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Settlers attempt to destroy Christmas tree following Palestinian celebration in Sheikh Jarrah

23 December 2009

On Wednesday 23 December at 11.30pm, as every other night, settlers began to circulate in the street between the occupied Gawi house and the half-occupied al-Kurd house in Sheikh Jarrah. After about an hour of general harassment of the Palestinian families living in the neighbourhood since 1956, the settlers increased their aggression and started throwing fruit at the people who sat in front of the Kurd family house to protect it from further invasions. Two settlers started making graffiti and sprayed over Palestinian flags painted on the wall of the al-Kurd backyard, while the rest pushed and cursed the Palestinians and internationals, who verbally tried to make them stop. A solidarity activist filming the episode was spray-painted in the face numerous times. Three border policemen stood next by and watched without interfering for the whole duration of the attack.

During the Christmas celebration in Sheikh Jarrah, children from the neighborhood painted Palestinian flags on the al-Kurd wall to cover the stars of David the settlers had painted days earlier. The Israeli police came within 3 minutes and stopped them. The settlers living in the occupied Gawi house, reacted by adding another 3 Israeli flags in addition to the 8 big ones and 18 small ones that they have already plastered outside the stolen house.

The settlers started their nightly harassment campaign by trying to reach the Christmas tree but were prevented from reaching it by the Israeli border police, who have a 24 hour presence in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. After about half an hour, the settlers seemed to have dropped their original plans and started verbally harassing the Palestinians and the internationals; who were awake in order to protect Gawi family members, as well as the al-Kurds, who had half of their house stolen by settlers and have been forced to share their backyard with them. The settlers were particularly focused on an elderly man and an international woman. They called the man by his name and kept at cursing him while they sexual harassed the woman by sign language, touching their own bodies and making kissing sounds.

At around 12.30 the settlers, started making graffiti on the wall of the al-Kurd family house, painting over the Palestinian flags and writing ‘death to Arabs’ in Hebrew. They further increased the violence, pushed the Palestinians and spray-painted the international woman who filmed the episode in the face. The border police observed the aggressive behavior but did not interfere and only phoned the police about half an hour later when it had already been called from by the attacked several times.

The police finally arrived, around 1.30am, and promised to arrest the settlers responsible for the attack, but even when they were shown the film and told where the settlers ran to hide, they refused going there. Instead they went into the occupied part of the al-Kurd house and took one settler, who wore a ski mask while painting, with them to the police station. He returned after 20 minutes because there were no evidence that he had taken part in the actions.

The Palestinians in the neighborhood will go to the Israeli police and file a complaint about the poor intervention of the police, as well as try to encourage them to arrest the settler whose face is shown in the video. Three days ago a Palestinian man was held at the police station for 24 hours for encouraging the children in the neighborhood to paint over offensive graffiti painted by the settlers on the same wall. The Palestinians only ask to have equal law rights in occupied East Jerusalem, where even the rights to live in their houses have been denied.