Photo Credit: Matanya Tausig/ Flash90
Police outside Joshua's tomb, 2009

Is entering Area B without coordinating it with the authorities a criminal offense? Israeli police have apparently begun to charge Israeli citizens who enter these (few) parts of Judea and Samaria where, according to the Oslo agreements, the PA enjoys civil control and security is managed jointly by Israeli and PA forces.

On Friday, August 26, the Petah Tikva Magistrate Court agreed to a police request to distance a group of 13 Breslov hasidim from Judea and Samaria for a period of 60 days because on Thursday night they had entered the village of Kifil Haras (Timnat Heres, location of Joshua’s tomb), near Ariel in Samaria, to pray at the tomb. The group was attacked by rock-throwing Arabs. Soldiers and police who arrived at the scene promptly detained the Jews.

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Kifil Haras is located in Area B, which Israeli citizens may enter at will, just as they are permitted to drive on sections of Route 60 which cuts through the Area B Arab town of Hawara, as well as on the road from Jerusalem to the Jewish community of Nokdim.

Legal aid society Honenu attorney Chai Haber said in a statement Monday that he finds it difficult to understand the police unprecedented approach, “claiming that entering Area B, which is permitted to Israeli citizens, constitutes the criminal offense of ‘public nuisance,’ due to the fact that Arab terrorists throw rocks and endanger the lives of Israeli citizens.”

As is often the case in these hearings, Judge Smadar Abramovitch-Kollende sided with the police and ordered the restraining of all of 13 detainees from entering any part of Judea and Samaria for 60 days.

Haber complained against Israeli security forces who detained his clients. He said that “instead of protecting the worshippers, the IDF and the police decided to detain them. I was not surprised to hear from the police representative during the deliberation that not one of the rock-throwing Arabs had been detained.”

“This is a slippery slope,” Haber argued, adding: “Tomorrow the IDF could decide that instead of dealing with the individuals throwing rocks on the roads, they will detain the Jewish residents driving on the main roads, some of which are in Area B. We will file an appeal on the scandalous decision to distance the worshippers from all of Judea and Samaria.” He also wondered “why it is that the left-wingers who entered [Area A] Ramallah [in June 2016] and were attacked [by local Arabs], were not detained, while the worshippers who entered Area B were detained.”

The police argued that although entry to the Area B village of Kifil Haras is permitted to Israeli citizens, there are scheduled, guarded entries to the village, and because the Breslov group did not coordinate their arrival with security forces they were charged with being a “public nuisance” and with “disturbing a public servant in the performance of his duty.” Police claim that by riding into the village unaccompanied, the hasidim provoked local Arabs’ anger, endangering their own lives and the lives of the soldiers who were sent into the village to protect them. In court, the police argued that a week earlier Breslov hasidim had entered the city of Shechem (Area A) in order to reach Joseph’s Tomb in Area C — which police believed bolstered their demand to bar them from all of Judea and Samaria, including Area C.

As we mentioned earlier, attorney Haber asked police in court whether the rioting Arabs had been detained and was told that none of them had been picked up, because, according to police testimony, security forces did not want to “create a provocation, but rather acted to save the lives of the suspects.”

But they did much more than save their lives, as Haber noted: the Jewish worshippers, some of them only 14 years of age, were detained for interrogation at 3 AM and brought to court only after 2 PM the next day. This was in violation of Israel’s Youth Law. Another violation: their parents were not invited to the court deliberation. Haber said some of the minors complained of police brutality and one of them said that a policeman threatened him with a Taser gun.

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