Thursday 6 August 2009

More ethnic cleansing from Israeli occupied East Jerusalem

The Israeli government has embarked on more ethnic cleansing in occupied East Jerusalem, with the recent eviction of 53 people from their homes. This time around the evictions have raised a fair amount of media coverage and comment both in Israel and elsewhere. The woman in the photo is Jana Hannoun, one of the people evicted. This photo originally appeared in, an online magazine.
The following is an account of the evictions and some excellent background information with links to other sources. The article was published on the online blog of Jewish Peace News.

Israel's "Hamas": the Sheikh Jarrah evictions

The eviction by Israeli authorities of two Palestinian families (53 residents in total, including 19 minors) from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem on August 2 has produced extensive international condemnation. The evictions were authorized by Israeli courts in a highly controversial decision (here's a timeline of the 37-year case: <>), and the Netanyahu administration's effort to hastily enforce the ruling seems intended to fortify Israel's disputed claim to sole sovereignty over Jerusalem. Beyond the shameful events themselves, what is particularly outrageous, writes Jerry Haber (the pseudonym of an Orthodox Jewish Studies professor who divdes his time between Israel and the US), is how Israeli national radio has dishonestly framed the information about the evictions of the al-Ghawi and al-Hanoun families.

Haber's article <> is a must-read, because it details a typical case in which the Israeli government-run media presents a version of events that fits the government's deeply distorted ethno-nationalist narrative, rather than the facts. He also dissects the blatant falsehoods of the Netanyahu administration's claim that Arabs can live anywhere in Jerusalem, and therefore so should Jews.

Haber concludes: "if you are a decent human being, you cannot but shout, My God, how long will this robbery -- or to use the Biblical Hebrew word, this 'Hamas' --continue? Isn't what we stole after 1948 and 1967 enough?"

In response to tensions between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations generated by incidents such as this, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman adds some surprisingly blunt criticisms <> of Israel's ongoing settlement activity -- which, he remarks, has been greatly abetted by major American Jewish organizations:

"For years, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the pro-Israel lobby, rather than urging Israel to halt this corrosive process, used their influence to mindlessly protect Israel from U.S. pressure on this issue and to dissuade American officials and diplomats from speaking out against settlements. Everyone in Washington knows this, and a lot of people -- people who care about Israel -- are sick of it.

"The Times's Jerusalem bureau chief, Ethan Bronner, captured the we-are-untouchable arrogance of the settlers last week when he quoted Rabbi Yigael Shandorfi, leader of a religious academy at the settlement of Nahliel, calling Mr. Obama in a speech 'that Arab they call a president.'"

--Lincoln Shlensky

Sarah Anne Minkin adds:

These evictions are also a story about the abuse of the law by a supposed democratic regime. Both Jerry Haber's post and this article by Marcey Gayer <> describe the ways in which the courts and other governmental bodies, including the Israel Lands Administration, use the legal methods at their disposal to dispossess Palestinians and make material and symbolic claims -- of both land and history -- for Israel's Jewish inhabitants. Note, too, the heavy involvement of the American doctor and casino magnate, Irving Moskowitz, who has a hand in much of the settlement building and dispossession of Palestinians in Jerusalem.

Mairav Zonshein and Joseph Dana have a new video on the evictions, including an interview with the father of the Hanoun family, evicted yesterday: <>

In July, President Obama called on Israel to halt settlement expansion in East Jerusalem; Israel continues to defy the U.S., evicting Palestinians and moving Jewish settlers into their homes under the protection of the Israeli Defense Force. A short video on the Judaization of East Jerusalem, focusing specifically on the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, is posted here: <>

Here is short testimony from Ofra Ben-Artzi about being arrested while trying to visit the evicted Palestinians: <> (she's Netanyahu's sister-in-law and mother of the long-jailed military refuser Yonatan Ben-Artzi)

And here is Ha'aretz's article on Clinton's objection to the evictions, which also includes quotes from Egyptian & Swedish diplomats about them: <>

Joel Beinin adds:

Stand Up for Jerusalem has posted videos <> of Israeli police evicting two Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem at 5:00 am on August 2. One of the families, the Hijazi family, claims to have deeds to the property dating to the 19th century. The Sephardic Community Committee also claims to have owned the properties before the 1948 War. Twenty-eight Palestinian refugee families were resettled in Sheikh Jarrah by the UN and the Jordanian government, which occupied East Jerusalem during the war. After Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 they were granted the status of "protected" tenants (meaning ordinarily they could not be evicted). The putative Jewish owners claimed the two families were delinquent in their rent and therefore subject to eviction. With the consent of the Sephardic Community Committee, settlers have already occupied the homes.

This appears to be a further step in the process of "judaizing" Sheikh Jarrah, a project which has been under way for some time. Nahalat Shimon International, a settler-related real estate group which also claims to have an Ottoman-era deed, has been seeking to build a 200-unit settlement named Shimon Ha-Tzadik in the area. Settlers already occupy several other houses in the neighborhood.

A full report on the legal background to the case is available at the website of 'Ir 'Amim, an NGO that seeks an equitable and shared Jerusalem in the framework of an agreed political future. <>

The Sheikh Jarrah evictions have aroused a storm of international protest from the USA, UK, the EU, Sweden, Egypt, and others. Secretary of State Clinton called the eviction "a very regrettable action," and the Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, was called in for a scolding. Verbal protests seem unlikely to be enough to halt the Netanyahu government's determination to build more Jewish colonies in East Jerusalem.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog:

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