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Ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem

Art Gish

9 November 2009

My teammate woke me at 6:00 a.m. “We need to go over to the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to accompany the al Ghawi family, a Palestinian family that Israeli police evicted from their home on August 2.” The family is now living in a tent on the sidewalk across the street from their home.

Immediately after the police evicted the al Ghawi family, four Jewish families, involving twenty people, moved into the al Ghawi house. This is part of the Israeli government’s program to remove Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, and turn this Palestinian neighborhood into a Jewish neighborhood. The Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood is only one of the Jerusalem neighborhoods that the Israeli government is actively ethnically cleansing.

Since the family never knows when they may be attacked by the Jerusalem police or settlers, a common experience for the family, internationals stay at the tent around the clock. The police have demolished their tent four times since August. The al Ghawi family is part of the nonviolent resistance to this take over.

I sat on the curb near a fire Fuwad, one the men of the family, had built to warm us from the morning chill, and to boil some tea which he shared with us.

I watched settlers emerge from the house, presumably on their way to work. They looked us over as they passed near us with their guns. I wondered if the homeless family camped out in front of their stolen house touched anything in the hearts of those settlers.

The Ghawi family built this house in 1956 on land purchased in 1952 from the Jordanian government by the United Nations (UNWRA) for refugees from the new state of Israel. The settlers claim that land in the distant past had been owned by Jews, thus giving Jews today the right to confiscate the land. The Ghawi family now is threatened to become refugees a second time.

It became clear to me as I spent the day with the family that their morale was high. Neighbors stopped by to chat and drink tea with the family. They are not giving up and they are not going away.