This was the ominous warning issued yesterday by Rabbi Arik Asherman, director of Rabbis for Human Rights who believes that “if nothing changes, Jerusalem will burn.” His remarks come in response to a court decision on Monday permitting Israeli settlers to take possession of another Palestinian home in the East Jerusalem region of Sheikh Jarrah. This is the fifth family to be evicted in a neighbourhood where more and more Israeli flags are appearing atop of freshly occupied Palestinian homes.
Yesterday Rabbis for Human Rights organized a demonstration in Jerusalem protesting the courts decision bringing together 150 Israeli and international activists from organizations such as ICHAD, EAPPI and Anarchists against the Wall. As they marched through the streets in West Jerusalem, they received a mixed reaction from passer bys. Some cheered them on whilst others shouted ‘traitor’, spat at demonstrators and at one point a hose was turned on the crowd from behind the curtain of an upstairs apartment.
The demonstration culminated in the front yard of the Al-Kurd’s family home where the front section is now occupied by Israeli settlers and the family has been moved to the back.
The Al-Kurd house was built in 1956 and an extension added 10 years ago is the current source of contention. On Monday the Magistrates Court ruled it illegal and gave permission for a group of Israeli settlers to take occupation. An immediate appeal issued by the Al-Kurd family was dismissed. On Tuesday a group of Israeli settlers, accompanied by armed private security guards and Israeli police forces, took possession of the extension strewing the Al-Kurd’s belonging across the front yard.
As Shabbat prayers began late yesterday afternoon an influx of Orthodox Israelis gathered at the house, pushing through the crowd and throwing things at demonstrators. As the first and most important prayer began the Orthodox crowd moved from inside the house to clap, dance and sing in front of the on looking Al-Kurd family and demonstrators. An Israeli activist present described the move “as intentionally provocative.” He said “people deliberately gathered at the house for prayers to show solidarity with the settler family and to demonstrate to protestors their strength and ownership of the house.”
More evictions to come
A UN official at yesterday’s demonstration warned of further misery to come for Palestinian families in East Jerusalem. A letter from lawyers representing Nahalat Shimon International, the settler organization forcing through the evictions in East Jerusalem, has ordered two more Palestinian families to hand over the keys to their house to the legal firm by December 15th. According to the UN representative there are now 8 families under eviction orders and 5 families who have already been evicted from their homes.
Too little too late?
The eviction of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem is illegal under international law which forbids an occupying power from transferring its own people into an occupied area. Despite this the international community has done little to abate the appropriation of houses here. There is growing concern that Zionists are attempting to create a new Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem which will strengthen Israeli claims to complete autonomy of the capital. In reaction to this there is speculation that the European Union will issue a statement this week supporting the establishment of East Jerusalem as a future capital of a Palestinian state but many fear this is too little too late. As more and more settlement houses become ‘facts on the ground’ the balance of power and ownership is East Jerusalem is shifting perhaps irrevocably.
The tension in East Jerusalem is intensifying daily and many including Rabbi Asherman fear that without swift and decisive international intervention the situation will soon approach “breaking point.”