Mobilization for Justice in Sheikh Jarrah

The protest in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem seems to be reaching a fever pitch. Organizers have now called for a rally this Saturday night that they hope will attract thousands.

From a Ma’ariv article by Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel:

This Saturday night (March 6, 2010) will witness one of the most important demonstrations in years, in the struggle for human rights and justice here…

The asymmetric legal situation in Israel, through the Absentee Property Law, makes it possible for Jews to return to property that was owned by Jews before 1948 — while Palestinian property return is completely impossible. This is both unjust and unwise. In Sheikh Jarrah, this has resulted in Palestinian refugees, originally housed in the neighborhood by the Jordanian government after 1948, becoming refugees a second time. Of course, unlike the settlers forcing the Palestinians out of their homes, the Palestinians cannot return to the homes they owned before 1948 — not in Jaffa, nor in West Jerusalem or anywhere else…

(What) is happening in Sheikh Jarrah is part of a larger process — the Hebronization of East Jerusalem … As if watching the replay of a movie whose ending we have already seen, here in front of our eyes the Hebron processes are taking place once again, this time in Jerusalem: the entry of settlers to the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood, the provocations and violence, the one-sided actions of the security forces – always serving the interests of the Jewish settlers over the rights of the Palestinian residents. And then, what follows: restrictions of movement, segregation, life becoming a nightmare, and all this in the name of “security considerations.” Shuhada Street in Hebron is already closed for Palestinians for years — a street that was part of the bustling heart of one of the largest Palestinian cities, and has become a ghost road in the service of extremist settlers, the human rights of local Palestinians thrown to the roadside.

A similar process to what has already happened in Hebron is now happening in Jerusalem. Sheikh Jarrah now has police checkpoints at the entrance to the neighborhood. During certain hours on Friday the entrance to the neighborhood is generally blocked, but is open to Jewish worshipers. In contrast, Jews wishing to enter Sheikh Jarrah to express solidarity with the Palestinian families are prevented from entering the neighborhood. Violence against Palestinians ends with arrests — of Palestinians. The mechanism of dispossession and the construction of security excuses are already at work. And all this is happening right here, in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Brian Walt has also written a powerful post about a recent protest in Sheikh Jarrah. This is what I wrote about the situation there last December:

International protesters refer to these actions as “ethnic cleansing.” If that seems like too incendiary a term, what do we prefer to call it? And more critically, what are we going to do about it?

12 thoughts on “Mobilization for Justice in Sheikh Jarrah

  1. Nachman

    Until a synagogue can be built in Saudi Arabia, an Arab is not threatened with death if they sell land to a Jew, and the Muslims stop their calls for the death of the Jewish nation, these complaints are specious.

      1. YBD

        Nahman is pointing out the hypocrisy of the Arab protestors at Shimon HaTzadik (Sheikh Jarrah). I find it odd that it is called “ethnic cleansing” when Jews want to live in a neighborhood that also contains Arabs, and those who support the Arab claims claim is it “opposition to racism” to insist the Jews be removed from their presence.

        Jews and Arabs live together in other places in the country, Yafo, Akko, Haifa, in the Galilee AND in Jerusalem itself. No one calls it “Hevronization”, so why should that be the case in Sheikh Jarrah? The stringent security you describe in the article is due to the inflamed situation these anarchist protestors (who already assaulted Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari).

        Even if they bring “thousands” (which I doubt) to this demonstration, the Jews aren’t going to leave. Jerusalem will not be re-divided and so the Arabs are just going to have to get used to having Jews in the area, just as the Arab states are going to have to get used to having Israel in their presence.

      2. Shirin

        Ah, now I understand, YBD! The Jews who are evicting Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah are just trying to integrate the neighborhood. They want to be able to live side by side with their Arab brothers.

    1. Steffen

      And how do you know this is the ‘truth’? It is someone’s opinion maybe but not the truth. My impression is that the author of this text has no interest in brining about peace through a two-state solution and only tries to find ways to justify what is happening and therefore makes things only worse for those who are affected. Not the truth and certainly not helpful!

  2. Yotam

    I have a radical idea. How about we continue to let Jews move into Sheikh Jarrah, but we make sure they are informed that this neighborhood is not part of the Israeli state, and that they are now subject to the same laws that govern Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem?

    They can keep their Israeli citizenship, but they must still apply for all the same residency and travel permits required by any other Palestinian with East Jerusalem residency. Furthermore, they can expect all the rights granted to expatriates, but are otherwise not entitled to Israeli services except those granted to other Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. This would likely include the settler-only roads in the West Bank, which would mean that these individuals would be separated from any family or friends if they live in another settlement, unless of course family reunifications were allowed for Palestinian families with split residencies. I could go on listing, but the most important legal caveat is that the Absentee Property Law would not apply to these Israeli-Palestinians until such time as it is expanded to include all the residents of East Jerusalem.

    My point here is that this is what true equality would look like. Anything less (and what we have now is much less) is very blunt inequality, racially determined, and is a shame on any state claiming to be democratic and on any entity claiming to be Jewish. To allow Jewish settlers to reclaim property and thus further dispossess Palestinians is wrong, but to do so and to promise to extend the State of Israel to selectively include those settlers and not Palestinians sabotages the possibility of a separate Palestinian state. So I guess the settlers are either supporters of a bi-national state or an undemocratic one where Israelis of Palestinian descent do not have the same rights as Jewish Israelis.

    Lets be honest, my idea would probably just scare away the settlers and they would make a huge stink in the Knesset and in the streets of Jerusalem, claiming that they were deprived of their rights. I firmly believe that both peoples’ rights can and must be realized simultaneously because they do not exclude one another. But to ignore the fact that the Palestinians do not have political and civil rights (and that we Israelis are the only ones blocking them) is the best way to ensure that neither are ever fully realized.

  3. Lisa

    Thank you, Brant, for posting this Ma’ariv article. I stand firmly behind my brothers and sisters in Israel who speak out against horrible injustices such as what is happening in Sheikh Jarrah. It gives me some hope that universal principles of fairness and justice, the foundation of democracy, can overcome the religious extremism and hatred that make up the true threat to the State of Israel.

    As for YBD above, of course people should be able to live wherever they would like – assuming of course, that they buy/rent a home that is VACANT. Kicking families out of their homes because your grandfather may have lived there 60 years ago is beyond outrageous. But let’s be honest about what is really going on here: certain elements of Israeli society wants to make Jerusalem – the City of Peace – a Jewish-only city. This should send a chill up the spine of any Jew – as well as any human being with a shred of decency and knowledge of history.

  4. Cotton Fite

    Whether it be in an Arab or a Jewish state, state-sponsored injustice is wrong and should be peacefully demonstrated against wherever it occurs. If Arab citizens of Israel were in fact free to live anywhere they pleased in Jerusalem; if they were issued building permits as freely as Jewish citizens; if their neighborhoods received services at the same level as Jewish neighborhoods, Nachman would have a point. But none of that is true. And, as a good Israeli friend commented, “We cannot build our state on the foundation of injustice.”

    There is an injustice built into the very fabric of this society, and it will undermine the nation Israel is working so hard, and in many ways successfully, to create. I am presently visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories, visiting churches of my Anglican communion, people and organizations working non-violently for justice and peace. Sadly, seeing the systemic injustice first hand, it is difficult to come to any other conclusion than it is the policy of the Israeli government to make life so difficult for Arab citizens and West Bank Palestinians that they emigrate.

    I will be back in East Jerusalem this weekend, staying at a guest house near the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Being the anxious sort, I am not a fan of large demonstrations. But I will be there to observe and to lend my presence to what I hope will be a peaceful witness to the vision of an Israel that does indeed respect and care for all its citizens.

    Thanks, Brant, for creating a safe context for these difficult but important conversations. Cotton


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