JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police broke up a meeting by Palestinian parents in east Jerusalem about their children’s education, claiming it was unlawfully funded by the Palestinian Authority.
The operation Saturday came just days after Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist with a long record of anti-Arab rhetoric and stunts, began his post as part of Israel’s new government, its most conservative right-wing ever. He now oversees the police.
Police alleged the meeting was funded by the Palestinian Authority and attended by PA activists, which it said was in violation of Israeli law. Police said they prevented the meeting from taking place and that they were operating under an order by Ben-Gvir to shut it down. Police declined to provide evidence backing up their claim and a spokesman for Ben-Gvir referred questions to the police.
Ziad Shamali, head of the Students’ Parents’ Committees Union in Jerusalem, which was holding the meeting, denied there was any PA involvement, saying it was being held to discuss a shortage of teachers in east Jerusalem schools. He said he viewed the claim of PA ties as “a political pretext to ban” the meeting.
The Palestinian Authority was created to administer Gaza and parts of the occupied West Bank. Israel opposes any official business being carried out by the PA in east Jerusalem, and police have in the past broken up events they alleged were linked to the PA.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed it, a move unrecognized by most of the international community. Israel considers the city its undivided, eternal capital. The Palestinians seek the city’s eastern sector as the capital of their hoped-for state.
About a third of the city’s population is Palestinian and they have long faced neglect and discrimination at the hands of Israeli authorities, including in education, housing and public services.
Ben-Gvir has pushed for a tougher line against the Palestinians, a stance that appears to have taken root in the government. On Friday, its ministers agreed to a series of punitive measures against the Palestinians in retaliation for their having asked the U.N.’s highest judicial body to give its opinion on the Israeli occupation.
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