Israeli police have repeatedly raided the apartment of left-wing activists in Jerusalem for allegedly spraying graffiti supporting the Palestinian cause, according to a report by the Israeli news outlet, Haaretz.
On Wednesday night the week before last, police in the city of Jerusalem were sent to the apartment after receiving reports that Haley Firkser – one of the tenants – had sprayed signs and symbols of protest in the centre of the city in support of Palestinians from the South Hebron Hills in the occupied West Bank.
The paper reported that Firkser said, "they [the police] scared us, banged on the windows and when we opened the door, they asked for IDs." They then "photographed us with their phones and asked us questions."
Another tenant confirmed this report, saying that "I heard people pushing at the door and saw flashlights. They said to wake everyone up, took us outside, and took pictures of us with phones."
Then, for a second time, six detectives in plain civilian clothing conducted another raid on the apartment last Tuesday, in which they produced a warrant signed by a magistrate's court judge, who ruled that the raid was necessary in order to investigate "suspected property damage/defacement."
Again, they demanded to see Firsker. When they learned that she was not there, they ordered that she come in for questioning as soon as possible, threatening that, if she did not, then there would be more night-time raids on the apartment.
Firkser, who went to the police station but was sent back as there was no officer to interrogate her in English, told the paper that "It's very scary to be at home. We feel targeted by the police." The appointment for her interrogation is now set to be tomorrow.
Eisner also said the police's conduct "is out of line with the suspicions. They behave like we killed someone. They just tried to frighten me. It's unbelievable that the police expend so much energy to intimidate citizens." He added that it is unnecessary, as "the penalty for graffiti is a fine."
It raised concerns amongst the activists living in the apartment that they were specifically targeted for their political views and stances, rather than for a genuine reason to tackle any crime committed.
The city's police force hit back at those complaints, telling the paper that "during an investigation opened over the weekend on suspicion of a crime, the police arrived at the house where the suspects live and searched it, pursuant to a legal warrant." It insisted that "there is no connection between the political affiliation or opinions of the suspects and the enforcement actions taken in regard to this case."
Firsker's attorney, Riham Nassra, also called the police actions unreasonable, confirming that the spraying of graffiti "is an offense that barely justifies detainment, and it certainly doesn't justify entering a home in the middle of the night and illegally photographing and questioning them. Nothing of what the policemen did is proportional to the suspicions."
The incident sheds more light on the Israeli authorities' violence and intimidation tactics against, not only Palestinians, but also Israelis who criticise the occupation and call for Palestinian rights to be respected.
Last month, another left-wing activist called on the Israeli Knesset to allow him to bear arms to protect Palestinians being targeted by Jewish settlers and their violence.