Bab Al-Shams is still a closed military zone

Identical multiple reports claim activists disguised as bride + “traditional Palestinian wedding party” tried to “retake” #BabAlShams today.  But, it appears that it remains a “Closed Military Zone”….

Photo from the Facebook page of Activists around the world for Palestine here:

an activists dressed as wedding party rebuffed on attempt to "retake" Bab Al-Shams
an activists dressed as wedding party rebuffed on attempt to "retake" Bab Al-Shams

Reuters has the report, which has been picked up + reproduced as is [for example, in Haaretz here, and in the Jerusalem Post here, and also on Ma’an News Agency here]:

“One activist wore a white bridal gown and their cars were decked out in bright ribbons, making the protest look like a traditional Palestinian wedding … Twenty Palestinians were detained for questioning”

UPDATE: On Wednesday 16 January, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association posted an update on those detained trying to get to Bab Al Shams:  17 of the detainees will report to the Military Court in Ofer and Al Moscobiyeh in Jerusalem. Their charges are:  1 – Access to a closed military zone  2 – Attack on the police
The prosecution is demanding shutting them out of Bab Al Shams for 6 months.

The detainees are:
1. Isam Bakir
2. Ahmad Ziadeh
3. Sharaf Rayan
4. Mohammad Ziyadat
5. Nadeem Abu Hilal
6. Adham Rabie
7. Abady Shalhoub
8. Neta Golan
9. Hatem Al Khatib
10. Eid Jalal Al Khatib
11. Ramzi Faroun
12. Ahmad Abu Rahma
13. Ahmad Brahama
14. Burkan Daraghmeh
15. Ahmad Al Hanash
16. Ahmad Hijazi
17. Ahmad Jabayat

UPDATE TWO: All those arrested were released by Wednesday evening. Some 18 demonstrators were barred from Bab Al-Shams for six weeks, while 15 of the demonstrators were given fines of 1000 shekels [$270] each. The Palestinian government later said that it would pay/reimburse those fines….

Jonathan Cook has written [his article is reproduced here] that “Following the Israeli raid, that point was made eloquently by Mohammed Khatib, one of the organisers. ‘In establishing Bab al-Shams, we declare that we have had enough of demanding our rights from the occupier — from now on we shall seize them ourselves’.  That, of course, is also Netanyahu’s great fear.  The scenario his officials are reported to be most concerned about is that this kind of popular mode of struggle becomes infectious.  If Palestinians see popular non-violent resistance, unlike endless diplomacy, helping to awaken the world to their plight, there may be more Bab al-Shamses — and other surprises for Israel — around the corner.  It was precisely such thinking that led Israel’s attorney-general, Yehuda Weinstein, to justify Netanyahu’s violation of the injunction on the grounds that the camp would ‘bring protests and riots with national and international implications’.”

The U.S. State Department has finally been asked about the Bab al-Shams experiment, and Spokesperson Victoria Nuland stated here that the U.S. believes “settlement activities of any kind…complicate efforts to resume direct bilateral talks” and are “not helpful”:

QUESTION: On the same topic, in the last – over the weekend, the Israelis forcibly moved Palestinians who had tried to reclaim an area taken from them for a settlement in the E1 area in Bab al-Shams. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. [Victoria] NULAND: We’ve obviously been aware of recent developments in E1. I will again take this opportunity to urge all sides, both sides, to refrain from unhelpful action, from unhelpful rhetoric, and to think seriously about the consequences of their actions. Every step taken should be designed to reduce tension, to prepare the way for getting back to the negotiating table.

QUESTION: Would that be the kind of nonviolent resistance that the Palestinians ought to pursue in fighting the occupation?

MS. NULAND: I’m not sure what you’re —

QUESTION: Doing – taking action like that, going to areas and pitching tents and staying up there and do temporary housing and staying on land without seeking – without resorting to violence, that would be the kind of action that the Palestinians ought to do in sort of undoing the occupation?

MS. NULAND: We oppose all unilateral action, Said, including settlement activities of any kind. They complicate efforts to resume direct bilateral talks. This includes in the E1 area. It’s just not helpful.

Then, at 4 am, the Israeli Police moved in… evacuated everybody [ + may or may not have torn down tents]

As we reported in our previous post, Abir Kopty had reported hearing police move in on the Bab Al-Shams tent village in E-1, on foot, just before midnight…

After that, it was a long night.

Nobody really knows what happened to the tents, because the site is still a closed military zone [at least until 00h30 on Monday] … but it was peculiar that the Israeli Army interpreted so… well, literally, the Supreme Court’s injunction against evicting and/or destroying the 21 or so tents that were put up on Friday morning at Bab al-Shams.

But, the people were certainly removed.

Irene Nasser picked up the story at 2 am, Abir Kopty was also Tweeting, and Fadi Quran joined in at 4 am, sending out these Tweets :

2 am
Irene Nasser @Irene_Nasser — Bulldozers are moving closer towards us along with a large police force after the court gave permission to evict #BabAlShams. Freezing cold

3 am
Abir Kopty @AbirKopty — We are gathered, they are approaching us #BabAlShams
Aljazeera will go live now from here #BabAlShams
They have a strong flash to disturb the cameras of the press #BabAlShams

3 am
Irene Nasser @Irene_Nasser — Dozens of military buses are at the bottom of the hill. Soldiers are moving closer by foot
lights of police cars popping up across the hills around us. press has stuck out the cold and is still here to document #BabAlShams
Military jeeps are almost at the first tent #BabAlShams
They’re here #BabAlShams
We’re surrounded. #BabAlShams
There’s no where to go, it’s dark and can barely see anything. #BabAlShams
They’re closing on the group violently #BabAlShams
First arrest. Not sure who hard to see #BabAlShams
They’re attacking press and moving them out #BabAlShams
More arrested without any of us seeing who #BabAlShams

4 am
Irene Nasser @Irene_Nasser — We’re ALL detained #BabAlShams
We’re on a police bus being moved. Not sure where to #BabAlShams

4 am Fadi Quran @fadiquran
Just arrested, in arrest bus #BabAlShams staying strong
Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again #BabAlshams

5 am
Irene Nasser @Irene_Nasser — The bus is taking us through #Jerusalem. We seem to be heading either to atarot police station or qalandia checkpoint #BabAlShams
Some detained have either not been to #Jerusalem 10+ yrs or some even never seeing it now for 1st time on an arrest vehicle #BabAlShams
2 full buses of those arrested at #BabAlShams have been release at qalandia checkpoint. I’m on the 3rd bus with others #BabAlShams

5 am Fadi Quran @fadiquran
They just released all of us at Qalandia #BabAlShams

6 am
Irene Nasser @Irene_Nasser — 3 were taken to hospitals. 1 in ramallah and 2 in #Jerusalem who may be arrested. #BabAlShams
Going to the hospital in ramallah to find the 2 injured transferred from the israeli ambulance. #BabAlShams
All those injured (4) have been released. They suffered bad wounds to the face from police punching and violence #BabAlShams
Sun will soon rise on our village. Empty tents, blankets thrown everywhere. They may have evicted us but we’ll always remain. #BabAlShams

6 am
Abir Kopty @AbirKopty — 6 injuries in total during the attack on #BabAlShams, we are here at the hospital with them

7 am
Irene Nasser @Irene_Nasser — Correction: 6 injuries in total. 2 minor


Here is a photo of Hafez Omar, taken after the Israeli Policy + Army evacuated Bab Al-Shams tent village in the E-1 area, east of Jerusalem:

Hafez Omar after the evacuation of Bab Al-Shams
Hafez Omar after the evacuation of Bab Al-Shams


Reactions + Comments:
Ori Nir @OriNir_APN — Isr’ gov’ proves it can quickly and efficiently remove a Palestinian WB illegal outpost. So, how about the ~ 100 illegal Jewish outposts?

Daniel Seidemann @DanielSeidemann — Message of today’s E1 eviction: what is allowed to hilltop West Bank settlers, social protesters in Tel Aviv, is forbidden to Palestinians.

Daniel Seidemann @DanielSeidemann — The message of today’s E1 eviction to WB Palestinians: you may not protest non-violently. That leaves submission or… ahem. Dumb. Just dumb.

Daniel Seidemann @DanielSeidemann — The State claimed that a non-violent E1/Bab Alshams protest in isolated area created “urgent security danger and threat to public safety”

Brent E. Sasley @besasley — @DanielSeidemann So Bibi *did* flagrantly ignore the Supreme Court. Very surprising, and a terrible precedent.

Daniel Seidemann @DanielSeidemann — @besasley The injunction forbids destruction/removal of the E1 protest tents for 6 days, unless there is an urgent security concern. 1/2

They long, they yearn, to pray in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque – on the last Friday in Ramadan

This is a great photo by ActiveStills, posted on this, the last Friday in Ramadan 2012, here.

Activestills in Ar Ram on 17 August 2012

Unusually, this year, because of the way the calendar fell, Ramadan has five Fridays this year — and today is the most important.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense has adopted more lenient rules this year for passage for prayer during Ramadan —  because, the IDF said,  of “the calm” — than in any year since the construction of The Wall [that the Israeli Ministry of Defense constructed for “security” reasons, meaning to separate Palestinians in the West Bank from Jerusalem and from Israel]…

But, these improved rules still say that only Palestinians under 16 years of age, or over 40 years of age, will be permitted to enter Jerusalem on the Fridays in Ramadan to worship.

Everybody else will have to try to apply for a permit — and that is almost impossible to obtain.

So, for the young men shown in this photo, they have no real prospect of entering Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa for anything up to 22 or 23 years from now!

Continue reading They long, they yearn, to pray in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque – on the last Friday in Ramadan

A raid down the hill, last Sunday — this doesn't happen all the time, like this

I was driving to Ramallah last Sunday, a sunny day, about 1:30 in the afternoon.

The traffic is usually bad at that time in the narrow winding pot-hold streets of Dahiet al-Bariid, where there are two important private schools letting out students at the same time, just as students from the Israeli-run East Jerusalem public school system are coming home at the same hour, more or less.

You really have to plan your day carefully in Palestinian areas, and particularly to know when schools are letting out students.

But, last Sunday it was worse than usual.

Dahiet al-Bariid is a triangle of land in north Jerusalem, divided in two by the Israeli-built Wall which comes straight down the middle of what used to be the main street between Jerusalem and Ramallah, carving out an Israeli-run industrial zone [Atarot] on one side, and closing in the Palestinian suburb of Ar-Ram on the other side.   The route of the wall would have enclosed most of the area’s hill, Jabal as-Sumoud  — except that the Rosary Sister’s School and various other Christian institutions saw what was about to happen as the construction proceeded confidently and inexorably south.  They petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court, and said they did not want to be cut off from Jerusalem, which was the center of their faith and life here.  The Supreme Court granted the petition, and in compliance with this Court decision, the Israeli Army re-routed the Wall sharply right at the lowest point in the area, to make a right turn and head up the hill, several hundred meters more north than apparently first planned.

Though the Supreme Court ruling has been made, the Israeli military has not yet incorporated the area into the Greater Jerusalem Municipality it defined in late June 1967… and most of this area is regarded, at least in military terms, as a “Seam Zone”.

When I got down to the traffic circle at the bottom of the steep hill, I suddenly saw why everything was blocked: in the midst of the normal chaos and traffic jam, there was a major Israeli border police raid going on.

It was not immediately clear which building was targetted — the building with multiple internal apartments separately housing all members of East Jerusalem’s most successful family of money-changers, whose office is located in downtown East Jerusalem’s main thoroughfare, Salah ad-Din Street, run down and crowded, un-posh to be sure, but the local equivalent of the Champs-Elysees, or Fifth Avenue.

Or, was it the office building next door, where a number of NGOs, lawyers, and other East Jerusalem entities have space?

There were many, many vehicles, and many, many men in combat uniforms with big guns standing out on the street. What looked like an armoured jeep was parked right up in the middle of the traffic circle, with a big soldier in combat posture + gun standing beside it, looking up at one of the buildings. Alongside the road, on what might in other places actually be sidewalks, there were more military vehicles, and more armed men in uniforms of various colors. What was going on? And, why?

It took me several days and a number of phone calls to find out.

Before the news was published, one experienced attorney told me it was just a “tax raid”, which happens regularly — it’s just that, to outsiders, he said, when these “tax raids” are in East Jerusalem, “they look like Chuck Norris movies”.

Finally, I called the offices of the Arab Studies Society — formerly, under the late Faisal Husseini, based in his Orient House further downtown, but relocated to Dahiet al-Bariid after Israeli authorities shut down the building housing a number of Husseini-backed organizations. Someone in that office said that the Border Police raided a nearby office rented out to the Northern Islamic Alliance, and arrested a man inside [Sheikh Raed Salah, who has Israeli citizenship and who is now fighting a deportation decision in Britain, is a member of the group].

News agencies and the Israeli media did not report the story right away. It took a couple of days, and the reports varied. It’s not clear why there was a delay in reporting.

Most of the few media reports said that not just one but two, or maybe even three, offices had been raided, and shut down [one of the offices was not in this area, but in Shu’afat village, more south, and closer to downtown Jerusalem], and one or more people arrested.

By Tuesday — two days after the raid — Agence France Presse reported that Israeli national police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told them: ” ‘The Israeli police closed down two offices… that were suspected of being used by the Hamas and the PFLP’ … The office which was allegedly being used by Hamas was in the northern Dahiyat al-Barid neighbourhood, while the premises being used by the PFLP were located in Shuafat, police said. But Khaled Zabarqa, who runs Jerusalem for Development, a local housing association which is based in the Dahiyat al-Barid office, said he was ‘surprised’ by the move and denied the organisation had any ties with Hamas. ‘We have no links to Hamas. We are a development institution which closes the (social) gaps left by the (Jerusalem) municipality in the Arab sector, which carries out renovations and helps families’, he told AFP, saying the organisation was seeking legal redress over the closure. ‘We are operating in accordance with the law’.” This story is posted here.

Haaretz, normally considered a left-liberal media platform, took a more serious and alarmist approach, reporting with a perfectly straight face that “Israeli police forces on Tuesday raided three buildings in Jerusalem allegedly being used by Palestinian militants for illegal activities. The raids were carried out based on intelligence gathered by the Shin Bet security services. Two of the buildings, loacted Dahiyat al-Barid neighborhood in north Jerusalem, were suspected of serving as a center for Hamas militants, while a third building in the Shuafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem was allegedly being used by militants from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Officers from the Border Police and Jerusalem district police found numerous documents in the buildings, indicating that illegal activity had indeed taken place there. Israel Police Commissioner Yonatan Danino signed an order immediately to seal the documents away for a month. The three buildings have been shut down The raids come two months after Jerusalem Police shut down a kindergarten in the Abu Tor neighborhood, citing classified intelligence that the site ‘was meant to serve as a place of terror activity’.” This Haaretz report is posted here.

UPDATE: More than a week later, Haaretz gave more details, and reported [on 1 November] — or, perhaps asserted is a better word, that “The first institution to close down was a Jerusalem branch of Al-Quds Development which was run by the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, headed by Sheikh Ra’ad Salah. According to intelligence, the branch was run in cooperation with senior Hamas operatives who are citizens of East Jerusalem [n.b. — excuse me, but no one is a citizen of East Jerusalem, which is still not an independent state. Israelis are often a bit careless with this word, at least in relation to East Jerusalem, where most Palestinians have permanent resident status, but no citizenship at all — and if they obtain any citizenship other than Israeli or Jordanian, their residency status is revoked]. The second institution was the company Jobs without Borders. According to intelligence collected by the Shin Bet, the company was operated by Hamas and the company directors are Hamas officials, citizens of East Jerusalem. Last, the security forces closed down the offices of Sa’ad, an educational development company in Kafr Aqab in northern East Jerusalem. According to the Shin Bet, the institution belongs to Hamas, which has been active in the neighborhood for more than a year and a half. The company’s managers are prominent Hamas officials, also residents of East Jerusalem”. This report, a week after the raid, is posted here

By chance, a Machsom [Hebrew word for “checkpoint”] Watch team was on its way, around 3 pm on the Sunday of the raid, to their usual observation tour at Qalandia checkpoint, perhaps a kilometer north of where the raid took place.

The women on the team, experienced veterans who have seen all kinds of things at checkpoints and along the roads in the West Bank, as well as at military courts and prisons, were astonished. They stopped their car, and got out to take a look…

Tamar Fleishman, a member of the team, reported that the raid took several hours, and she and her colleagues stayed until it was over.

Here is her account, with her photos:

    “During the afternoon hours a group of Mistaarvim [n.b. – Israeli undercover plainclothes police units, ususally of Arab origin. who are initially assumed to be “locals”] who had their faces covered, protected by the Yasam [the Special Forces of the Israeli Border Police], broke the office door of attorney Kaadan at Dahiat El Barid.

    Within seconds Attorney Kaadan found himself on the floor with two rifles’ barrels pointing at his head. His breath and complexion were back to normal only several hours after the attack. The invaders dismantled the alarm system, sprayed black paint on the security cameras, inspected the files and cabinets [n.b. – throwing a lot of things around in the process and creating a mess] and left the place after three hours and ten minutes.

    They took away with them:
    1. Two detainees (a person who works at the office and a client).
    2. The office computers.
    3. The memory from the cameras and the alarm system”.

Report and photos by Machsom Watch’s Tamar Fleishman, on the
23 October mid-afternoon raid of what Israeli police later said was
a “Hamas office” in north Jerusalem.

Clashes escalate in Silwan

Clashes escalated on Sunday in Silwan, an Israeli Border Police official told YNet that “red lines” have been crossed with reported molotov cocktails being thrown, in addition to stones.

YNet reported that clashes have continued since the announcement a week ago that the Jerusalem municipal planning committee had advanced a proposal to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in Silwan to expand a Jewish tourism complex.

Some six Israeli Border Police and four private Israeli guards were reported injured in clashes with Palestinian residents of this East Jerusalem neighborhood on the southeastern side of the walls of the Old City.

UPDATE: It was later reported [on Monday] that Palestinians had successfully repelled, overnight, an attempt by Israeli settlers to remove them from a structure in Silwan used as a home for Palestinian families for over half a century.

There are no reports, yet, of Palestinian casualties on Sunday just after nightfall though Ma’an News Agency reported that “additional forces of undercover units arrived on the scene, firing rubber-coated bullets and tear-gas canisters to disperse the locals who had gathered”. This story can be read in full here.

The previous night [overnight Saturday to Sunday], some 23 Palestinians were injured, including one shot by live ammunition, Ma’an reported here.  The same Ma’am report said that Palestinian medics “had to treat patients in the field as Israeli forces would not allow ambulances to leave the area”.

UPDATE: It was reported today that as a result of his injuries in these clashes, one of the Palestinian wounded had to undergo surgery in a hospital in East Jerusalem to remove one of his eyes. This is also reported by Hagit Ofran, Peace Now’s settlement watch director, on her blog here.

YNET on Sunday night quoted a senior Border Police official as saying: “The rioters will be arrested … A red line was crossed here in terms of violent disturbances of the peace against civilians and police. We will catch the rioters, and the defense establishment will bring them to justice.”   This is posted here.

The same YNet article has now been updated to report that “Nasrin Alian, of the Association for Civil Rights, said dozens of Palestinians were hurt in the clashes. ‘The settlers’ security guards abuse the residents, because of MK Uri Ariel’s threat that if Abu-Nab [n.b. – a house inhabited by Palestinians that was a synagogue before 1948] was not evacuated by July 4 they will clear it themselves’, she said”. It also says that ” Avner, a left-wing activist in contact with the Arab residents, said police were trying to create a provocation in order to keep from evicting the residents of Beit Yehonatan” [the seven-story building built in Silwan by an Israeli settler organization and inhabited by Jewish families protected by constant armed guard; it was built without permits and in violation of municipal codes for maximum building height, and an Israeli court affirmed last week an earlier verdict that Beit Yehonatan must be sealed and evacuated…]

We reported on this earlier here.

Continue reading Clashes escalate in Silwan

Amira Hass on killing of Ziad Julani + one question

Haaretz has published an article today entitled: “Witnesses: Police shot hit-and-run driver instead of arresting him“.

It is written by Amira Hass. She reports that: “A motorist from East Jerusalem who ran over and wounded several Border Police officers Friday was shot twice in the face from close range while still lying on the ground, eyewitnesses said. Neighborhood witnesses said the fatal shots were fired once the officers no longer had reason to fear that their lives were in danger, and could have easily arrested the suspect. Witnesses in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz told Haaretz that the motorist, Ziad Jilani, suddenly swerved his car and hit the group of officers walking further up the road. They said, however, that they believed the collision was an accident, and not committed intentionally as initially reported” …

Continue reading Amira Hass on killing of Ziad Julani + one question

Israel's investigation of Ziad Julani's death means raiding his house

Israeli security services Monday summoned for questioning the widow and three young daughters of the Palestinian man killed last Friday by Israeli Border Police at a “flying checkpoint” they had set up in Wadi Joz.

Frightened and distraught, the bereaved family instead went to the American Consulate in East Jerusalem, where they were told they must cooperate with the investigation — but advised to do it with legal assistance.

The widow and her daughters are all American citizens. (Ziad al-Julani, who was killed, may have had a U.S. “green card”, but was not a U.S. citizen.)

Today, Israeli investigators were in the family home, searching the house for evidence… but of what?

UPDATE: Moira Julani, Ziad’s wife, reported Tuesday evening that the investigators did not do one of those rough searchs of the entire family house, but instead only took away a laptop that she told them belonged to both her and her late husband.

An unnecessary + brutal death in downtown East Jerusalem

The facts are not all in yet.

But it is, clearly, a tragedy.

One thing seems clear: a man (his name was Ziad al-Jolani, a 41-year-old father of three young daughters) was killed in Wadi Joz, a neighborhood of downtown East Jerusalem, on Friday around the time of Friday weekly prayers in the nearby Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City of East Jerusalem — for which occasion, this week, there was a special Israeli security alert with special restrictions on attendance, just in case there might be an unrestrained reaction to the Israeli naval assault at sea on Monday 31 May on six ships in a Freedom Flotilla whose intention was to head to Gaza, and the subsequent interdiction and confiscation five days later of a seventh ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, last Friday 4 June.

As part of the Israeli security preparations, Israeli Border Police had formed a “flying checkpoint” (complete with metal police barricades, apparently), to slow down and stop any “suspicious” traffic.

Ziad was driving a small white truck, and something happened. It is not yet clear what.

Most unfortunately, the Israeli Border Police thought they knew what it was: a terror attack. They say that Ziad tried to use his vehicle to run them over, to kill them.

They ordered him to stop, but he did not. So, they say, they shot him.

But there were plenty of other police forces deployed around East Jerusalem at that time, and if Ziad had escaped capture there, he surely could have been stopped, easily, by other nearby forces, with a minimum of radio communication and coordination… He was not armed, and the justification for shooting is not convincing.

UPDATE: a family photo of Ziad and his youngest daughter posted on the Mondoweiss blog

Ziad al-Julani and his youngest daughter
Ziad al-Julani and his youngest daughter

Continue reading An unnecessary + brutal death in downtown East Jerusalem

Hit from both sides: Israeli forces and PA security attack demonstrators in Bethlehem

On Palm Sunday, Palestinian and other protestors tried to march from Bethlehem to Jerusalem without permits — saying that they should not need permits to visit holy sites and attend religious services in Jerusalem.

According to information received by email, “The march, which began after the Palm Sunday service at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, was held to protest a recent aggravation of Israeli restrictions on movement through the checkpoint. Protesters [reportedly about 200] aimed to highlight restrictions on access to Jerusalem on the day marking Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem in Christian tradition”.

Another message said that” The demonstrators marked Palm Sunday and demanded to exercise the centuries old Christian tradition of pilgrimage to Jerusalem on that day …  While Israelis and internationals are, as a matter of policy, subject to Israeli law, which only allows for a 24 hours detention by the police, Palestinians are subject to Israeli Military Law, which allows for their detention for a period of eight days before being brought in front of a judge”…

Four Israeli demonstrators and one international were released more or less straight away, the same evening.  About a eleven others were Palestinians, however — and they were sent to Ofer prison not far from the Qalandia Checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah.  The Palestinians will be held in prison for at least another four days (including over the first holy days of Passover on Monday night and Tuesday), and their detention could be extended once again.

A second protest march was organized today near the main Bethelehm Checkpoint (“300”, or “Rachel’s Tomb”), and Ma’an News Agency has reported that “Israeli soldiers manning the military installation fired tear-gas canisters and stun grenades toward protesters who, in turn, retaliated by pelting empty bottles and stones … [Then] Confrontations further erupted near Rachel’s Tomb when PA forces intervened in the march, attacking protesters.  Heated arguments ensued between journalists covering the incident and PA forces.  Journalists began a sit-in near the tomb as a result.  Fatah’s Bethlehem spokesman Muhammad Lahham told Ma’an that ‘Palestinian security behaved improperly, and despite the fact that we take into account security agreements with Israeli authorities, such assaults against journalists and protesters are never justified”.  This report can be read in full here.

Meanwhile, YNet is reporting that “Israel will allow a shipment of clothes and shoes to be delivered to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip for the first time in its almost three-year-old tight blockade of the enclave, Palestinian officials said on Monday. They said the first 10 truckloads would be arriving via the Israeli-controlled Gaza border point on Thursday … Israel prohibits shipments of cement and steel to Gaza on the grounds that Hamas could use them for military purposes. Its long list of controlled goods also includes items that critics say have no apparent military value, such as children’s crayons and books. Gaza has been getting most of its consumer goods via tunnels from neighboring Egypt operated by smugglers who add on hefty surcharges. Gaza merchants said 10 truckloads would not fill their stocks and demanded that Israel release goods long held in its sea ports. Egypt is building an underground wall to block the tunnels, which have been frequently bombed by the Israeli air forces”… This report is posted here.

And, U.S. President Barack Obama has sent out a Passover message to Jews around the world, saying that: “The enduring story of the Exodus teaches us that, wherever we live, there is oppression to be fought and freedom to be won. In retelling this story from generation to generation, we are reminded of our ongoing responsibility to fight against all forms of suffering and discrimination, and we reaffirm the ties that bind us all. These bonds are the source of inextinguishable courage and strength, and provide hope that we can repair this world”… Obama’s statement is reported in full in the Jerusalem Post here.

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.