Every one of those who came took into account that he could be arrested and held in detention for at least a day. The more experienced brought with them a toothbrush. Still, at the appointed time, 3 p.m., hundreds were already waiting (a most unusual thing in Israel.)
This was the largest demonstration yet in Sheikh Jarakh, were for some time now a demo is taking place every Friday, much like the demos in Bil’in, Nilin and other places.
The Friday before, the police had brutally squashed the protest and arrested 11 demonstrators, among them the director of the Association for Human Rights. Contrary to their usual treatment of peace demonstrations, the media this time covered the event extensively. The behavior of the police upset many who generally do not take part in demonstrations. This time they felt they must take part.
So almost a thousand protesters gathered today (Friday, 22.1.10) in an empty plot opposite Sheikh Jarakh, a few dozen yards away from the houses from which Palestinian families had been thrown out in order to allow settlers to move in. Side by side with the old battle horses one could see people for whom this was the first time. Among those who came was former minister Yossi Sarid. Also present were the painter Uri Lifshitz and several professors from the Hebrew University, whose buildings could be seen on a nearby hill. More or less young people stood besides more or less old ones, with the young shouting slogans, whistling with whistles specially donated for this purpose, singing and drumming. Almost all were Jewish.
One protester brought flowers and tried to deliver them to the police commander, who froze and did not move a muscle in his face. She put the flowers at his feet, where they remained, until, in the end, one of the protesters claimed them as booty.
The police dictated the place and the time: across the road, until 4 p.m. “One minute after 4, I shall disperse the demonstration by force,” the commander announced. On the hill opposite, a large detachment of border police was waiting.
But the protesters were not in the mood for dictates. After demonstrating for some time at the appointed place, shouting slogans, singing and whistling, at ten minutes after 4 they moved forward, crossed the road and marched towards the disputed houses. They were, however, stopped by a chain of border police. At this stage, a number of protesters were already arrested, while their comrades shouted and whistled.
For two more hours, until darkness descended, there were several such incidents – the police arrested protesters, the demonstrators shouted slogans (“A brave policeman beats demonstrators”). One protester was thrown to the ground and then she was arrested and dragged to the police car like all the rest.
All though the demo, ultra-Orthodox Jews in their Shabbat attire with their children pushed their way through the crowd on their way to the nearby grave of the Righteous Rabbi Shimon. Nobody hurt them. From time to time they were greeted with loud shouts of “Thieves, go home!” because the grave is located in occupied territory. The story that was published, that demonstrators had attacked them, was a blatant lie.
“We are protesting against the injustice done to the Palestinian families that were evicted,” Uri Avnery told the many Israeli and foreign reporters on behalf of Gush Shalom, “The eviction is based on the argument that these houses were bought by Jews a hundred years ago, long before the 1948 war. If every Jerusalemite were to get back the house he owned before 1948, half the Jewish population of West Jerusalem would have to be evicted, since they live in houses from which the Arabs were expelled during the 1948 war.”
Avnery added that the declared aim of the settlers is to Judaize East Jerusalem, in order to make peace impossible forever. “Everybody knows that there will be no peace without a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”