Jorg Luyken writes in the Jerusalem Post:
…The protests had been running their course for a couple of hours, when suddenly a young man ran down the hill screaming, "Police!" Everyone who had been actively participating in stoking the flames fled.
The people left were mainly middle-aged men standing on shop doorsteps. The police marched down in riot gear, then – about 50 meters from the square – broke formation.
Two mounted policemen moved to the front as those on foot fell in behind them. No attempt was made to pursue the perpetrators. Instead two policemen on horseback proceeded to beat bystanders without regard for any outward sign of hostility.
I was charged down twice myself and beaten with a truncheon once, even though I was standing at the side of the road and was clearly not wearing haredi garb – in fact, I’m not even Jewish!
Policemen on foot stood around apparently unsure what to do next. In the hour or so that I was there they made no apparent effort to put out the fires.
My reaction to the police response was one of bemusement. If they were going to intervene, why wait? It had been clear all day that there was going to be a riot. Why did they make no attempt to control the vandalism? Why were they beating bystanders who were offering absolutely no resistance?
When I put these questions to a police spokesman, all he could tell me was that the police felt threatened, and that the previous night a Molotov cocktail had been thrown at them by a rioter.
As for beating bystanders, he said if I wanted to pursue the matter I could file a complaint.…
This was the same answer I got after witnessing a Border Police officer attack a nonviolent woman protester in Zion Square in 1994. He also attacked an elderly, frail man who came to the woman’s defense. After complaining to the police commander, I was almost crushed against a building by a mounted policeman and his horse.
Luyken goes on to note that Israel must be better and quicker at confronting its religious zealots. This is certainly true. But Israel also must be better at training its police to handle protests, and in training all of its citizens – including haredim* – in democracy and nonviolent means of protest.
* Even against the will of haredi leadership.