TO A few months ago, the world’s attention was on Sheikh Jarrah, my neighborhood in occupied Jerusalem. For decades, Israeli settlers, backed by their state, have been trying to displace us from our homes and colonize our neighborhood. The UN classified these forced expulsions as a war crime. I call this theft, because it is.
In May, our efforts to resist this takeover received a wave of solidarity from the Palestinians in Jerusalem and beyond, in what became known as the Unity Uprising. Palestinians were subjected to Israeli violence in the eastern part of Jerusalem, not only in Sheikh Jarrah, but outside the Damascus Gate (itself a focus of protests), and in and around the al-Aqsa Mosque, which became attacks on besieged Gaza. The Palestinians mobilized and resisted, and people around the world demonstrated in support of the Palestinian right to liberation and decolonization. But after the ceasefire, the world’s attention has turned away. However, the reality of the Palestinians has not changed.
In Sheikh Jarrah, the effort to dispossess us has not diminished. Our neighborhood has been under a blocking for three months, maintained by the Israeli forces, with the continuation of restrictions Destined to stifle the lives of the hundreds of Palestinians who live here. And yet, meanwhile, armed Jewish settlers, who have already occupied some of our homes, roam the streets freely. On any given night, a dozen armed fanatics patrol my street with arrogant impunity. They are protected, even supported, by the troops blocking our community.
For those of us who live in Sheikh Jarrah, the evidence for this association between the settlers and the state is abundant and overwhelming. Consider the two-day events of the past month. On June 21, Israeli police arrived in the neighborhood after a settler sprinkled with pepper four schoolgirls on the street But when they arrived, the officers ignored the girls and two Palestinian children were arrested. Of course, they did not arrest the settler, but they threatened to arrest my brother for filming the arrest of the two children.
Later that day, dozens of armed settlers gathered at a house that was confiscated from the Ghawi family in 2009, leading to a night of violence that saw militarized police officers again join the attacks on Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah. At one end of Othman Bin Affan Street, the Israeli occupation forces defeat Palestinians with truncheons; at the other end, settlers threw stones and chased protesting teenagers with pepper spray. Journalists who arrived on the scene were also attacked. Some young Palestinians tried to disrupt this repression by firing fireworks at the settlers. Before the end of the night, several Palestinian houses, including ours, were invaded by Israeli forces.
The next morning, when I picked up about 10 stun grenade fragments from the street, my neighbor stopped me to show me dozens of more spent ammunition. Their children had displayed them on their table in the open air, as a collection of ghoulish memories. On the same day, a member of the Israeli Knesset, Bezalel Smotrich, broke into my family’s home, along with Tzahi Mamo, the director of Nahalat Shimon International – a private company, registered in the United States, which is working to take over our neighborhood and cleanse it of Palestinians. Nahalat Shimon International file lawsuits relying on racist Israeli law, fabricated documents and settler judges to expel Palestinians from their homes and hand over property to settlers. When lawmakers show up on my doorstep to ask me to take my home away, it confirms what Palestinians have been saying for decades: the settlers and the state mirror each other.
I’m tired of reporting the same brutality every day, of thinking of new ways to describe the obvious. The situation in Sheikh Jarrah is not difficult to understand: it is a perfect illustration of settler colonialism, a microcosm of the reality of the Palestinians throughout 73 years of Zionist rule. This vocabulary is not theoretical. It is evident in the attempts to drive us out of our houses so that the settlers can occupy them, with the backing of the regime, whose forces and policies provide violent support for the transfer of one population to install another.
I don’t care who this terminology offends. Colonial is the correct way to refer to a state whose forces collude in the violence of the settlers; whose government works with settler organizations; whose judicial system uses expansionist laws to reclaim our homes; whose nation-state law enshrines “Jewish settlement” as a “national value … to encourage and promote.” The appetite for Palestinian lands, without the Palestinians, has not diminished for more than seven decades. I know because I live it.
On August 2, the Supreme Court of Israel, whose jurisdiction over the eastern part of Jerusalem defies international law, is ready to decide whether it will allow my family and three other people to appeal, one last legal hurdle before we can be expelled. There have been postponements before. The Palestinians are used to this kind of stalemate; it tests our endurance. But we are as stubborn as anyone who is faced with the prospect of losing their home, their life, their memories, at the hands of those who use force, intimidation, and skewed laws.
In the face of this cruelty, and despite the tear gas and skunk water, we are resisting. We cannot allow our homes to be stolen again and we refuse to continue living in refugee camps while the colonizers live in our homes. We can’t let them throw us out on the streets anymore. We are tired of becoming a refugee population, neighborhood after neighborhood, one house at a time.
I have no faith in the Israeli judicial system; It is part of the colonial settler state, built by settlers for settlers. Nor do I expect any of the international governments that have been deeply complicit in Israel’s colonial enterprise to intervene on our behalf. But I have faith in those around the world who protest and pressure their governments to end what is essentially unconditional support for Israeli policies.
Impunity and war crimes will not be stopped with declarations of condemnation and surprise. We Palestinians have repeatedly articulated what kinds of transformative political measures should be taken, such as civil society boycotts and state-level sanctions. The problem is not ignorance, it is inaction.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism