On Sunday afternoon, I got a call in Bi’lin to inform me that eight activists (including Liam, a very good friend of mine) had been arrested whilst sitting in front of a bulldozer on it’s way to destroy someone’s house. After their arrests, Israeli settlers swooped in and stole the Palestinian home from Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem. The next day, I returned to al-Quds…
Events began with a trip to the courts, which I managed to get inside thanks to some wheelchair-assisted negotiating, where the activists were being “tried” for their “crimes”. I’m starting to formulate a philosophy on the matter – if you are found guilty in Israel, you are surely innocent (a hero, even) in the rest of the world. Seven were released with the condition of not returning to Sheikh Jarrah, where eviction orders loom over two Palestinian families, but Liam, now rolling visa-less, still saw his fate hanging in the balance.
At 4pm, I left him with my best wishes to make my way to an urgent demonstration, called for the evening before, at the house the settlers had stolen. With my wheelchair running low on battery as I rolled through the streets of Jerusalem, I arrived a little late – a large group of Palestinian shabab and international activists had already gathered outside, faced with rows of armed-to-the-teeth police, and the hideously laughing land-grabbers behind them.
I found the emotion of the situation hard to bear – looking into their eyes, I truly couldn’t understand how these settlers could live with themselves. With Palestinian families living and suffering in the surrounding buildings, as they have been doing for hundreds of years, this was an example of colonialism in it’s rawest and most brutal form. A tragedy unfolding before us.
The local residents, now sure to be condemned to a [near] future of harrassment and terror at the hands of the fanatics, were equally incensed, and screamed at the police, as protestors smashed on the corrugated-iron barrier seperating the house from the street. What made the whole situation even more incensing, as the settlers got down to work, was that the Israeli authorities had issued an order forbidding any further construction on the house until the matter was resolved (with no concern for the owners of the house, no doubt) in court. But the police didn’t seem bothered by such minor considerations as their own laws.
With the tension rising, the demonstration soon turned violent, with the police swinging into the crowd with batons, crushing protestors to the ground and making one arrest. Seeing the grins on the faces of the settlers, who had to be accompanied by swarms of police every time they tried to enter or exit the house to the chants of “Facist! Facist!”, made me feel sick, but it will be the oppressed minority, the Palestinians, and those who stand with them, who will triumph in the eyes of history.
Later in the evening, we rushed to another house, where settlers were attempting to invade via a garden wall. We managed to stave them off, at least for the time being.
If, like me, you are wondering what drives these people to commit such atrocities, I will give you the answer:
The ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from East Jerusalem continues while we watch. It’s time to stand up. Stand up for the Palestinians. Stand up for Jerusalem.