In recent weeks, municipal police in Jerusalem have been targeting key
activists who fight against the settler take-overs of Palestinian homes in
Sheikh Jarrah. A neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, Sheikh Jarrah has
hosted weekly protests for nearly a year by a broad coalition of Israelis
and Palestinians. Saleh Abo Dayeb was among the leaders who was
recently arrested. Police claimed he pushed back a settler who attempted
to photograph him and that in this supposed attack he committed a
terrorist act against the state of Israel. The judge found no evidence that
Abo Dayeb was even involved in the alleged altercation. A week later,
Mikhael Solsbury, one of the key Jewish solidarity activists was also
arrested due to his involvement in organizing the weekly protests. In his
case the judge also found no evidence and again noted police
misconduct. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky spoke to activists, lawyers,
settlers, and residents of Sheikh Jarrah to understand the struggle and the
Homapage photo by Jeremy Solher
With files from Jesse Rosenfeld, The Daily Nuisance
LIA TARACHANSKY, PRODUCER, TRNN: Every Friday for nearly a year, protesters demonstrate in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. They demand the end of settler takeovers of Palestinian homes. In recent years, the settlers won court cases that led to the eviction of Palestinian families from this neighborhood.
[crowd chanting, another language]
TARACHANSKY: Settlers say the land is theirs based on documents showing that Jews lived on the land during the Ottoman Empire more than 100 years ago. Most of the residents of the neighborhood are Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war. They cannot claim the land they lost in ’48, because Israeli law prevents non-Jewish refugees from returning. They would therefore build homes here in the 1950s by the United Nations Agency for Refugees and the Jordanian government, which was then in control of East Jerusalem. After 30 years of legal battle, three families were evicted. The al-Kurd family set up a tent outside their home in protest of the eviction. Police demolished the tent 11 times, and it is under constant attack by the settlers who have taken the family’s home. Protests have therefore become weekly as the rest of the Palestinians are still fighting to keep their homes. Several months ago the municipal police started preventing the protests, which are organized by a broad coalition of Israelis and Palestinians, from entering the neighborhood. While the protesters are prevented from demonstrating outside the evicted homes, settlers often do. Previously, The Real News spoke to [“SA-leh-ha-boo-DIBE”], one of the main activists in the neighborhood, who’s currently fighting to keep his home.
TARACHANSKY: The settlers, however, don’t see the difference between the takeover of Palestinian homes beyond the Green Line, such as in East Jerusalem, and inside it, such as in Israel proper. Baruch Marzel, a right-wing politician and settler from Hebron, held a counter-protest several weeks ago. He told The Real News that the Jewish demonstrators are hypocritical because many live on land confiscated from Palestinians in 1948 rather than ’67.
TARACHANSKY: Many settlers in the neighborhood also believe the battle is about religion and Jerusalem as a whole.
TARACHANSKY: Many of the Palestinian activists in the neighborhood have been repeatedly arrested and given bail conditions that prohibit them from attending protests. [“SA-leh-ha-boo-DIBE”] was arrested on 14 March for allegedly pushing back settlers who were trying to photograph him. He spent nine days in detention and was brought before a judge four times. The Real News spoke to Hatem Abu Ahmad, his lawyer.
HATEM ABU AHMAD, LAWYER: Unfortunately, he’s been almost nine days in high-security detention.
TARACHANSKY: Why do you think he was arrested?
AHMAD: I’m considering the issue of Sheikh Jarrah as a political issue. He’s living in a house that settlers claim ownership in this house. It will be better for them, taking one of the main member of the family to the jail rather than fighting with him at the court.
TARACHANSKY: [“a-bu-DIBE”] was finally released later that day. The judge ruled there was no evidence he was actually involved in any attack and noted the police work was incomplete and badly handled. [“MEE-kayl-SAZ-buh-ree”] is one of the main Israeli activists working with the Palestinians in the neighborhood. He attended the hearings.
TARACHANSKY: [“SA-leh-ha-boo-DIBE”]’s lawyer discovered that during the proceedings, police unsuccessfully argued that the alleged incident wasn’t just an altercation but an act of terrorism against the state of Israel.
AHMAD: That’s right. We found a document that they considered him participating in terrorist action against the state of Israel.
TARACHANSKY: For what? What exactly was he accused of committing terrorism?
AHMAD: They consider the attacks against settlers as a terrorist action against the state of Israel.
TARACHANSKY: A week later, [“MEE-kel-SALZ-buh-ree”] found himself the target of state prosecution for his role in organizing the weekly protests. He was arrested at his home in the evening, after last week’s protest, and brought before a judge the following day. The judge ruled for his release and again noted police misconduct.
(NAME): It’s becoming very strong. I mean, if we’re talking about them coming to my house on Friday night and a Shabbat dinner, my family is religious, that says something. If I was a Palestinian, I would still be under arrest. I would not be free. The fact that I’m Jewish, the fact that I’m Israeli was part of the reason that I was out. If I was a Palestinian, I would still be in jail in probably days to come.