Far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir returned Monday morning to the flashpoint Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, where he has vowed to maintain a parliamentary office in support of its Jewish community, and accused the police minister of ordering officers to assault him during overnight clashes.
Ben Gvir, who in a video was seen fainting as he tussled with police overnight, arrived in the morning with a bandage around his head. He released an image of a letter from Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital discharging him from the emergency room and confirming that he had suffered a head injury.
Asked by reporters why he was wearing the dressing, Ben Gvir accused Public Security Minister Omer Barlev of instructing officers to rough him up.
Barlev, he said, will not be able to “lie” about what happened as there is video footage “that shows how they beat my aides without any authority, and, it seems, he gave the orders to do so,” Ben Gvir said.
“Omer Barlev gave an order to beat me up, not just [to take apart] the office but also me personally, and the officers carry it out.”
Earlier, Barlev had tweeted that “there has never been a member of Knesset who raised his hand against a police officer.”
Police in a statement Sunday evening said that “in the past day, we have witnessed disinformation and misinformation circulating on social media in relation to various events in the area, along with violent and inflammatory online discourse, and unlawful attempts to ignite the area.”
Ben Gvir, a member of the far-right Religious Zionism party, set up a makeshift office Sunday — a table under an awning — following the firebombing of a Jewish home in the tense neighborhood over the weekend.
Officials had reportedly approached Ben Gvir to reach a deal that would include him dismantling the office. Ben Gvir was said to demand that permanent security forces be stationed at the home following the firebombing, and that additional security cameras be deployed in the area, in return for him leaving.
Officers moved in to dismantle the makeshift office on Sunday evening, but it was not fully taken down.
A video showed Ben Gvir fall onto the ground and apparently faint as he tried to shove his way past a group of policemen.
משטרת ישראל עושה הכל כדי לפרק את הלשכה הפרלמנטרית שהקמתי בשמעון הצדיק ולהפקיר את תושבי השכונה למעשי טרור, גם אם זה כולל לפגוע באלימות בחבר כנסת. לא יעזור לכם. אנחנו נחזור לשם עד שיהיה ביטחון לתושבי שמעון הצדיק pic.twitter.com/dF9Ecmzic3
— איתמר בן גביר (@itamarbengvir) February 13, 2022
Violent clashes erupted in the area on Saturday between right-wing activists and Palestinians and continued throughout Sunday. An unnamed police official told Channel 12 that Ben Gvir had made a “substantial contribution” to the escalating violence.
By evening, police said 12 suspects had been arrested for public disorder, as officers braced for more violence. The nationality of the suspects was not immediately clear.
Police deployed rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the crowds.
The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said 31 Palestinians were wounded, and at least six were hospitalized following the clashes. One Jewish man was lightly hurt from a stun grenade that hit his knee, medics at the scene said.
Hamas, meanwhile, warned of a “severe” response should Israel continue its “assaults” in East Jerusalem, a spokesperson for the terror group said.
A similar escalation at Sheikh Jarrah last May, similarly encouraged by Ben Gvir setting up such an “office” in the neighborhood, contributed to the tension that sparked an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas and long days of violence between Arabs and Jews inside the country last year.
The firebombing of Tal Yushuvayev’s home by unknown assailants on Friday is being investigated by the Shin Bet security agency as a potential terror attack, The Times of Israel has learned. The family was away from home at the time, but a police officer was lightly hurt from smoke inhalation.
Sheikh Jarrah, parts of which were historically known as Shimon Hatzadik or Nahalat Shimon, has become one of Jerusalem’s most tense neighborhoods. Far-right Jewish nationalists have sought to evict Palestinian residents in decades-long legal battles that helped touch off violence between Israel and Hamas last May. Scattered acts of violence have taken place in the area for months since then.
Tensions have been rising in the neighborhood for weeks. In January, municipal bulldozers evicted the Salhiya family in the dead of night following a standoff with police. The Jerusalem municipality expropriated the home to build a school on the plot where the Salhiyas lived.
The Foreign Ministry describes the Sheikh Jarrah struggle in English as a simple real estate dispute, but both the Israelis and the Palestinians involved deem it part of a long-term battle to determine Jerusalem’s political future.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 in a move not recognized by most of the international community. Palestinians hope to see the capital of their yet-unrealized state in East Jerusalem, an aspiration opposed by the Israeli right.