Jerusalem – about 200 people took part in the weekly protest against the Jewish colonization of Sheikh Jerrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Among them were chairmen of NIF Naomi Hazan, former Knesset speaker Avrum Burg and author David Grossman.
During the protest, several activists, among them Grossman, marched near the area of the four houses already occupied by settlers. Four protesters were arrested. Throughout the rest of the demonstration activists occasionally tried to break into the closed area and were pushed back, somewhat violently, by police and border police forces.
There have been numerous arrests of protesters in recent weeks in Sheikh Jerrah. Two weeks ago the police arrested one of the protest organizers on Friday evening at his home. He was later released without charges, after the police failed to present any evidence against him. In a different incident the head of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Hagai El-Ad, was also arrested, only to be released without charges as well.
A few days ago, two more Palestinian families received eviction orders from their houses in Shikh Jerrah. It is not clear when the police will try to actually force the families out, so peace activists are trying to keep a 24/7 presence in the neighborhood.
Sheikh Jerrah is a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The Palestinians in the disputed territory are refugees from Jaffa, who fled there during the war of independence (1947-1949). An Israeli court declared the land they settled on as belonging to Jews prior to the war, and ordered their evacuation. The absurd is that according to the same legal principle, those refugees should be allowed back to Jaffa – something Israel would never have.
Without anywhere to go to, the families evicted from their houses in Sheikh Jerrah are living in tents on private Palestinian land near their old homes. They are subject to constant harassment by both settlers and representatives of the municipality of Jerusalem, who even fined them for construction their tents in the area.
You can help the protest in Sheikh Jerrah: If you are in Israel, the most important thing is to simply come here. The weekly demonstrations keep media attention on the neighborhood and make further evacuations more difficult to carry out. You can find details on the weekly protest here, or on this Facebook page. If you don’t live in Israel, you can show your support by making a donation, as legal costs for the activists are mounting rapidly. More details here.
Finally, I want to draw your attention to an interesting debate regarding Jerusalem which started between me and one of the writers on Jewlicious.com. It began after I posted a reply to an article which praised unilateral steps taken by Israel in Old Jerusalem.
Just before leaving to Sheikh Jerrah today, I saw that I got my reply on Jewlicious.com. For some reason, the anonymous author was offended that I chose to post my comments on my blog rather than his; this clearly wasn’t my intention. I simply think that it is a better way to conduct this kind of debates and to invite more people to take part in them.
Anyway, I urge you to read today’s article in Jewlicious.com, as it represent some of the common rationalizations – as well as rhetoric – regarding Israel’s actions in East Jerusalem. Hopefully, I will post my answer here sometime next week.