05/06/2021 Updates from our reporter in Jerusalem, Y.C. – Sheikh Jarrah Protest
August 23, 2021
Most readers have probably heard about the Israeli attempts to Judaize Sheikh Jarrah.For the past few months, the Palestinians residents of the East Jerusalem have been protesting against the impending supreme court order to expel them from their homes, which would be given to Jewish settlers. The efforts to Judaize East Jerusalem are backed by Zionist tycoons, shady organizations, and the entire Israeli establishment.Throughout this period, some of the Palestinian residents have invited Israeli leftists to weekly protests, which have taken place without interruption every Friday, usually drawing between 100 to 300 protesters. Not everyone welcomes the Israeli presence – some of the protesters are liberal Zionists, who oppose the settlements for culture-war reasons, and the slogans reflect that.
The residents of Sheikh Jarrah have originally resided in areas inside the 48′ borders, like Jaffa and Haifa, from which they were expelled during the Nakba.In the 1950’s, they were given land in Sheikh Jarrah by UNRWA and the Jordanian authorities during the Jordanian occupation of the West Bank.They built houses on top of that land, and made it their home.
All Palestinian refugees were dispossessed of their property within the green-line using a 1950 domestic Israeli law called “The Absentee Property Law”.After the 1967 war, Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem, and applied its domestic law to the entire annexed territory.In 1968 a new law was passed – the “Legal and Administrative Matters” law. Among other things, the law says that any property within East Jerusalem which belonged to an Israeli citizen prior to the 1948 can be claimed back.Jewish-supremacist settler organizations have utilized this law to demand ownership over houses in Sheikh Jarrah, which they claim were built on top of land which used to belong the Jews prior to 1948.
The 1968 law essentially says Jews are entitled to their pre-1948 properties in East Jerusalem, and the 1950 law essentially says Palestinians aren’t entitled to their pre-1948 property inside the green-line.
This double standard is often cited (e.g. in the recent HRW report) as proof of the apartheidistic character of Israeli law, which it is; but focusing on double standard is missing the point:Under international law, the 1950 law is illegal – Israel has to implement a “just solution to the refugee question”, which clearly isn’t compatible with the dispossession of all refugees.Similarly, the 1968 law was illegally applied in East Jerusalem, over which the Israeli Knesset and court should have no jurisdiction.
Sheikh Jarrah has become a focal point of the Palestinian struggle. Maybe because of the well coordinated #SaveSheikhJarrah campaign. Maybe because the story of Sheikh Jarrah has resonated with many Palestinians, who have been driven out of their homes. Maybe because of the cultural and religious importance of Jerusalem.
In any case, Palestinians from other neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, like Silwan, have joined in solidarity with the residents of Sheikh Jarrah (and vice versa). Palestinians from Umm Al Fahm (a Palestinian city inside 48′) have also joined the Friday protests. Most notably, Hamas has fired rockets toward Jerusalem in opposition to the ethnic cleansing of the neighborhood, and conditioned the ceasefire on Israel halting its plans to expel the residents. This solidarity goes against the core of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians – divide an conquer, and has therefore elicited an unhinged Israeli attack on Gaza, as well as intense police repression of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and inside the green-line.
This week’s Jewish-Palestinian protest was relatively peaceful. One person was arrested for cursing a police officer.There were a few new slogans, and a large sign saying: “block apartheid; remove the checkpoint”, in reference to the police checkpoint and barrier placed at the entrance to Sheikh Jarrah.https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bN9MdWo4fBpa5V0kp1SpWxYT5jAYo07s/view?usp=sharing
At the same time as the protest, residents of East Jerusalem have organized a marathon run – from Sheikh Jarrah to Silwan. Once they reached Silwan, they were viciously attacked by the police, using tear gas and stun (flashbang) grenades. At least 23 were injured.
The next day, there was a demonstration in Tel Aviv against the occupation (of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights), to mark its 54th year. About 1,000 people attended.
The message were much sharper than usual for a Tel Aviv protest at this scale. The word Apartheid featured in many of the slogans. Combatants for Peace, hardly a radical organization, had a large sign saying “The 48 Nakba is Still Ongoing”. There were many signs by “Mesarvot”, an organization calling on Israelis to refuse to serve in the IDF.There were hardly any anti-Netanyahu messages. Many of the slogans attacked the so-called “change” coalition:”Gantz, Bennet, and Lapid are not ‘change’ and not a ‘future'”
Mossi Raz, former Peace Now secretary general, and currently an MK from Merez, was heckled during his speech, because Merez just joined a coalition led by the far-right Naftali Bennet (who has bragged about having killed “many Arabs”). https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Uk9IeNCxn3MhoPKQJhcqRvL7WJ1J-PuE/view?usp=sharing
The red flags are carried by the communists – either Maki/Hadash (a political party which is part of the Joint List) or Socialist Struggle, a small Trotskyist organization. The purple signs are the socialist Arab-Jewish movement “Standing Together”. The Palestinian flags are self explanatory.
The highlight of the protest was the speech by Saleh Diab, a Sheikh Jarrah resident who leads the weekly protest there. He was violently assaulted by the Israeli border police a few weeks ago – they broke his leg and arrested him. While in Sheikh Jarrah the police force is told to attack the protesters, in Tel Aviv the police are supposed to protect the protest, and halt traffic where necessary.
Saleh ended his speech with an invitation to join the Sheikh Jarrah demonstration next week. Hopefully his call will be answered, and a thousand people will join us on Friday.
While we were marching in Tel Aviv, the police arrested Al Jazeera correspondent Givara Budeiri in Sheikh Jarrah.On Friday, the IDF fired live ammunition at protesters in Beita (near Nabulus), injuring around 20 people.