Israeli annexation of Palestine will never know any bounds. The clashes in Jerusalem recently between Israeli law enforcement and Palestinian protesters prove this, showing how far the Israeli are willing to take their occupation over Palestine. On deeper introspection, this is a reality that is heart-breaking for Palestinians as the prospect of peace is increasingly becoming more distant.
The Gaza strip, where Palestinians have been cornered into by Israel, has been heavily bombarded with air strikes that have resulted in needless deaths of civilians including children. The offensive began on Monday and according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, 48 people have been killed including 14 children, while 300 others have been wounded. Israel’s army asserts that about 1,500 rockets have been fired from Gaza towards different locations in Israel – and it seems since the 2014 war on Gaza, Israel is hell-bent on inflicting extensive damage towards Gaza.
The recent eruption of violence between Palestine and Israel this time around has its roots in the Sheikh Jarrah expulsions. Illegal Israeli settlements are fast encroaching into Palestinian territory in East Jerusalem and this is something that the Palestinians have not taken lightly. Faced with permanent displacement, they have no other option except to retaliate through violent means – a language Israel understands all too well.
Palestinians are being forced out from the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. These Palestinian families have had several court cases filed against them by pro-settler organisations since 1972.
Last week, there were night-time clashes around Temple Mount (Islam’s third holiest site) and the Al-Aqsa Mosque and compound as thousands of Palestinians faced off with Israeli police who were armed with riot gear over the Sheikh Jarrah expulsions. The police were deployed as Muslims were performing evening prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan.
Several people were injured during the clashes, with one person losing their eye, two others suffered severe head wounds, and two had their jaws fractured. The violence was so serious that an Al-Aqsa official appealed for tranquility through the mosque’s speakers, “Police must immediately stop firing stun grenades at worshippers, and the youth must calm down and be quiet.”
For the protesters in East Jerusalem, they had to make their rejection loud and take a “courageous stand” otherwise evictions would follow every Palestinian family in the Israeli-occupied Sheikh Jarrah. Hamas, the rulers of the Gaza strip, warned Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu not to “play with fire.”
Pro-settler organisations claim that the land on which Sheikh Jarrah is built in East Jerusalem originally belongs to Jewish people. The neighborhood contains a site revered by Jews, that of an ancient high priest called Simeon the Unjust. The population of Sheikh Jarrah is overwhelmingly Palestinian. During the 1967 Middle East War, Israel occupied and captured the territory in East Jerusalem to create a completely Jewish identity in Jerusalem (there is the full application of Israeli law in East Jerusalem). Israel proclaims Jerusalem as its capital although international law does not recognize it.
Sheikh Jarrah has always been a predominantly Muslim neighborhood and since 1865 it gradually became a residential centre for Jerusalem’s Muslim elite. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War (resulting in the 1948 Nakba – the Palestinian Exodus) Sheikh Jarrah bordered the no man’s land area between Jordanian-held East Jerusalem and Israeli-held West Jerusalem. This is because refugees from the 1948 Nakba settled in Sheikh Jarrah under an agreement reached by Jordan and the UN refugee agency in 1956.
Most of its present Palestinian population is said to come from refugees expelled from Jerusalem’s Talbiya neighborhood in 1948. In 1967, East Jerusalem was captured and Israeli law became applicable to Sheikh Jarrah. In the 1970s, Jewish settler organisations filed court cases seeking the expulsion of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, arguing that the land originally belongs to the Jewish. Fast-forward to 2021, the expulsions have gained momentum and the United Nations has warned that these could amount to “war crimes.”
Four Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah were served with court orders for evictions. The families have since appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court in the hope of a justiciable verdict – even though the possibility for such is remote. The supreme court session to hear the matter was canceled.
The anger of the Palestinians over this issue has resulted in the recent deadly clashes as Israel seeks to exterminate Palestinians from the face of the earth. From the looks of things, it is clear to conclude that a two-state solution or even a one-state solution is far from happening. The United States sends billions of military aid to Israel each year, thus actively aiding in the murder of innocent Palestinians. That there are violent confrontations around the Al-Aqsa compound, a holy site, is an attestation of the arrogance wielded by Israel in its quest to annihilate the Arab population not only in East Jerusalem but in Gaza and West Bank as well.
On the attacks from Gaza, PM Netanyahu tweeted a harshly cold statement, “We are in a fight on several fronts: Jerusalem, Gaza and elsewhere in the country. This evening, on Jerusalem Day, the terrorist organizations in Gaza have crossed a red line and attacked us with missiles in the outskirts of Jerusalem.
“Israel will respond with great force. We will not tolerate attacks on our territory, our capital, our citizens and our soldiers. Those who attack us will pay a heavy price.” He said that fighting may last for “some time.”
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently issued a report calling Israeli actions towards Palestine as “apartheid,” having “crossed the threshold” of what constitutes apartheid. It was a bold move from the HRW. The report immediately received immense backlash with some calling it “anti-Semitic.” But this is the truth – Israel leads an effective occupation and apartheid over Palestine. Israel’s intransigence towards Palestine shows how much it is a settler-colonial state.
The White House and other European nations have condemned Israeli attacks on Palestinians in East Jerusalem and in Gaza but they will never use the right words – occupation and apartheid. Because these are Israel’s powerful allies and will never call the situation for what it really is.