Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On the legal fatigue of Sheikh Jarrah (and Palestinian cigarettes)

Tonight, one of the settlers came to our tent and was so desperate for a cigarette that he would even accept a Palestinian one. That guy normally claims that there is no place called Palestine, so we noted a slightly positive development.

The struggle of residents, activists and human rights organizations to stop the ethnic cleansing in Palestine is massive and indispensable. The efforts have a strong focus on certain areas in East Jerusalem, including Sheikh Jarrah. The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement arranges frequented demonstrations every week, an information center was recently inaugurated, and since two years the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) has a tent outside the Al-Kurd family's house from where those nightly reports are written. The reason for this attention is that the Israeli political strategy for East Jerusalem serve the Zionist agenda to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. According to Peace Now, the geographic and demographic map of Jerusalem will become so Balkanized within 2-3 years
that the very possibility of the two-state solution will be in jeopardy if settlement activity in East Jerusalem continues at current levels.

The Sheikh Jarrah Kafka process began in 1972 when the Sephardic Community Committee and the Knesset Israel Committee claimed ownership of the land. Despite that Palestinian refugees have no right to claim ownership of property lost to Israel according to Israeli law, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the case. The Palestinian residents, mainly former refugees who were resettled in Sheikh Jarrah by a UN programme, found how court proceedings became a part of their everyday lives to eventually completely dominate them.

Almost 40 years later, the houses are still central in the Sheikh Jarrah process. Five families have been evicted so far and the houses have been taken over by settlers. The settler-related real estate company Nahalat Shimon International have filed the so called Town Plan Scheme (TPS) 12705 in the Jerusalem Local Planning Commission. The Jerusalem-based organization Ir Amim claims that if TPS 12705 comes to pass, the existing Palestinian houses in this key area would be demolished, about 500 Palestinians would be evicted, and 200 new settler units would be built for a new settlement: Shimon HaTzadik. Such plans would cut off the Old City from the rest of the Palestinian territory.

Today more than 500,000 settlers live on Palestinian territory and the Israeli government recently announced another 2,000 settlement units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a punishment for the Palestinians being accepted as members of UNESCO. According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), 1,051 people have been displaced and left homeless so far this year, compared to 606 for the whole of 2010. Further more Palestinians are under threat of demolition and eviction.

And did the settler get a cigarette? Well, the purpose of our protective presence is not to make friends with the occupants, but to prevent them from harassing the Palestinian family, to document their insults and assaults and to show solidarity with the family. The day they recognize Palestine and leave back the house that they stole, we will give them as many Palestinian cigarettes as they want.

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