judgement was wrong and she should have acted differently in order to prevent the crime and ensure the marathon went on uninterrupted. The defendant regrets this.

In its statement the police try to defend themselves by arguing that Abu Hummus’ did not coordinate his demonstration with them ahead of time, and thus they feared it would devolve into disorderly conduct. According to the law, however, there is no need to coordinate this kind of protest with the police.

‘We don’t do Gandhi very well’

The persecution of Muhammad Abu Hummus did not begin with this year’s marathon. For quite some time the police has been working against activists from East Jerusalem who have chosen nonviolence as a way to protest Israeli policies. Abu Hummus told +972’s sister site, Local Call:

I am a Palestinian citizen who opposes the occupation. Every time I try to resist the occupation in a democratic way, the police take revenge against me. In August of last year a soldier got lost in our village at night. I accompanied him to the police station at the gas station outside the village. Instead of thanking me, one of the Border Police officers spat on me.

A day before that Abu Hummus’ son was assaulted by police after he was accused by a settler of attacking him.

A. (right) is arrested by Border Police, while the Jewish boy who accused A. of assaulting him, Jerusalem's Old City, July 25, 2015. (photo: Mahmoud Illean)
A. (right) is arrested by Border Police, while the Jewish boy who accused A. of assaulting him, Jerusalem’s Old City, July 25, 2015. (photo: Mahmoud Illean)

The attempt by both the police and the army to put down all nonviolent protest isn’t new. In 2010 IDF Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad told American officials “we don’t do Gandhi very well.” This month Issa Amro, a Palestinian nonviolent activist from Hebron, was charged with a series of baseless offenses, which are clearly the result of his political persecution.

The motivation is clear: the IDF and the police know how to effortlessly deal with violence — by using even greater violence — yet they are unable to deal with nonviolent protests, and thus try to criminalize the organizers. Thus they make violent resistance all the more attractive to Palestinians, which in turn lends credence to Israel’s claim that, due to the security situation, it is impossible to reach an final-status agreement, much less put an end to human rights violations.

One should hope that Abu Hummus’ lawsuit and the police’s admission over the false arrest will lead to increased oversight vis-a-vis this type of corrupt practice.

*John Brown is the pseudonym of an Israeli academic and a blogger. This story first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

Newsletter banner