By Esma Mesihovic
After the eviction of six Palestinian families from their homes in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, Palestinians initiated protests to protect the families. Even though they were peaceful, Israeli soldiers doused them with skunk water, shut down the protests and blockaded the area, causing much turmoil.
Unfortunately, the Israeli Foreign Ministry was quick to call it a “real-estate dispute” instigated by Palestinian “terror groups.”
Simply calling it a “real-estate dispute” is a massive understatement. Labeling it as a “fuse” — which the New York Times did in their Monday morning article about the Al-Aqsa attacks — is also a vast underplaying of the truth. Israel is one of the most militarily advanced countries in the world, which makes the asymmetry overwhelming. Specific to the Al-Aqsa attacks, this isn’t a battle between two equal sides: it’s the displacement of Palestinians.
According to a CNN article, a pro-settler organization called Nahalat Shimon used a 1970 law to argue that the landowners before 1948 were Jewish families. Hence, the Palestinians living in the neighborhood for decades should be evicted and should give the land to Israeli Jews. The families have sent appeals, and on Monday, the Israeli court delayed the expulsion.
It is doubtful that there will be a drastic change in events; for years, Israeli courts have worked with cases submitted by settlement negotiations opposing Palestinian residents. This was followed by Palestinian appeals of the court rulings in favor of the settlers. Palestinian families had already been evicted in the years 2008 and 2009, and so there is no reason they would stop being expelled now.
On Friday, thousands of Palestinian Muslims prayed in Masjid Al-Aqsa, the third-holiest site of Islam. It was also the last ten days of Ramadan, known to be one of the most blessed days of the year. The Guardian released footage showing Palestinian worshipers running for safety from the site as armed Israeli soldiers fired teargas and stun grenades at them. Other videos disclosed armed Israeli soldiers rampaging through the prayer halls amidst rising clouds of smoke, putting thousands in danger and injuring hundreds.
Many articles of the event titled it a “clash” or “conflict,” escalating violence in the city caused by the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. A correction needs to be made here. This isn’t a “clash” or “conflict.” The word “conflict” implies an equilibrium of power — which is definitely not the case here. This is a violation of national law, illegal occupation, ethnic cleansing and an ambushing of innocent worshipers in a mosque.
Additionally, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights clearly stated that the eviction violated Israel’s obligations under international law. Transferring any of Israel’s population into the occupied East Jerusalem is “prohibited under international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime.” The High Commissioner further calls on Israel to respect the freedom of expression and assembly of people, including the protestors, to reduce tensions.
Unfortunately, violence has erupted again after Palestinian militants in Gaza fired rockets into Israel. This ongoing struggle isn’t going to be solved easily, but it’s important to get some basic facts down. In UN resolutions, East Jerusalem is a part of the West Bank or Palestinian territories. Thus, it is in occupied East Jerusalem where the raids, assaults and forced expulsions took place.
The most important action that needs to be taken right now is a call for calm. To create a condition for equality and justice, tensions need to be suspended, and illegal occupation recognized, irrespective of the agendas that a person’s religious or political values may uphold. Under no circumstances should a person hesitate to condemn violence of any kind.
Esma is an English major and Environmental Planning Minor located in Sacramento, California. When she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found chasing after her cat, Kiki.
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