Arab riot Jerusalem
Arab riot Jerusalem Israel news photo: Flash 90

A near-lynch in Jerusalem last week led police to admit that they have a policy of not getting involved when Arabs attack Jewish motorists, a victim says. Baruch Heller, whose car was smashed by Arabs as he left the Kotel (Western Wall), spoke to Arutz Sheva's Hebrew news service about the attack, and what it taught him about police policy.

Heller travels to the Kotel via the majority-Arab neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber in southern Jerusalem on a regular basis, and has seen masked Arab men in the street before, apparently looking for Jewish drivers. In the past, he has been mistaken for Arab, he said, and so has not been attacked.

Last week, he and a friend were driving between Jabel Mukaber and the adjacent neighborhood Mei Shiloach (Silwan). They passed a Border Police vehicle, and immediately afterward, drove straight into an Arab riot.

"It was a part of the road where there's no way to turn around, and right there, I saw thirty or forty masked men surrounding us. I took my kippah off immediately. I opened the window and yelled at them in Arabic to let us through,” he recalled.

The men began to yell at him and hit the car with metal rods, he said. “They did think we were Arabs, but they were annoyed that we were arguing with them,” he explained. Finally, the two managed to turn around and drive back.

Police won't get involved

When they returned to the Border Police jeep “they saw the car had been hit. We thought they would rush over to see if anyone was injured, but they did nothing. They said they had orders not to intervene, and if we wanted to file a complaint, we should go to the 'Oz' station,” Heller said.

When they reached the police station, officers showed more concern. “The soldiers there rushed toward us, they wanted to hear details – but then someone came and presented himself as the commanding officer and asked us to show him the car, asked about the Border police officers we'd met... asked all sorts of random questions,” he said.

The explanation

While at the station, Heller said, he managed to get an officer to explain why police stand on the sidelines while Arabs attack Jewish motorists. Arabs attack cars in order to force police to enter their neighborhoods, so they can attack them, the officer explained.

For that reason, he said, police have been ordered not to be drawn into areas where there is frequent trouble.

Police may fear that clashes with Arabs would lead to casualties among the Arab rioters. In the past, violent riots in which Arabs were injured have led to inquiries into police behavior, such as the Or Commission that investigated police officers following Arab deaths in the October 2000 riots.

Heller and his friend have filed a complaint with police over the incident. In addition, they have written to the Jerusalem city council and to officials responsible for Arab neighborhoods in particular, explaining the problems they encountered when dealing with the police, and expressing hope that a policy that lets the police do their job of protecting innocent citizens will be formulated.