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Protests against Sheikh Jarrah evictions continue

15 August 2009

About 70 Palestinian, Israeli and international activists gathered at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem on Saturday, 15th August to demonstrate against the recent evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and Israel’s ongoing policy of ethnically cleansing East Jerusalem of its Palestinian population.

Protesters were carrying balloons in the colours of the Palestinian flag and banners with messages from the children of Sheikh Jarrah. The children from the evicted families and their friends created the signs to tell the world about their experience with the recent evictions and the reality of living in occupied East Jerusalem. Most of them were talking about their lost childhood and that all they want is to stay in their homes, expressing their fear of being thrown out on the street and living in tents.

One of the local children, Rania (11) wrote: When I look out of my window I see my friends sleeping on the street and settlers throwing stones at them. I feel so sad for them. The settlers are in the house where we used to play.

From Damascus Gate, the demonstration proceeded onto marching towards Sheikh Jarrah. Just before reaching the neighbourhood, the march was stopped by police and border police, who held the crowd for about ten minutes while checking IDs. After a short while, the police allowed the march to continue. The demonstrators visited both evicted families and continued shouting slogans calling for Israel to stop demolishing Palestinian houses and evicting families from their homes.

On August 2, 2009, two Palestinian families, 53 people in total, were thrown out of their homes. Armed Israeli policemen smashed the windows, broke in and evicted the residents. After just one hour, Jewish settlers seized the homes and moved in. They are still there now. As for the Palestinian families, they are now sleeping on mattresses on the sidewalk across from their houses.

The families are refugees from 1948 and were given the houses in Sheikh Jarrah by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the government of Jordan which controlled East Jerusalem then. They have been fighting for their right to stay in their houses for 37 years, since the Jewish settlers produced falsified Ottoman-era deeds showing the land the houses were built on belonged to Jews. After endless court hearings, in which the Hannouns tried to present new documents and evidence, their appeal was rejected and they were issued an eviction order in February. They had been waiting for the eviction since 15th March, continuing their non-violent fight, which drew significant attention of the whole world.

These house evictions amount to a systematic elimination and cleansing of a Palestinian presence in the city, particularly in the occupied areas of East Jerusalem by the State of Israel, through legal and regulatory means. The creation of Jewish enclaves and settlements in these areas and removal of the local Palestinian population which have been living here for generations is against international law.

This “judaization” of occupied East Jerusalem is a process that if allowed to continue, will harm all prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, for whom a return to negotiations hinge largely on the sovereignty of the city and of East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.