For the past few months there have been demonstrations at Sheikh Jarrah, an area about one block to the East of Route One where there are Jewish graves from the Mishnaic era and from which Jews were violently evicted by the Jordanians in 1948. If you think political matters can be resolved by wielding laws (I don't) you'll have to accept that the legal stand of the Jews who have been moving into Sheihk Jarrah over the past 15 years or so is rather solid, and the recent spate of activity and demonstrations is pure politics with very little to do with human rights or law. Anyway, that's how the courts see it.
None of which detracts from the right of people to object. It would be nice if they clearly stated that their objection is political, but even if they don't, and pretend otherwise, they still have the right to express their opinion. As a society we must be scrupulous in defending their right. On Friday afternoon a police officer arrested 17 demonstrators, and it took more than 30 hours to get them out. The fact that Hagai Elad, the boss of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel was one of the 17 gave the event a high profile, but the event would have been equally wrong if no-one had ever heard of any of the arrestees. Eventually, late Saturday night, the case reached a judge, and she rejected the position of the police. Hopefully whoever is in charge will take note and take heed, and such things won't happen again.
What does this say about Israeli democracy? The editorial of Haaretz proclaims that
The only conclusion is that the police have decided to wage war on the demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah and use force to end the protests, something they have neither the right nor authority to do.I don't see how this can logically be so. It's a possible conclusion, yes, though the police won't be able to go very far with it if the court objects, which means they've cooked up a stupid policy and will now be forced to back down. But it's clearly not "the only conclusion". It might be the particular police officer, on his own authority, made a serious misjudgment. Perhaps he was convinced things were about to spin out of control and he responded as best could, while the court saw it differently, as courts and police officers often do all over the world. Perhaps the officer who should have been in charge was called away unexpectedly because his mother in law was hospitalized and his replacement wasn't briefed on the situation. I'm making this up, of course I am, but so is the editor of Haaretz.
The bottom line is that freedom of demonstration has been defended, as it must be, though 17 people wrongly spent 30-some hours in detention and didn't enjoy it at all.