Friday Demonstrations Gather Steam Under Increased Pressure to Shut Down

13 March 2010

In Sheikh Jarrah, the weekly jovial march of Jewish Israelis and Palestinians met at Damascus Gate of the Old City and marched to Sheikh Jarrah, protesting the eviction of the Hanoun, Ghawi and Al-Kurd families, all Palestinians who had lived in the neighborhood of East Jerusalem since the 1950s who were forcibly removed by the Israeli government (one home of the Al-Jurd familiy in July, 2008, the Hanoun and Ghawi households in August, 2009) to allow Jewish families to move in. The families have been living in tents in protest outside of their homes since the eviction. More recently, a group of settlers moved into an annex of another home of the Al-Kurd family, creating even more friction with the Palestinian residents who still live in the main section of the house and are forced to share an entry-way with the right-wing extremist settlers.

This week, while the festive march of hundreds gathered at the entrance to Sheikh Jarrah, where they were met by dozens of police and military border police, a smaller group of the Palestinian home owners and a group of international solidarity activists protested outside the homes, within the area blocked off to the main demonstration by the police. Throughout the demonstration, settlers were free to cross the line of police, while Jewish demonstrators were arrested for stepping off the sidewalk.

In front of the evicted houses, just over a dozen settlers attempted a counter-demonstration, leading to heated confrontations that the police refused to separate, but were quickly out-numbered and out-shouted by the evicted families and their supporters, and dispersed on their own. Afterward, 5 Palestine solidarity activists were arrested.

In Nabi Saleh, the demonstration against the attempted expansion of the Halamish settlement was attended by over 100 men, women and children, as well as international and Israeli activists. A week after Ehab Barghouthi, 14, was put into a coma after he was shot in the forehead from close range with a rubber-coated steel bullet, the demonstration was as determined as ever to reach the land, which contains a spring essential to the agricultural livelihood of the village. They were again met with a barrage of tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and the “skunk”, a chemical spray with an overwhelming nasty smell.

In Ni’lin, Al-Ma’asara and Bil’in, the demonstrations against the construction of the Annexation Barrier on their agricultural land continued, with large contingents of Israeli and international solidarity activists. In Ni’lin, over 100 demonstrators marched towards the Barrier, which is a combination of fence and concrete wall unique to Ni’lin of all rural areas, where they were met by Israeli forces who used tear gas, and a horrible-smelling spray called “the skunk” to disperse the group.