13 September 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank
In the early hours of September 12th, local illegal settlers in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, torched and destroyed a protest tent frequented and inhabited by locals and international volunteers and observers in the midst of increased Israeli settler violence and aggression.
The tent sat between an extension of the Palestinian-owned building, half of which is now illegally occupied by Israeli settlers, while the rest of the building is still inhabited by the Palestinian Al-Kurd family. All that remains of the protest tent after the recent attack are books, sheets, mattresses and tent components that are completely singed by fire.
The tent was erected to accommodate international activists on a nightly basis as they observed and documented the behavior of the illegal settlers, while symbolically standing against the normalization of illegal settlers against Palestinian locals.
Due to a lack of volunteers, no internationals inhabited the tent on the night of the incident. Mohamed, a local, stated, “If there was somebody in the tent last night, it would not have happened. They would not dare. Maybe they try to insult, but they would not dare. They don’t like the tent, with or without volunteers. They hate this kind of symbol.”
The latest attack by settlers is no doubt a clear attempt to rid the presence of locals and international observers in Sheikh Jarrah.
“I was in the house…I heard something. I went outside, I saw firemen and I saw the policemen. I didn’t know anything until then,” said local resident Nabil Al-Kurd.
This is not the only case of harassment perpetrated by settlers in Sheikh Jarrah—abusive behavior typical of local settlers have included violent verbal incitement, sexual harassment, spitting, throwing rocks, provoking their dogs to attack, and throwing fecal matter into the protest tent.
Locals speculate when settlers will again attack the Palestinian neighborhood. “They will not try to do anything for the next few days, because the situation is bad for them,” said Mohamed. “We have pictures of who did it. A settler told me he was not responsible, that he doesn’t know who did it. I told him, ‘you are lying!’ He tried to tell me that during the last month there were no insults and nothing bad has happened. He is lying!’”
Locals and activists are yet to make complaints to the police about the incident.
Information is still being collected to be submitted to the police. However, very little has been done to protect the Palestinian family from the violence of the settlers in the past, and what remains to be seen is the action, or lack of, from the law, and the future of an international presence in Sheikh Jarrah.