After two weeks in Israel, an endless series of modes of travel that eventually ended and brought us back to our American home, and two nights of decent sleep (neither of which of has yet caught me up from the appalling lack of sleep I got while in Israel and especially on the modes of travel), what I am feeling, more than anything else, is quiet.
I have some thoughts, some ideas, some questions, stuff about Israel/Palestine, about my career, about what home is and means, but nothing much that I actually want to talk about. I imagine I haven’t landed yet. I sometimes feel it made more sense when people crossed oceans by boat — one needs more time to really travel the distance from there to here.
So, in lieu of blowing off another day of posting (as I did yesterday) and also in lieu of actually writing anything (since I seem to not really want to talk), I present here two clips of the protest in which we participated on Friday — you can even see us marching along!
In the first one, look for a little girl in green, and a man in sunglasses holding her hand, at the top of the screen at about the 1.30 mark, just after a big sign that reads “Stop the Imprisonment of Isawiya” is moved — that’s the girl and the husband! In the second, look for the same girl in green, the same man + a nearly invisible boy in brown, and a woman with a ponytail wearing black and pointing at something, crossing in front of a fence at about the 1.24 mark — that’s all of us!
And as to why it was important to march in Issawiya — a Palestinian village that was annexed by the Jerusalem municipality — please read this, from the march’s organizers, Just Jerusalem (aka Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity — I know the organization by their Twitter handle, @JustJerusalem, but their real name is Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity):
The village of Issawiya lies at the foot of the Hebrew University Campus at Mount Scopus, near the French Hill neighbourhood. Today, between 16 and 18 thousand inhabitants live there, many having moved from more distant Jerusalem neighbourhoods, a few holding West Bank IDs. The village is very neglected. The Municipality refuses to approve the outline plan submitted on behalf of the villagers by the Bimkom association and has issued and continues to issue many demolition orders for houses built without permits because there is no master plan for the village; the infrastructure is dilapidated, sanitation has gone hang and a pervasive feel of negligence and indifference predominates. A particularly noticeable example of this is the little playground the municipality built in the village a decade ago (at the request of the French Hill administration, to keep Issawiya children away from its playground). When the lease of the plot expired, the municipality dismantled it completely, leaving a deserted, ugly plot at the entrance to the village. In addition, a good part of the land originally designated for village development has now been turned over to the “Nature Reserve”/”National Park” societies. There is not even a minimum of city planning and the village’s roads demand virtuoso juggling skills from its drivers.
The situation in Issawiya began to deteriorate on Friday, 5 November. Since then the village’s inhabitants have suffered increased harassment from the authorities, such as:
– renewed obstruction of paths and roads connecting the village to the outside world. New concrete barriers have been erected, trenches have been bulldozed in several places to prevent traffic from passing through it.
– A mobile checkpoint was set up at the main entrance to the village. The greatest pressure was experienced by the residents on the morning of 10 November when each and every private vehicle was examined by the police to justify the imposition of fines for unfit mechanical condition or other alleged offences. Tens of residents were fined to the tune of between 250 and 1,000 shekels. The checkpoint also served to collect debts for various authorities (rates, national insurance, broadcasting licenses, etc.).
– In addition to blocking the entrances the police patrolled the village, probably to provoke the stone-throwing that resulted; their response to that was to shoot limitless quantities of tear-gas, including into the houses.
– Lastly, activities damaging to residents increased: demolition of agricultural structures, fining of animal-owners, etc.
When will it end? One of the East Jerusalem police officers said that the abuse will stop when he can “walk around Issawiya waving an Israeli flag” and when the village becomes “as secure for him as King George Street”. Clearly this is a classical example of a show of force of the “burn into consciousness” kind that does more harm than good.
The inhabitants condemn the stone-throwing by a few of the village’s young people. One of the activists said that he himself reported the stoning of a vehicle to the police; the response was “go find out if the rock-thrower is a Jew or an Arab”.
The village’s residents condemn the goading and the violence of the police and its use of collective punishment. According to many, no-one would dare close the whole of Meah Shearim after an Arab attack there, and in no Jewish area would it occur to the police to punish the entire area for the criminal activities of the few.
The residents have expressed their wish for non-violent Jewish Arab partnership.
It goes without saying that all of the above is taking place in “unified Jerusalem,” aka “the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish people.” Like the t-shirt worn by many of the Sheikh Jarrah activists says: Ein kedusha b’ir kevusha — there’s nothing holy in an occupied city.
For more on the discriminatory policies of the Israeli authorities in Jerusalem, please read my earlier post, “Ethnic cleansing, slo-mo.“