At 5:15am on Sunday morning, I woke up to the sound of the Hannoun family’s front room windows being smashed in. I had lay down to rest only twenty minutes earlier.
By the time I’d got to my feet, soldiers were rushing into the house and pushing me out the front door. As I fell down the stairs outside, I pointed at my wheelchair:
“That’s my wheelchair,” I said, “I need it because I can’t walk.”
“No! No!” the armed Israeli forces replied, continuing to shove me away.
Just outside the house, the police gathered everyone at the wall. Within a matter of seconds they had confiscated everyone’s camera and mobile phone, meaning that no footage could be taken and no media could be called. Not that media would’ve been able to come anyway – the police had closed off the entire area.
The police promptly proceeded to arrest all the international activists they could find, who had been staying with the families to show their support… it was over in minutes. But when they got to me:
“Where are you from?”
“Mish fairhem (Arabic for “I don’t understand”).
“Just leave him,” instructed the chief police officer. He must’ve thought I was a member of the family he was throwing onto the streets.
As they forced us across the road, I was the only international left with the family. A police barrier was hastily set up, imprisoning us in the road directly opposite the house.
All around me I could see tears falling from eyes, and faces falling into hands.
“For the second time I have been kicked out of my home,” sobbed Jana, the sixteen year-old daughter of the family, “how can I ever forget?”
A Grandmother of the family was cursing the soldiers for their crimes, when one got offended and attempted to strike her. Her son pulled down the barrier, launching himself at the soldiers until he was brutally beaten and crushed to the ground. Other Palestinians were also injured as they desperately tried to de-arrest him.
It was only a couple of hours before the settlers were moving in to the Hannouns’ house, sending the family into a frenzy of panic:
“Why are you here?” they cried, “Why are you taking my home?” A distraught and broken Jana had to be held back from scaling the fence, for fear that she would be the next to be beaten.
The international media and UN observers were completely blocked from entering the area. Al Jazeera and CNN managed to get there by climbing through neighbouring gardens, but even they were manhandled and harassed.
I don’t cry often, but when I saw Maher breaking down half way through an interview, the emotion was too much for me to handle.
“We have been made refugees again,” he told reporters, “this a slow genocide they are conducting against the Palestinians of East Jerusalem.”
At one point, a van of settlers drove up from behind us. I watched as family members held back Jana from kicking the door, and I watched as soldiers ushered the settlers through to the house they had just stolen. This is Apartheid.
At around 5pm, police finally took down the fence and re-opened the roads outside the house. We all immediately crossed the road, put our banners back up and sat on the steps outside the Hannouns’ home. Soldiers forced us across the road once more, erecting a new police fence outside the houses.
In the evening, people from across the country gathered outside the house to protest, and chanted as loud as our voices would allow. The Israeli police responded to the peaceful protest by beating everyone up – punching people in the head and throwing a woman with a baby in her arms to the ground. Thirteen more arrests were made. “Fascism” would be an understatement.
We slept the night on the street.