On Friday, March 4 2011, activist Sara Benninga, just back from the US where she received J Street’s Giving Voice to our Values award, returned to lead another of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement’s non-violent protests against evictions of Palestinian families. For the first time, they were met by a special Border Guard unit donning ski-masks, who violently dispersed the protest arresting two Israeli protesters and a Palestinian resident.
The detainees spent over 24 hours in cells before being brought before a judge. Veteran human rights lawyer Andrei Rosenthal (HRDF funded) conducted effective cross-examination of the police witnesses and presented photographic evidence, which prompted the Judge Fiona Gertel to remark “That looks just like Iran.” In her ruling, she lambasted the police for escalating the situation through violence and refused to impose the draconic release conditions the prosecutor demanded.
Police were forced to explore other methods: the following Monday, Benninga and another organizer who spoke at J Street, Assaf Sharon, were among a group interrogated for hours on suspicion of “incitement and subversion.” On Friday, March 25 2011, Sharon was arrested while filming in Silwan. After being handcuffed, he was moved to a jeep, where he was severely beaten and pepper-sprayed.