27 November 2009
On Friday 27 November 2009, the Eid al-Adha celebration in Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem, was marked by prayers and demonstrations.
In the night unto Eid, the sleep in the neighbourhood was disturbed at 2am by loud music coming from a street party attended by Jewish settler youths, who gathered outside the Shimon HaTzadik Tomb, located just behind the Palestinian houses. This is the same location from which Jewish settlers threw stones at the Palestinian houses in the middle of the night on Friday 6 November. The disturbing music was played for 30 minutes until the police blue-lights drew near.
At 7am, the Palestinian families gathered in an open field in the neighbourhood to hold the traditional Eid Friday prayer. The prayer was led by Sheikh Raed Salah, an influential and well known imam, who in his speech talked about the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, 1967, and until present. The speech emphasized the current evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, including the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, and blasted the illegality and immorality of these actions that are forcing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem and replacing them with Jewish settler population. The two-hour event was broadcasted live on Palestinian TV and ended with games, music, and sweets for the children.
At 3pm, the second demonstration and march against the evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem arrived in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. The demonstration takes place every Friday, and gathers Israeli, Palestinian, and international activists at Zion Square in West Jerusalem at 1:30pm to subsequently march to the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem. An Israeli samba drum band helps to make the demonstration vibrant and also fun for the Palestinian children who towards the end of the demonstration learn to play the drums together with the Israeli activists. In Sheikh Jarrah, the demonstrators were, as usual, filmed and observed by heavily armed Israeli occupation forces.
At 6pm, around 15 Jewish settlers gathered outside the Atiyeh family home in Sheikh Jarrah and conducted a provocative prayer directed towards the home; provocative because it manifests their desire to evict the Palestinian family and replace them with Jewish settlers. 28 Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah are threatened by eviction, including the Kamel Kurd, Hannoun, and Gawi families that were made homeless in the past year. This was the fourth provocative prayer in the past five weeks, directed twice at the Gawi family house (23 and 30 October) and twice at the Atiyeh family house (20 and 27 November). Each time, the provocation has been accompanied by heavily armed Israeli occupation police. This time a friend of the Sheikh Jarrah families protested against the provocation by standing close to the settler group and performing a muslim prayer towards the Atiyeh family house. Afterwards, the praying Palestinian was questioned by the police while the settlers were not. During the prayers, the police unnecessarily forced some Palestinian children to back well away from the street.
The Gawi and Hannoun families, consisting of 53 members including 20 children, have been left homeless after they were forcibly evicted from their houses on 2 August 2009. The Israeli forces surrounded the homes of the two families at 5.30am and, breaking in through the windows, forcefully dragged all residents into the street. The police also demolished the neighbourhood’s protest tent, set up by Um Kamel, following the forced eviction of her family in November 2008.
At present, all three houses are occupied by settlers and the whole area is patrolled by armed private settler security 24 hours a day. Both Hannoun and Gawi families, who have been left without suitable alternative accommodation since August, continue to protest against the unlawful eviction from the sidewalk across the street from their homes, facing regular attacks from the settlers and harassment from the police.
The Karm Al-Ja’ouni neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah is home to 28 Palestinian families, all refugees from 1948, who received their houses from the UNRWA and Jordanian government in 1956. All face losing their homes in the manner of the Hannoun, Gawi and al-Kurd families.
The aim of the settlers is to turn the whole area into a new Jewish settlement and to create a Jewish continuum that will effectively cut off the Old City form the northern Palestinian neighborhoods. Implanting new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is illegal under many international laws, including Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The plight of the Gawi, al-Kurd and the Hannoun families is just a small part of Israel’s ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from East Jerusalem.