In occupied East Jerusalem just north of the Old City, the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah for years has been the crucible of the struggle by radical Jewish settlers to “Judaize” Jerusalem, as the common term goes. As a word, “Judaize” is slightly less cumbersome than “de-Palestinianize” (the latter is my term), but the intent and the effects are the same.
Although settlers’ organizations, facilitated in various ways by Israeli governments and protected by the security forces, routinely have taken over Palestinian property in other parts of East Jerusalem and in the West Bank, the symbolic heart of the struggle is here, for ownership or enforced control of the old stone homes on Sheikh Jarrah’s tree-lined streets.
On August 2, following an Israeli court decision, 53 Palestinian men, women and children were evicted from their homes in a nighttime raid. The Palestinians are classed as refugees who lost their homes in 1948. Shortly after the families and their furniture were on the street, security forces ushered Jewish settlers into the homes. A friend of mine and long-time Jerusalem resident said: “It was one of the worst things I witnessed in all my years here. It was bad enough kicking out women and children from their homes, but heavily armed police escorting settlers into the homes within half an hour in front of the distraught families, and obviously proud of their actions – that was really something.”
If you have a strong stomach, you can watch the evictions and the aftermath in this series of videos, after the jump.
For the views of two veteran Israeli observers, you can read what Uri Avnery wrote in July about “Judaizing” Jerusalem, and what Gideon Levy of Haaretz wrote in 2008. Finally, here is Levy’s column this week about some of the political calculations being made in Israel about President Obama.
Sarah Kreimer of the Israeli group Ir Amim, in an article in today’s Haaretz, gives more background about the Shepherd Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah, and the supportive visit to settlers by former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee.
A fact sheet and two maps of Sheikh Jarrah by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, occupied Palestinian territory, are here.