For us Jerusalemites, it is downright nauseating to hear commentators throwing clichés about the “cycle of violence”, calling for a “return to calm” and generally engaging on both sides whenever the violence breaks out. And in the last few weeks we’ve heard them again. There are no two equal sides in Jerusalem.
The problem with these statements is that they whitewash the fact that Jerusalem is a city under violent occupation and that its occupant, Israel, has made known its intention to slowly uproot the indigenous population.
In this sense, violence is a permanent feature of the life of the people of Jerusalem, even when outside observers perceive the streets as “calm”. And it is not a question of de-escalation “on both sides”.
The past year has been particularly violent for Palestinians in Jerusalem. The impact of COVID-19 on our community is overshadowed by the effects of relentless harassment, arrests, house demolition and displacement by Israeli authorities, ultimately aimed at ethnically cleansing the city.
No one should be surprised at the extent of the Palestinians’ anger towards the Israeli occupation authorities in the city. Their encroachments on the rights of our community are endless and are directly responsible for any increase in violence.
Such is the case of this last violent episode which began in the first days of the holy month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is a special time for Muslims around the world, but in Jerusalem the festive atmosphere is simply magical. It is a time when the people of Jerusalem – young and old – get together with their friends and family, stroll through the streets of the city, buy sweets, drink coffee and enjoy the light shows, performances of impromptu music and street performances.
You wouldn’t see Jerusalem come to life late at night at any other time of the year. It is a special experience that reflects the strong community ties among Palestinians in Jerusalem. And this is, of course, a privileged opportunity for the Israeli authorities to harass the Palestinians and spoil their festivities. This year was no different.
On April 12, a day before the start of Ramadan, I walked down the steps of the Damascus Gate in the Old City to have my last hummus and falafel breakfast in Abu Shukri, before starting the month-long fast. . Along the way, I noticed the first signs that the Israeli authorities were up to something. The space, benches and steps around Damascus Gate Square were blocked off by metal barricades. The Damascus Gate, with its three police garrisons erected in recent years, looked like a militarized encampment.
There was no reason to put up these barriers in a popular Ramadan hangout other than to upset the Palestinians. The decision to ban Palestinians from the West Bank from traveling to Jerusalem to pray to Al-Aqsa, citing the lack of vaccinations as an excuse, has further angered Jerusalemites.
The reaction was immediate: on the first day of Ramadan, April 13, a large number of young people gathered at the Damascus Gate to protest against the arbitrary actions of the Israeli occupier. Over the next few days, protests escalated as Israeli provocations continued. On April 22, hundreds of extremist Jews marched on the Old City under the protection of the Israeli police, chanting “Death to the Arabs!” Palestinian youth were relentless in their resistance.
Thirteen days after Ramadan, on April 25, the barricades fell. I arrived a little after 9pm that night, around the time people started to gather after Taraweeh’s prayers. Large crowds of Palestinians marched, determined to retake the occupied Damascus gate. The Israeli police withdrew and the youths then forced all the barricades to remove and spilled into space. By singing, singing and dancing, we have reaffirmed our presence on our earth.
The “victory” was bittersweet, however. For nearly two weeks, young Palestinians were subjected to brutal repression, beaten, attacked with stun grenades and smelly “skunk” water cannons, and detained. And while the foreign media paid attention to these dramatic images, they completely ignored Israel’s other sustained campaigns of brutality against the people of Jerusalem.
As Palestinian youth resisted encroachment on their public spaces, some Jerusalemites faced the brutal dispossession of their homes.
In Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, 500 Palestinians from 28 families face eviction from homes that have belonged to them for generations. In February, a court ruled that six Palestinian homes where 27 people live were to be turned over to Jewish settlers. Earlier this week, the court gave Palestinian families four days to “come to an agreement” with the Jewish settlers, in which they would relinquish ownership of their homes in exchange for delaying their eviction.
The appalling absurdity of the court ruling is a prime example of Israel’s brutal occupation and the policy of ethnic cleansing. In Israeli apartheid courts, there is no justice for the Palestinians. More than 200 families in East Jerusalem face eviction due to similar legal proceedings against them.
Palestinian families have vowed to resist. In a video that went viral ahead of the hearing, Muna al-Kurd, a resident of Sheikh Jarrah, is seen confronting a settler about the theft of Palestinian homes, in which he responds with a heavy American accent: “If I don’t steal it, someone else will. . Half of al-Kurd’s house was taken over by Jewish settlers in 2009.
House demolitions are another brutal Israeli practice that has continued over the past year, even amid the worst COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, more than 163 houses and structures have been demolished in East Jerusalem, displacing 359 Palestinians, including 167 children.
In February, the Jerusalem Municipality demanded the activation of demolition orders against some 70 Palestinian homes in the al-Bustan neighborhood of the Silwan neighborhood, next to the Old City of Jerusalem. The Israeli municipality plans to build an archaeological park there. If carried out, the demolitions would uproot some 1,500 Palestinians.
Jabal al-Mukaber, a neighborhood in Jerusalem hardest hit by demolitions in the past three years, has seen homes demolished and families displaced to make way for a planned ring road that is supposed to connect Israeli settlements in the southern West Bank in Jerusalem. In June 2020 alone, 23 buildings owned by Palestinians were demolished, displacing 57 people, including 34 children.
In al-Walaja, seven buildings were destroyed and families displaced without warning to make room for the creation of an Israeli national park. Houses were also demolished in the Sur Bahir area because the buildings were in a “buffer zone”, arbitrarily determined by the Israeli authorities.
Israeli violence does not stop with evictions and house demolitions. It also extends to the political sphere, where the Israeli authorities continue to deny Palestinians in Jerusalem their political rights. They regularly attack and arrest Palestinians engaged in political activities or attempting to represent political parties; even Palestinian Authority (PA) officials are harassed.
In recent days, the Israeli government has made it clear that it will not allow Palestinian legislative elections, originally scheduled for May 22, to also be held in East Jerusalem, home to nearly 400,000 Palestinians. Israeli police regularly raided events that promoted Palestinian elections and arrested Palestinian parliamentary candidates. As a result, PA President Mahmoud Abbas officially postponed the scheduled elections, citing Israel’s categorical refusal to hold the electoral process in East Jerusalem.
In contrast, Israelis living in Jerusalem have been free to vote four times in the past two years, many of them voting for the same Jewish extremists who recently chanted “Death to the Arabs!” in our streets.
Jerusalem may have disappeared from the news for now, but the occupiers did not leave us alone. Colonial violence has not disappeared. Palestinian families of Sheikh Jarrah expect to be forcibly evicted from their homes on Thursday, to be immediately replaced by Jewish settlers.
Over the weekend, Laylat al-Qadr, the night of Ramadan when Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque is busiest, also coincides with what Israelis call “Jerusalem Day,” the day Israel occupied. East Jerusalem. The Israelis mark this day by walking our streets and attacking Al-Aqsa, fully protected by the Israeli police, who have put us under strict lockdown. But we will not watch passively.
Israel is doing its best to make the life of the Palestinians in Jerusalem a misery and a constant struggle. He does everything to make us disappear. But we won’t. Every day we face police brutality, arrests, evictions and house demolitions, impoverishment and denial of basic human rights. The violence of the occupier is a permanent feature of our lives.
But we are determined to fight for our city and to stay, no matter what Israel does in its tireless efforts to erase us.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.