We've been following the news today that Israel has rejected the Obama's administration's demand to halt settlement expansion in East Jerusalem. Although this disagreement is taking place behind closed doors here in the US, in Israel/Palestine it is unfolding in the streets of East Jerusalem as Palestinian families fight to stay in their homes. And don't forget there is a very clear US connection here. The settlement in question is being funded by the American casino tycoon Irving Moskowitz.
Today roughly one hundred people gathered to protest the eviction of the Palestinian Hanoun family from their home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. They are the latest target of the increasing push to populate the area with Jewish settlers, hindering any possibility for a future Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.
According to their website (standforjerusalem.org), the Hanoun’s are one of 27 families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood that are facing home eviction as part of a plan to establish a new Jewish settlement in the area. The Hanoun family was displaced from their home in Haifa after the Nakba of 1948 and currently consists of 18 people, including six children. They have lived in Sheikh Jarrah since 1956, when the Jordanian Government and UNRWA gave them houses as part of a project to help Palestinians forced to flee their properties.
International press and every major Israeli news outlet including the Jerusalem Post were on hand to hear the press conference held inside the Hanoun family home. This is not surprising given news today of the US State Department informing the current Israeli envoy that Israel must halt all settlement construction in East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Netanyahu responded that Jerusalem will always be the united capital of Israel.
Later on, Hagit Ofran of Peace Now gave protesters and the media a brief history of another sign of Israel’s takeover in Sheikh Jarrah, the Shepherd Hotel (video below). The hotel was bought by millionaire and close friend of Ehud Olmert, Irving Moskowitz, in the 1980s, with a plan to create a massive apartment complex for Jewish settlers. The city of Jerusalem has until recently denied permission to build such a complex.
Last month, permission was granted by newly instated mayor Nir Barkat to continue construction at the Shepherd Hotel, placing yet another portion of disputed land in Jewish hands and sending a message to Palestinians and the world that Israel is not a genuine partner in any bilateral, peace process.
What is so perplexing and enraging is that by continually implanting Jewish neighborhoods in the midst of Palestinian communities, Israel is sabotaging its own determination to be a permanent, Jewish-majority, internationally accepted, democratic state with defined borders.
(A Palestinian house in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Photo: Electronic Intifada)