Showing posts with label Sheikh Jarrah. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sheikh Jarrah. Show all posts

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Home Evictions in Sheikh Jarah

Below is an excerpt from the third trip report of the Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) delegation to Palestine/Israel. It was written by Marianne Torres.

"They came for us at 5:00 in the morning when everybody was asleep. It was August 2, 2009 when the soldiers came after 10 families with 38 family members. They came, more than 100 soldiers and Special Forces, police on horses and water cannons filled with sewage water.”

This is the beginning of a story we heard today from Mariam Alrawi in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.  She continued:

“I heard the heavy steps of soldiers outside. I awoke and moved to the door. Before I got there the door was blasted open. Children had come out of their beds to see what the noise was and the soldiers grabbed them and threw them into the street in their pajamas. The women were still in bedclothes, and they were forced or thrown out into the street, too. A police was sitting on top of one of my children.”

“I ran out to [the neighbor] Nabil’s house and cried ‘the army is in our house and I want to put the kids in your house.’ Soldiers were in front of all the other houses on the street and didn't allow anybody out.”

“By half an hour, all of us were in the street. In one hour, settlers were at our home and moving into it. We had 12 kids altogether, outside, crying, screaming, asking ‘what is going on? Why are they doing that? Why are we in the street?"’

“They put all of our furniture on a truck and we don't know where it went. Soldiers were playing in the street with some of my children's toys. Our youngest family member was born on the day we were evicted. We put up a tent outside on the sidewalk and stayed in that tent for 6 months. We got mattresses and chairs, and we ate there, lived there. It rained, it was cold, the children had nowhere to study and the settlers harassed us. But we refused to leave. This is OUR home. But the army came and destroyed our tent and all that we had 17 times.”

“I have two young children who are always scared to go to sleep now, want to sleep in her bed and be with her all the time. They wake in the night crying. It has been 2 years and 7 months, but we will remain steadfast. We will not give up."

Mariam is a refugee from the Nakba in 1948. The Israeli government has been evicting Palestinian families who settled in Sheikh Jarah for years, as they are in the process of building a Jewish-only corridor from West Jerusalem to Hebrew University, right through the middle of Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem that are not in the state of Israel.

We also heard from members of the Hanoun family, and several others whose names went by too fast for me to capture, and I apologize for any names I did not get correctly. Mr Hanoun told us how they had acquired the home in 1956 when they bought the land from the government of Jordan and UNRWA helped them build the house. After living there for decades, the Israeli soldiers came for his family at 4:00 a.m. and he also explained that they slept under the trees for 6 months "to show what happened". He said "they have transferred our family again and again, and it is not fair." 

He said "we need support from all the volunteers who come to us, to help us stop more evictions." He said we must pressure the Israeli government and the American government. He said we had to "stop giving money to Israel for building settlements on top of our houses."

We heard from others that these families celebrated Ramadan (a serious challenge) and Eid while living under the trees through the winter. All the time they were there, Israeli settlers attacked the children. When they called the police about it, the police arrested the Palestinians and did nothing at all to the settlers. (We hear this constantly, everywhere we go). They arrested women as easily as men, and every arrest resulted in a heavy fine.

One time the harassment and bullying was so bad that Mr. Nabil called the police, who told him to go to the Police Station to make a complaint. He did that, and was arrested and held for 3 days. Nothing was done about the settlers' behavior.

Another young woman, a college student, spoke passionately about the experience. She told the same story Miriam had told, but with her own pain, her own passion. One of our group filmed it and I am eager to share it.

Part of Myrta's response was "who on earth sat to think about all the ways these people are tormented? How did they come up with the plans that make every Palestinian's life miserable?" As we spoke about it later, we both realized that we cannot find ways to describe this Master Plan for Ethnic Cleansing - the closest we got was Myrta's description of "evil genius", but that really doesn't touch it.

I'm so very sorry that we did not have that whole visit with the family on film. The power of hearing from the people themselves what they experienced, to hear their anguish and their anger was nearly overwhelming. Several of us (including me) spoke later of the deep sense of shame we felt, listening to them. I really have no vocabulary, or perhaps not the emotional bottle right now to speak more of this day.

Read more on IFPB's website.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sheikh Jarrah evictions and court rulings reveal apartheid policies

Last week we reported on the eviction of 53 Palestinians, members of the Al-Ghawi and Hanoun families, who were evicted from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Joseph Dana, an Israeli-American activist and independent journalist who works with the group Ta'ayush (Living Together), reports on a vigil organized in response to these evictions:
"Last night in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah there was a vigil, a memorial to the families’ homes from which they were evicted. First they were refugees and now they are homeless. After weeks of legal battles, sit-ins and press conferences, several hundreds gathered to acknowledge a critical defeat in the battle over the future of this land and the two peoples who want to live here in peace."
Take a look at Dana's video of the vigil below, and note in particular Rabbi Arik Ascherman discussing the "discriminatory behavior" that these evictions represent just before his arrest at the hands of Israeli military police: There is a specific term in international law for this type of discriminatory behavior when it comes from the official apparatus of the state. That word is apartheid--a fact not lost on Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, who writes in Ha'aretz:
"We should perhaps thank the court for its scandalous ruling, which not only sparked a justifiable international wave of protest against Israel, but also revealed its true face. "There are judges in Jerusalem," as Menachem Begin said, and they have made it official: apartheid. Ownership rights are for Jews alone."
The 1973 UN Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid defines apartheid as a crime against humanity, not specific to South Africa, consisting of "inhuman acts" designed to impose racial segregation and discrimination on a targeted group. Specific acts falling under the crime of apartheid include denying basic human rights of freedom of movement and residence and the expropriation of landed property in order to create separate reserves and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups. Of course, calling apartheid by its name doesn't earn one many friends, as evidenced by the current controversy surrounding the United Church of Canada's resolutions on Israel/Palestine. There are signs that the discourse is changing, however, not the least of which is the decision by President Obama to honor key critics of Israeli apartheid with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Obama is scheduled to present these awards today. A change in the discourse isn't enough, though. Policies have to change, and we're the ones who have to organize to change them. Just as the international community spoke out and took action to end apartheid in South Africa, activists, human rights advocates, and civil society groups must speak out and take action to end apartheid policies directed against Palestinians. And just as apartheid in South Africa was brought down thanks in large part to the international solidarity of groups advocating for boycott, divestment, and sanctions directed against the apartheid regime, today there is a growing global BDS movement targeting Israeli apartheid. Join the movement today!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sec. of State Clinton condemns evictions, but families want more than words

From Ha'aretz:
"U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday criticized Israel for the eviction two Palestinian families from an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem, calling the move "deeply regrettable". "The eviction of families and demolition of homes in east Jerusalem is not in keeping with Israeli obligations and I urge the government of Israel and municipal officials to refrain from such provocative actions," Clinton said."
These evictions are not "regrettable," as if they were an accident. They are illegal--violations of international law and of the basic human rights of the Palestinian families who are now living on the street. The evictions themselves, and the Israeli military's violent response to the families' efforts to return to their homes, are funded by U.S. taxpayers. They are part of a clear policy of ethnically cleansing Palestinians from East Jerusalem--not spontaneous actions that should be "refrained from," but components of a policy that must be stopped. CNN's report on the evictions displays the treatment that members of the al-Ghawi and Hanoun families are facing at the hands of the Israeli political-military establishment, and notes that the families are looking for "more than words from the international community": The families deserve more than words. They deserve action on behalf of justice. Click here to learn more about the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem and the ethnic cleansing being faced by Palestinians there. Click here to take action to end U.S. military aid to Israel that funds occupation, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid.

Monday, August 3, 2009

While U.S. reps condemn house evictions, U.S. aid makes them possible

A U.S. State Department spokesperson has condemned the eviction of Palestinian families from their East Jerusalem houses as part of the Israeli government's policy of supporting Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem. The two families--the Hanouns and the al-Ghawis--have lived in their East Jerusalem houses since 1956, when they were given houses as part of their refugee status after fleeing West Jerusalem during the 1948 war. East Jerusalem was occupied by Israel in 1967. In all, 53 people have been made homeless by the evictions, and Israeli settlers--guarded by Israeli police and military--have already moved into their homes. Here's an Al Jazeera report on the evictions: U.S. State Department spokesperson Megan Mattson has condemned the evictions, stating that they violate Israel's obligations under the U.S.-brokered "Road Map":
"Unilateral actions taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community."
The evictions, and the settlement plan that they are a part of, threaten Palestinian hopes for maintaing East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, and decrease the likelihood for a negotiated settlement on Jerusalem as part of a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. Despite State Department condemnation, however, these evictions would not be possible without the support of billions of dollars of U.S. military aid, which enables these violations of human rights. The young soldiers who carried out the evictions and who now stand guard over the houses to prevent the Palestinian families from returning are armed with help from U.S. tax dollars--$2.775 billion for FY2010 and a project total of $30 billion between 2007-2017, to be exact. The guns they point, the bullets they fire, the communications equipment that coordinates their activities, the bulldozers they use to destroy houses and even tents--are all provided by the U.S. government and U.S. companies. In addition to official U.S. support for the Israeli occupation, private American donors and companies also play a role. (
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a member group of the US Campaign, has filed a complaint with the Department of Treasury in regards to tax-exempt donations being used to fund settlements.) Here's Israeli-American activist Joseph Dana reporting on the contributions of U.S. citizens to the colonization of East Jerusalem:
"This is just one of several plans by various real estate groups such as Nahalat Shimon International and American businessmen such as Irving Moskowitz, to populate the areas surrounding the Old City with Jewish strongholds that sever Palestinian territorial contiguity in East Jerusalem. This prejudices any final resolution in which East Jerusalem would be the Palestinian capital. It is also in clear breach of Israel’s commitment under the Road Map. But these operations are backed by the Israel Lands Administration, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Israeli government, who are all working together to undermine any possibility for a two-state solution and are blatantly infringing on the basic human rights of the citizens of what they deem to be the “united Jerusalem.”"
Dana has also posted the following video of the aftermath of the evictions on his blog: The condemnation of the State Department rings hollow in the face of massive U.S. military aid and the involvement of American citizens in the spread of Israeli settlements. If we want to stop evictions, settlement growth, and other violations of international law and the human rights of the Palestinian people, we need to act to change U.S. policy. You can act to change U.S. policy by organizing in your local community against U.S. military aid, meeting with your elected representatives, and taking steps to challenge U.S. companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. Let's make sure that those U.S. policies that have left the
Hanouns, the Rawis and the al-Ghawis homeless are soon a thing of the past.