Daily Israel Report

Court OKs Limited Arab-Left Protests at Shimon HaTzaddik

High Court rules protest will remain in basketball court and 300 demonstrators will be allowed to march through neighborhood.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 3/4/2010, 5:31 PM / Last Update: 3/4/2010, 5:45 PM

The High Court ruled Thursday to allow continued protests against Jewish life in the Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood in Jerusalem, but to limit their scope and nature. The protesters will hold the demonstrations inside the neighborhood's basketball court, but up to 300 of them will be allowed to march through the neighborhood's main street as well.

The protests, which are organized and attended by Arab and leftist groups, have become a regular occurrence at the neighborhood ever since a court ruling that evicted Arab squatter families from Jewish-owned homes and allowed Jews to return to the homes.

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch presided over the session Thursday, alongside Judges Chanan Meltzer and Uzi Fogelman. After she demanded that Jerusalem District Commander Maj.-Gen. Aharon Franco represent the police himself, Franco duly arrived at the courtroom and explained to the judges that the neighborhood – called Sheikh Jarrah by the Arabs – is “one of the most volatile places... not a day goes by without street fights and rock throwing, and therefore sensitivity is high.”

He asked that the court disallow demonstrations outside neighborhood's basketball court and park, and explained that as long as demonstrators march through the main street, the Jews who pray at the Tomb of Simon the Just will not be able to reach their destination or leave it. Prayers at the Tomb go on 24 hours a day, he explained.

Judges Beinisch and Meltzer were skeptical on this point and said that the prayers could stop "for one hour" to allow the demonstration to proceed. The judges rebuffed the police representative's remonstrations by saying that the protesters have rights, too, and that disallowing the street demonstration would “take the country back to the 1970s” in terms of the right to protest.

If the demonstration turns violent, the police should take action, the judges ruled.