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.

Shuafat Refugee Camp raided by Israeli forces today

What happens when Israeli Border Police decide to stage a massive raid — looking for “tax delinquents” as well as “illegal West Bank worker” — in Shuafat Refugee Camp (the only Palestinian refugee camp inside the boundaries of what Israel unilaterally defined as the “Greater Jerusalem Municipality” in 1967?

The legal residents of the camp have Jerusalem IDs. But, in recent years, Israel has unilaterally decided to exclude it and close it off from Jerusalem by the construction of The Wall around three sides of Shuafat refugee camps — it is now only freely open to the West Bank.

And, an awful Israeli military checkpoint has been put at the main entrance into Shuafat Refugee Camp. Now, children needing to get to school in the morning, and adults needing to get to their jobs, all have to pass out of the camp through this prison-like checkpoint. The traffic jam, and the stress, are terrible — every day, day in and day out — imposing great stress on people who are technically residents of Jerusalem but who have become de facto West Bankers…

Though they still have to pay their Jerusalem taxes!

The CNN team in Jerusalem took some good footage under near-battle conditions, and the video can be seen by clicking on the link: here.

A few hours earlier, and not very far away, the Israeli military raided Ramallah/El-Bireh, and arrested the wife of the mayor of El-Bireh, apparently because of alleged activities on behalf of Hamas. And other Israeli military units raided the offices of the Stop the Wall campaign, carrying out a three-hour search operation, and carrying away documents, computers, videos and other materials found in the office.

And, still other units of the Israeli military raided another area of Ramallah and arrested two young women who were said to be members of the International Solidarity Movement. The two women were seized — in Ramallah — for overstaying their Israeli visas, and then taken to the Israeli military detention center in Ofer (still in the West Bank). Luckily, they had a lawyer who was able to take their cases before the Israeli Supreme Court, which ordered their release on bail while they contest their pending deportation. However, they are banned from returning to their apartment in Ramallah…

It's Friday – protests in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem + West Bank

Today is Friday. Palestinian television will normally be show the Friday prayers from Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, located in the Old City of East Jerusalem, but this Friday Palestinian TV will broadcast live from Burrin, a village in the northern West Bank, near Nablus, where a mosque under construction, the Suliman al-Pharisee Mosque, was served a demolition order, just five days ago — last Sunday, the day on which the Palestinian presidential and legislative elections were supposed to have been held, before they were postponed.  The mosque has been entirely built (on Burrin land classified as Arab B), and it’s all finished, except for the minaret…

And, at 3:00 in the afternoon, as they have for nearly four months, a new and growing coalition of Israeli anti-occupation activists will meet to demonstrate their opposition to Jewish settlers replacing Palestinian families in East Jerusalem homes built for them by the UN refugee agency, UNRWA, in Sheikh Jarrah, in the early 1950s under the Jordanian administration. The police have refused to give the activists a permit. But a judge has ruled on Thursday that no permit is needed, as long as the activists don’t block the streets, or make political speeches.

UPDATE: Here is a photo just posted by Didi Remez on Facebook, showing the Israeli author David Grossman – in center of photo below – attending this week’s protest at Sheikh Jarrah just before 3:00pm – (photo apparently taken by Itamar Broderson). Grossman is one of Israel’s most celebrated novelists, and is also a supporter of the Geneva Initiative between Palestinian and Israeli “civil society”, and bereaved father of an IDF soldier who was killed just hours before the end of Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon.

David Grossman at Sheikh Jarrah just before 3pm this Friday 29 Jan 2010 - via Didi Remez

UPDATE: Bernard Avishai reported later on his blog (here) that Dr. Ron Pundak of the Peres Peace Center, and another supporter of the Geneva Initiative, was also present.

UPDATE: IPCRI’s co-director Gershon Baskin reported via Facebook before sunset that the Sheikh Jarrah demonstration is over — “and no one was arrested this week”.

HOWEVER, in the West Bank, it was different. The IDF spokespersons unit reported via Twitter that:
– “120 rioters, hurling rocks @ violent protest @ Bi’lin, security forces responding w riot dispersal mean”
– “100 rioters hurling rocks @ violent protest @Nil’in, security forces responding w riot dispersal means”
– “100 rioters hurling rocks @ violent protest @ Dir Hidhan N of Ramallah, security forces responding w riot dispersal means”

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