Δευτέρα, 25 Ιανουαρίου 2010

Protest against the ongoing takeover of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem

Today, Friday 22/1, about 1,000 of us (mostly Israeli activists) gathered in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarah to protest against the ongoing takeover of Palestinian homes by Israeli settlers, and against police attempts to silence our protest through arrests of non-violent demonstrators, something that has been going on for weeks.

The settlers wish to take over as much as they can in the areas around Mt. Temple (Al-Aqsa.) They are assisted by the State of Israel, through its courts and police systems. In a part of Sheikh Jarah, called Karem Ja'ouni, they have recently entered 4 Palestinian homes. They plan to enter the other 25 homes (approximately) and kick out the Palestinians, who have nowhere to go. The settlers and their supporters have been violent towards their Palestinian neighbors, and the police systematically fail to protect them. For example, the settlers break into homes, throw stones and beat people up.

The settlers' legal argument is that the land belonged to Jews before the 1948 war. We have good reason to suspect that their documents have been forged. However, even if that is the case, there is clear discrimination in the fact that the right of return is being granted to Israelis only, not to Palestinians: The Palestinians living in the houses used to live in west Jerusalem before 1948. They are not allowed to return to their homes.

Today, we had the largest protest in Sheikh Jarah, and some members of the Israeli parliament were also present. After an hour we decided to get close to the roadblock leading to Karem Ja'ouni. The settlers and their supporters are allowed to enter the area, in order to pray (or riot), but we are not allowed to enter and protect the Palestinians. The police had also threatened the Palestinians earlier not to let us enter the area around the roadblock, through their homes, and we had to respect that warning because when a Palestinian is arrested, he or she spends much more time in detention that an Israeli activist.

After a few minutes the police became violent and began making arrests. They accused us of "attacking Jewish settlers". In fact, the settlers were able to pass through our crowd, without any violence (we were shouting slogans in their faces, which is what they deserve).

We then got a phone call from inside Karem Ja'ouni, informing us that the settlers and their supporters were throwing stones at the Palestinians and there are wounded Palestinians inside. It was very frustrating seeing the ambulance coming to transfer the wounded man to hospital, and realizing that we cannot get in and stop the violence. Furthermore, at that time the police began arresting...Palestinians residents.

After most of the demonstrators left, around 50 of us remained, and then the police did something they had never done before: they began pushing and hitting us in order to get us out of the entire Sheikh-Jarah neighborhood, which is a very big place. In fact, they were simply marching us for hundreds of meters, using violence. The more cynical among us asked them if they were about to put us on trains and send us to the camps...

The violent supporters of the settlers then showed up on their way back from Sheikh Jarah, shouting "Sheikh Jarah belongs to the Jews", and "Kahane is alive" ("Rabbi" Kahane was a religious Fascist leader, assassinated in 1990). They were not harassed by the police...

Note to our friends abroad: We need your support in ending this occupation, which is poisoning the entire Middle East. We need partners who are committed to universal principles of human rights, know the facts of the conflict, think and critically about propaganda coming from both sides. Collaboration with such people will help us, Israeli activists, and promote the attempts to end the occupation, for the sake of the Palestinians (and also for the sake of Israeli society).

International activists are invited to come to Israel/Palestine, and also to promote the BDS campaign: http://www.boycottisrael.info/. Please note: this boycott is not a personal automatic boycott of all Israelis. It is an *institutional* boycott of Israeli companies and official Israeli projects (academic and cultural too), until Israel respects universal principles of human rights.

Photos from the event (and from another demonstration today in the West Bank): http://www.kibush.co.il/downloads/photos220110.doc

Reports from the Israeli media (not always sympathetic towards our cause):

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1144501.html
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3838186,00.html

Thank You

Ofer Neiman