Unrest continues in Shuafat Refugee Camp

It is now mainly schoolchildren (pre-teen and young adolescent males) who are continuing the protests against the presence of reinforced numbers of Israel Border Policemen in Shuafat Refugee Camp for a second day today. Nine have been detained so far for throwing stones at the Israeli military vehicles.

The protests by schoolchildren accounted for the second wave of unrest that we reported on here yesterday, as the Israeli Border Police staged a raid of the camp — which is now sealed off behind The Wall and two prison-like military checkpoints — looking for “tax delinquents” and “illegal West Bank workers”.

The Shuafat Refugee Camp was the only UNRWA-administered Palestinian refugee camp within the boundaries of the Greater Jerusalem Municipality that Israel delineated unilaterally after its conquest in the June 1967 war. In recent years, Israel has made another unilateral decision to exclude areas, including the Shuafat Refugee Camp, from Jerusalem by its construction of The Wall and the military checkpoint — though it has not made any administrative changes to the status of the land, so it still requires the payment of city taxes.

However, camp residents no longer have free access to Jerusalem, but only to the West Bank.

Agence France Press reported today that “The camp is a crowded neighbourhood of dilapidated concrete blocks that house Palestinian refugees and the descendants of those who fled or lost their homes when Israel was created in 1948 or when it captured east Jerusalem with the rest of the West Bank in the 1967 Six Day War”. This article is posted here

AFP said that “Several dozen youths could be seen hurling rocks, bottles and paint at security forces for the second consecutive day in the Shuafat refugee camp”. This is more or less exactly what Israeli settlers did when Israeli forces came to evict those who refused to leave voluntarily in the unilateral “Disengagement” from Gaza ordered by Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Ma’an News Agency reported today that there were a series of “overnight raids” — meaning, pre-dawn, “where border guards handed out dozens of notices for residents to turn themselves in for questioning at Israeli intelligence compounds in Jerusalem”.
These raids reportedly continued until 5 am. Tear gas was used today. According to the Ma’an report, “The secretary of Fatah in the camp, Khader Ad-Dibs, said that … more than a hundred soldiers guarded the entrances of the camp. Ad-Dibs noted that some of the men and women detained Monday had already been transferred to the military court where their sentences were extended, and others who were released said they had been severely beaten”. This Ma’an report can be read in full here.

The Israeli organization Ir-Amim, which works for a Jerusalem that would be equitably shared between its two peoples and their three (monotheistic) religions, wrote on its website that “Shuafat Refugee Camp (RC) in Jerusalem is unique, not only because it is the only Palestinian refugee camp in Jerusalem, but also because it has the distinction of being the only location where the three main issues at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian overlap: refugees, security, and Jerusalem. As refugees, the inhabitants of Shuafat RC are part of a problem that, from an Israeli perspective, challenges the fundamental legitimacy of Israel’s creation, with the refugees’ demand for the ‘right of return’ being irreconcilable with the continued existence of a Jewish state of Israel. With respect to security, Shuafat RC is an overcrowded and impoverished Palestinian ‘ghetto’ in the heart of Jerusalem whose inhabitants defy Israeli control; it is thus perceived as a potential security threat by Israeli authorities (despite the fact that the camp has never been a source of major security problems). Finally, since Shuafat RC inhabitants are legal residents of Jerusalem, they are part of the demographic threat to a truly Jewish capital of the state of Israel, and the very existence of Shuafat RC – an extraterritorial Palestinian island whose residents have generally defied Israeli control and rejected Israeli authority – challenges in the most basic way Israel’s claim to sovereignty and control of the city. For all of these reasons, Israel has in the past tried to ignore the existence of Shuafat RC and today is constructing a security barrier that excludes Shuafat RC and its residents from the city”.

Below is a graphic from Ira Amim showing the route of The Wall (red line) which is now separating Shuafat Refugee Camp from the rest of Jerusalem.  The blue areas are Israeli settlements which most Israelis — and their government — believe are normal “neighborhoods”.

Ir-Amim map of Shuafat refugee camp, The Wall, and Israeli settlement neighborhoods of Pisgat Zeev and French Hill

The Shuafat Refugee Camp is administered by UNRWA, which has given permission for residents to build only two stories to their homes. But, as families expanded, they have ignored this restriction, and built higher — despite the risk if there is ever an earthquake. There are now multi-story apartment buildings that are part of the refugee camp. And, in some of the open areas that have now been enclosed by The Wall, there has been construction of new apartment buildings to house young couples who are leaving East Jerusalem’s Old City for lack of space there.

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