Sunday, January 9, 2011

Attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem

It's 10:41am on Sunday and already a very difficult morning for Palestinians in Jerusalem. Today, like every day, their efforts to live in peace have been thwarted. Already one Palestinian community organizer was called in for interrogation, a second arrested, and construction began on a new illegal settlement in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood.

As soon as I turned on my computer, I read about the demolition of the Shepherd Hotel in Jerusalem. Israeli settlers have official Israeli permission to tear down this hotel to build a new settlement (illegal under international law) in the heart of a Jerusalem neighborhood. This illegal project is funded by Irving Moskowitz, a businessman in the US that has donated to many efforts to takeover Palestinian land. For those of you nearby, a protest has been called for 4pm today.

At 8:49am I received a call from the Wadi Hilweh Information Center. The center's director had just been called in for interrogation for the second time since a judge ordered his release on Friday. Jawad is an energetic young man working to improve the situation of his community in Silwan by organizing children's activities at the Madaa Center and also working to educate the international community about the history of Silwan, a Palestinian village in Jerusalem. He was arrested last week (while working with children) on suspected assault but then released two days later for lack of evidence. Jawad has since been called in for interrogation twice. According to the information center, Jawad has been questioned about his activism in the local community. This amounts to harassment and intimidation by the Israeli police.

*UPDATE* The Israeli police are now seeking to ban Jawad from Silwan, the neighborhood in Jerusalem that his family has lived in for generations. There is a hearing tomorrow and I'm hoping against the odds that the judge will not approve this request.

Just a few minutes ago, the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee announced that Nidhal Abu Gharbiya, a Palestinian organizer in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, was arrested by Israeli police while watching the demolition of the Shepherd Hotel. Since he was simply observing Israel's illegal activities, I can only conclude that his arrest was another way of silencing Palestinians demanding the right to live in their homes.

Every day, Palestinians in Jerusalem face the threats of illegal Israeli settlers, state repression, and lack of equal rights and services. But this morning is an extreme example. One Israeli activist posed the question: "Is Israel taking advantage of the jammed news cycle in america to push forward in East Jerusalem?" Probably not. But still, I hope you will share this information to make sure Palestinians in Jerusalem are not forced out because no one is watching.

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