Commander of the Jerusalem District Police, Chief Superintendent Ofer Shomer, told 103 FM radio on Monday that it’s possible to disperse any size demonstration, but at the cost of bloodshed. “I prefer to utilize other tools,” he said, explaining, “We prevented a larger gathering, we distributed fines and we prevented a rift in the nation.”
Failure has never been described in more glowing terms since Baghdad Ali, Saddam Hussein’s press minister, told Western reporters the American soldiers was fleeing for their lives when they wer, in fact, only a few hundred yards from the presidential palace.
This didn’t get any easier to hear Monday morning. When the interviewers, Golan Yochpaz and Annat Davidov, asked him how the dispersal of lawbreakers would have come to bloodshed, Commander Shomer said, “It would have come to bloodshed for a simple reason, I saw masses, hundreds and maybe a thousand children, I saw the terrain conditions—by I, I’m referring to the police—the police made a situation assessment, there’s a district commander and a commissioner. One can dispel anything, the question what would be the price, when the cost is bloodshed I prefer to utilize other tools to disperse, through both dialogue and operational preparation. For example, we had intelligence coming from all over the country, so for example, the police set up checkpoints yesterday.”
He was asked: “You saw hundreds of children in the area—when you arrived the funeral had already begun…”
“The funeral was at the home of a man in the neighborhood,” the police commander explained. “There’s something the public does not understand – the Haredim live in Jerusalem, there are 300,000 people there, the body was in his house in a small yeshiva, they live there. It’s enough that 30,000 people go down there and Jerusalem stands still. In this neighborhood there are people who live in the community, you cannot prevent people from living in the places where they live. ”
He really said that, bringing to mind those infamous Muslim neighborhoods in Paris where police don’t dare set foot. And when pressed, “But if you had arrived before the people went out, before the funeral, it would have looked different,” Chief Superintendent Ofer Shomer said, “The police are capable of doing everything, it can move cops from place to place, operate in several places at once, there are special units, we have no problem acting, but in the end there’s discretion. The police in the last two weeks, we in the Jerusalem district for example, there was no open yeshiva where we did not act. They demonstrated because we didn’t allow them to study even in the most difficult yeshivas and places in Mea Shearim.”
So he evaded, not so elegantly, the obvious question: the police knew where the body was, knew the funeral procession would be leaving from there in the morning, why didn’t they barricade the area with an overwhelming force ahead of time?
Most Israelis—on the left and on the right—would tell you that limiting the funerals on the three great Haredi men who passed away on the same day to the legal 25 participants would have spelled an end to the political future of the Haredi factions in Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, and, as a result, the political aspirations of Netanyahu. So the processions were allowed.
Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid attacked the mass funeral in Jerusalem on Sunday from the Knesset podium, saying: “No police officer has been sent to give a single ticket to people who spread diseases—not because they want to spread diseases, but because they have been deceived and duped, because their leaders are misleading them. After all, there will be dead people as a result of this funeral, it will lead to other funerals. The prime minister calls Rabbi Kanievsky’s grandson at night to ask permission to continue the lockdown. In submission, with humility, he crawls in front of him to ask permission because he is being blackmailed by him, and we treat it as if it’s a reasonable thing.”
Netanyahu’s appeasement of the elderly Haredi leader via his grandson has become the subject of many satirical programs in Israel, although so far his begging the master scholar to help keep the yeshivas closed has not cost Likud in recent polls. But Lapid’s Yesh Atid party is climbing to a solid second place in the same polls.
The interviewers reminded the police commander of occasions when “you dispersed with a heavy hand immigrants from Ethiopia who demonstrated, Israeli Arabs in the triangle, settlers in Amona,” to which he responded: “Yesterday it was not a demonstration, it was an illegal funeral procession. There was no violent riot, there was a violation of the law and there are tools to deal with it.” He noted that the events they mentioned “are examples of violent disturbances that the police has forcibly responded to,” not a funeral.
Someone should notify the coronavirus.