In March, Inside Arabia warned the international community that Israel’s campaign of ethnic cleansing in occupied East Jerusalem demanded urgent attention. This was in response to the Israeli Supreme Court rejecting a series of appeals lodged by dozen of families in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
“Since 1956, a total of 37 Palestinian families have been living in 27 homes in the neighborhood – including 28 refugee families who were ethnically cleansed from their homes in Jaffa and Haifa in 1948,” reports Al Jazeera.
The families were appealing a magistrate court decision handed down on September 4, 2020 to evict them from their homes. The ruling would essentially leave more than 500 – including dozens of children – homeless and displaced from what, for many, has been their permanent place of residence since before Israel illegally seized and occupied East Jerusalem in 1967.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 970 Palestinians are now at-risk of forced eviction in occupied East Jerusalem, which has become home to more than 200,000 illegal Jewish settlers since 1967.
What the Israeli courts have put in motion is the government’s systematic effort to turn a historic Palestinian neighborhood into a Jews-only neighborhood.
What the Israeli courts have put in motion is the government’s systematic effort to turn a historic Palestinian neighborhood into a Jews-only neighborhood by removing one family and one home at a time, or what is ethnic cleansing by another name.
In late April, an Israeli court set a deadline for the mass eviction of these families to May 6, sparking not only protests against the ruling but also counter protests and threats from Israeli settlers, who view the eviction and displacement of Palestinians as a cause to celebrate.
This vindictive cruelty and callousness was given a human face, when a video went viral on social media showing an American accented Jewish settler taunting a Palestinian family, who’s home he had invaded.
“If I don’t steal your home, someone else will steal it,” the settler told Monica al-Kurd, the owner of the property.
Other videos show settlers standing on the roofs of Palestinian homes, chanting racist songs and adding further humiliation to the indigenous population, whose homes are being stolen by the Israeli government on their behalf. These are the same people who took to the streets of Jerusalem on April 22, in their hundreds, to chant “Death to Arabs.”
In recent days, confrontations between protesters among the organically formed “Save Sheikh Jarrah” protest movement and the settlers has turned violent, prompting a show of force from Israeli security troops. But rather than dispel the settlers to allow the residents of Sheikh Jarrah to continue to live in peace, they have used the protests as yet another pretext to stamp their boot on the necks of Palestinians, and quite literally.
On the evening of May 3, Israeli security forces stormed the neighborhood, with videos showing soldiers assaulting Palestinians, while arresting others and inexplicably – yet tellingly – ignoring the settlers, who clapped and cheered every arrest and assault without hindrance. Thus, we must call it for what it is – state cruelty for cruelty’s sake.
“These violations happened at the request of the Israeli settlers taking over our homes. I can’t get the voice of our neighbors’ children screaming out of my head. This is a nation of terrorists. Israel is fascist and genocidal,” tweeted Mohammed el-Kurd, a journalist and resident of Sheikh Jarrah.
Palestinian women being tear gassed and shoved to the ground and men beaten and kicked in the crotch by heavily armed soldiers, as their sons and daughters plead and scream for their parent’s mercy offer a mere glimpse of the subjugation and brutalization the larger Palestinian population endure on a daily basis under Israeli occupation and colonial rule.
“They destroyed our neighbor’s gates, broke into their rooms, terrorized their children, all while the settlers taunted and played their genocidal racist Zionist music.”
“They destroyed our neighbor’s gates, broke into their rooms, terrorized their children, all while the settlers taunted and played their genocidal racist Zionist music. All of this force because people want to protest ethnic cleansing. Israel is a terrorist state,” said el-Kurd.
Adding insult to injury, the magistrate court said the Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah can avoid eviction from their homes if they reach an “agreement” with the settlers, who are not the lawful owners of these properties. And by “agreement,” the court actually means pay rent to the settlers and recognize them as the lawful landlords of their homes, which is akin to forcing a victim of theft to pay the thief for stealing his property.
“The inherently unjust system of Israel’s colonial courts is not considering questioning the illegal settler’s ownership and has already decided on the families’ dispossession,” a statement from the families said.
The families also stated that they firmly reject the terms of the agreement: “These are our homes, and the settlers are not our landlords.”
Several months ago, UN Secretary General António Guterres urged the Israeli government to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem,” to review and end certain Israeli laws “that have been used as a basis to evict Palestinians from their properties in East Jerusalem,” and “halt demolitions and forced evictions.”
But clearly Israel isn’t listening, thus creating further urgency for the international community to act.