23 Arrested in Sheikh Jarrah, Scores Beaten During Demonstration
International volunteers from PSP joined hundreds of other solidarity activists in Sheikh Jarrah on Friday afternoon to march in support of the Al-Kurd family, who have been forced from their home by right-wing Israeli settlers. The demonstration began peacefully, with activists gathering in the yard of the Al-Kurd family. However, Israeli military and police soon began attempting to disperse the crowd, using tear gas and pepper spray. What began as a peaceful demonstration ended in the arrest of 23 people, including 3 international activists, one a volunteer with PSP. Another member of PSP was lightly injured when a police van ran over his foot. Members of the police and military were observed kicking activists and beating them with their batons. After the demonstration had been broken up a group of religious settlers was accompanied by military soldiers past the group of remaining activists, spitting at them, kicking them, and being very antagonistic. The group then continued down the street, where they beat a Palestinian man who was standing in front of a school. Israeli activists called an ambulance for the man, who was severely injured. An Israeli professor from Ben Gurion University was also taken to the hospital for treatment after being severely pepper-sprayed in the eyes.
The 23 solidarity activists were held over shabbat (Friday and Saturday) and taken to court 36 hours after their arrests. There, they were ordered banned from the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah for 30 days. 6 Israeli activists were singled out as “leaders” and have had indictments filed against them for unlawful assembly. In a rare move, immigration police entered the courtroom to take the 3 international activists, presumably to start deportation procedures. Though this is often the practice of immigration police, they are technically not allowed to arrest people with valid visas; they must first invalidate the visas before beginning deportation. This was noted both by the defense attorneys, who walked out of the courtroom in protest over the internationals’ illegal arrests, and by the presiding judge. Nearly 100 people gathered outside the courthouse, protesting the arrests. After hearing of the illegal detention of the 3 internationals, after they had been ordered released by the judge, activists attempted to block the immigation police van. Perhaps because of the obvious violation of law (and threats of charging the immigration police with kidnapping), the three internationals were released later from immigration detention centers, their visas still valid.
The al-Kurd family is one of dozens of Palestinian families who have had their homes confiscated by Israeli settlers in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Having lost their homes and personal belongings, many families are currently sheltering with neighbouring families, many living in tents. At least 24 other Palestinian homes in the area are also at risk of eviction, potentially affecting over 450 people. Friday’s events highlight, once again, complete disregard for the rights of the Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem.