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Hundreds of Jews, Arabs gather to protest in Sheikh Jarrah and West Bank

CM 21/05/2021 1

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Hundreds of Jews and Arabs gathered in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on Friday in order to protest against the planned eviction of several Arab families by the Nahalat Shimon company who intend to develop the area for Jewish housing.Prior to the 1948 war for Israel’s independence, the land that Sheikh Jarrah is built on was owned by Jews, and the four families who are facing eviction live on land which the Nahalat Shimon company now have the rights to. After the war, 28 families gave up their refugee status in exchange for ownership of homes in the neighborhood, many of which are still owned by the same families today.Five years after Israel captured the eastern part of the city in the 1967 war, unified it and applied sovereignty to it, two Jewish organizations, whose rights are now owned by Nahalt Shimon, sought to reclaim it, having previously owned the land. Israeli law does not allow the Palestinians to reclaim their initial pre-1948 property, and so the battle for a home has centered on these structures ever since. The protests in Sheikh Jarrah are not new, and have been happening long before mainstream media gave them any attention. However, a social media campaign, during which the hashtag “save Sheikh Jarrah” trended on Twitter for days, combined with the recent military operation in the Gaza Strip have made the neighborhood the center of both Israeli and international media.Over the last two weeks a series of joint Jewish and Arab protests calling for peace and for an end to ongoing violence have taken place across Israel and the West Bank. Demonstrations have been held across the north, south, and center of the country, and now in Sheikh Jarrah.Over 200 Jews and Arabs arrived to protest peacefully at the entrance to the neighborhood in a demonstration arranged by the left-wing organization Standing Together.

“We arrived in Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem to demonstrate together, Palestinian residents and Israelis, against the expulsion of families from the neighborhood,” said Standing Together national director Alon-Lee Green on his Twitter account. “Yes peace can be achieved. That’s why we’re here. Because where there is a struggle, there is hope.”

According to a video shared on social media by an organizer from the self described “socialist podcast” Wake Up Call, Israel Border Police entered the neighborhood and attempted to disperse the protestors, despite the peaceful nature of the event.”If the police try to stop every protest, whether or not it is violent, perhaps the problem isn’t the violence, perhaps the problem the police have is with Palestinians,” said the organizer.At the same time as protestors gathered in east Jerusalem, another protest organized by Standing Together, along with the left-wing NGOs Combatants for Peace and Breaking the Silence took place in the West Bank, near Bethlehem.The protest, described by participants as a “freedom march” was a joint demonstration of Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians who were calling for peace and an end to Israeli military presence in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.A statement made by Judea and Samaria police said that the protestors blocked the road in the Etzion region and caused a public disturbance, leading the police to disperse the event.”During the dispersal of the attendees and the reopening of the roads, eight people were arrested, four Palestinians and four Israelis, on suspicion of gathering illegally, disturbing public peace and security, and disturbing closed off IDF land,” said the Police spokesperson.According to Green, however, the protest was quiet and non violent, and the land had only been closed by the IDF in order to prevent the march from taking place.Image Name : Israel Border Police are seen standing at the entrance to Sheikh Jarrah at a joint Jewish and Arab demonstration, May 21, 2021. (Credit: Niv Beili)Image Name : Israel Border Police are seen standing at the entrance to Sheikh Jarrah at a joint Jewish and Arab demonstration, May 21, 2021. (Credit: Niv Beili)The march was attended by Meretz MK Mossi Raz and Hadash MK Ofer Cassif, who both reported that police were issuing parking tickets to journalists reporting on the event from the side of the road.”During the freedom march today, the Israeli Police wanted to remind us that there is no freedom here,” Sally Abed, a Palestinian member of Standing Together wrote in her statement about the event.Demonstrators at both the freedom march and the protest in Sheikh Jarrah held signs and banners with various slogans calling for change, including one which read “stop the war. Lift the Siege. There is another way,” in reference to the blockade of Gaza which has been in place since 2007. 

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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