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YNet: 1,000 rally for Sheikh Jarrah

Ronen Medzin, Ynet

6 August 2010

Arab, Jewish left-wing activists mark first anniversary of protests against evacuation of Palestinian families from east Jerusalem neighborhood in favor of Jews. Rallies held in Tel Aviv, Nazareth, Haifa as well

More than 1,000 people across Israel on Friday took part in activities marking one year since Jewish residents entered the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Every week for the past year, Arab and Jewish left-wing protestors have been holding a protest in the neighborhood, calling for the return of three Palestinian families to their homes.

Hundreds of participants, including intellectuals and politicians, began marching in Tel Aviv from the Habima Theater to Allenby Street in the afternoon hours, before getting on buses and heading to Jerusalem. Rallies were held in additional places in Israel, including Haifa and Nazareth.

“We’ll be here next year as well, inshallah (‘God willing’ in Arabic),” said one of the protst’s organizers, Sara Benninga. She spoke of the achievements of the group of young people who started the protest, which is defined by many as “the core of the new Left.”

“The problem is not just Sheikh Jarrah,” she said. “It repeats itself in other places across the country and stems from discrimination, inequality and racism, which are the foundation of these moves. I feel that compared to last year, we have made a great leap in the awareness of the injustice taking place here, and we have a lot of PR work to do in order to reach people. It’s a feeling of a beginning of something wonderful and brave.”

Some 600 protestors arrived in Sheikh Jarrah carrying signs reading, “Democracy stops in Sheikh Jarrah.”

Solidarity protest for Sheikh Jarrah - Photo: Sheikh Jarrah

One of the protestors, author David Grossman, told Ynet, “I like it better here than at home.” He said he viewed the expansion of the struggle as a positive phenomenon. “I hoped this would happen and I hope it’s only the beginning,” he said.

Grossman added, however, that the people were not responding to the struggle. “The people, assuming there is such a thing, are apathetic and looking for an excuse not to do something. In the face of this complete indifference, it’s refreshing and encouraging to see the amount of people willing to come here every Friday afternoon to protest, whether in the heat or in the rain.”

He criticized the Israeli society, saying it was “stuck in a situation it created on its own, and is the victim of anxieties and lack of faith in change. It’s insulting to see how little we are capable of doing to help ourselves,” he told Ynet.

Knesset Member Dov Khenin (Hadash) said that “struggle is intensifying, because people understand we are fighting here not just against the injustice suffered by the Palestinians in the neighborhood, but also for ourselves, for our future in this country. Because with a settlement in the heart of Arab east Jerusalem, we won’t be able to reach an arrangement of two states for two people. It’s a critical battle and more and more people are realizing that.”

He directed his criticism at representatives of the Labor Party, who have avoided taking part in the protests. “They must think that being more similar to the Right will make them more popular, but they don’t understand that in such a case there will be no reason to favor them over the Right.”