In grief-stricken Silwan–contempt for politicians, and talk of a third intifadah

Israel/Palestine
on 38 Comments

Palestinians rioted this afternoon in Silwan, a village right outside the Old City of Jerusalem, following the killing earlier in the day of a Palestinian man by an armed guard at a Jewish settlement in the occupied neighborhood. Joseph Dana posted pictures of the “revolt” here.

An activist friend in West Jerusalem said that the riots were the start of the third intifadah, and with that sense of moment, I went to Silwan. It was 6 o’clock. Smoke rose from fires in the village center, and heavily armed Israeli forces were mustered at the walls of the Old City, in part to protect Jews who were flocking to the Jewish Quarter to celebrate the start of Sukkot.

I walked down the hill past the City of David settlement, a messianic Jewish colony on occupied land, with a big gold sign in English. I found my way to the Wadi Hilwah Information Center. A man with a limp– shot by a settler guard in both legs, I was later told–walked me back to Jawad Siyam, the director of the office. A thin, intense man of about 35, he vented his despair over Palestinian powerlessness as he fielded telephone calls and a teenager brought me coffee. 

The 55,000 people of the village were “sad and shocked” tonight, Siyam said grimly. Villagers had continually complained to Israeli police that the settlers had taken the law into their own hands; but the complaints were ignored. Armed guards in the settlement– which has been spearheaded by a religious group called Elad– roamed the town freely, with the support of the Israeli border police. They threatened Palestinians with impunity.

The incident today began–Siyam said witnesses had told him– when Palestinians and settlers shouted abuse at one another, as they often do, and the guards had fired guns in the air. The Palestinians had run away. The guards had chased them, and shot at them. Two men were seriously injured. Israeli security forces had arrived within minutes, but Samar Sarchan, 35 years old, lay on the ground for an hour before an ambulance arrived. He later died of his injuries.

“It’s disgusting that Palestinian life is so cheap to the settlers, and to the Israeli police, and to Netanyahu himself, and even [Palestinian Authority president] Abu Mazen,” Siyam said with bitterness. “And we see that to Americans, too, we are a very cheap people.”

Siyam said he was not even reading condemnations of the attacks. He is “bored” by them. The only thing that matters is “banishing the people who make these crimes.” But the settlers won’t be banished. They have the support of the Israeli government, as they seek to turn this Palestinian neighborhood in the shadow of the Al-Aksa mosque into a Jewish one.

Is it the beginning of the third intifadah? I asked. Siyam said that the third intifadah began several months ago. It is rising in villages across Palestine that are affected by Israeli encroachment. This intifadah will not involve attacks in West Jerusalem, it will be like the first intifadah– only it will be met by greater Israeli violence.

I asked Siyam about a political solution to the conflict. He is in utter despair about a political solution. Obama’s Cairo speech sounded good 15 months ago, and “we said, let us be optimistic,” but Siyam and others in Silwan knew that Obama would not change American policy– and he hasn’t. “It is the same movie, the same song.” American leaders have done nothing to address the ongoing dispossession by Israel of Palestinian land. 

“Golda Meir said, ’No land, no nation. No nation, no land,’” Siyam said. “And today this means that what is Israel is Israel’s, and what is Palestine, they want to share with us. How can we share our land? Can we share Haifa also, and Tel Aviv?”

As for the current negotiations, he knew that they were a failure when official statements said that leaders would discuss the status of the City of David. Well the City of David is a recent messianic settlement on stolen land. Its status is clear. Why should this even be discussed?

I asked Siyam about whether the international solidarity movement gave him any encouragement. More pessimism. Yes it is a good movement, and the boycott movement is good, but– 

“Unfortunately, they are very weak. These people who want change, they are weak. Palestine is not for them a subject that they take to the heart. It’s volunteer work. They do it when they have time. If you want to solve this problem, you have to take it on as a job, not as a hobby.”

Was he so discouraged because of the killing? Would he have said the same thing two days before? He would have felt it, Siyam said, but not said it. The killing has made him blunter.

I walked back up the hill past the evidence you see everywhere in this land of Palestinian powerlessness and Israeli power. Muscular armed guards stood outside the City of David settlement. Two of them were arguing in English about a legal matter– in American accents. At the top of the hill a dozen Israeli armored vehicles lined the road on either side, and soldiers walked about nervously, with semi-automatic rifles in their hands. Some ate their dinner on the hood of a truck. A group of commando-looking soldiers strapped on black bulletproof vests, as if preparing for a raid. 

Siyam had said that Israel could wipe out the village easily, destroy it with rockets and grenades, and the world would condemn Israel for a week and then forget about it. The other option, he said, is that the world would grant Palestinians the only thing they have ever sought, political freedom. Who can blame Palestinians for thinking that day is very far away.  

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38 Responses

  1. Avi
    September 22, 2010, 1:42 pm

    “Unfortunately, they are very weak. These people who want change, they are weak. Palestine is not for them a subject that they take to the heart. It’s volunteer work. They do it when they have time. If you want to solve this problem, you have to take it on as a job, not as a hobby.”

    It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. I agree wholeheartedly with Jawad Siyan. The conditions on the ground are so intractable that only long and dedicated work can bring about an end to the ongoing injustices.

    A man with a limp– shot by a settler guard in both legs, I was later told–walked me back to Jawad Siyan, the director of the office. A thin, intense man of about 35, he vented his despair over Palestinian powerlessness as he fielded telephone calls and a teenager brought me coffee.

  2. Seham
    September 22, 2010, 1:47 pm

    This was an excellent report back, Phil. And Siyan is right in a week the only people that will still be talking about this is are the Palestinians. Abbas already forgot and Fayyad won’t remember by the weekend.

    • annie
      September 22, 2010, 5:33 pm

      more news in this report. Samar Sarchan was a father of five.

      Peace Now raises questions about the police version of events:

      The circumstances of the shooting are not clear. The Israeli security guard claims that he was simply going to a gas station in the area and he was “ambushed” by a group of stone-throwing Palestinians, forcing him to use his weapon in self-defense.

      This account raises immediate questions, including the most obvious one: why was he going alone, in the wee hours of the morning, to a small Palestinian gas station in this area – something that according to press reports his own security protocols forbid? His account is also challenged by reports from Palestinians on the ground that the guard actively pursued and only then shot the Palestinians who allegedly threw stones – an account that contradicts the claim that the use of lethal force was in self-defense.

  3. Seham
    September 22, 2010, 1:47 pm

    And here is a video of the clashes that broke out

  4. chet
    September 22, 2010, 1:48 pm

    Apart from the colonization of the West Bank and the brutal mistreatment of Palestinians there, the Israelis know that the setting-up and maintenance of the enclaves in Hebron and Silwan are particular knives in the hearts of Palestinians – that the Israelis, because of their military superiority, not only protect these tiny enclaves but permit (possibly encourage?) the squatters to goad and provoke the nearby Palestinians must be galling to the point of insane rage.

    When one reads in this and other I/P blogs the bleatings about the increase in world-wide anti-semitism, consider the actions of the Israelis here in adding another brick to that wall.

    • eljay
      September 22, 2010, 7:07 pm

      >> … the Israelis know that the setting-up and maintenance of the enclaves in Hebron and Silwan are particular knives in the hearts of Palestinians …

      As “humanists” will tell you, setting up and maintaining settlements on occupied land are not knives, they are menhirs in the briskly-flowing river of self-(self-)determination around which Palestinians must paddle.

      And, if you think about it, since all that paddling helps to improve the resilience and energy of Palestinians, in a way they actually owe a debt of gratitude to Israel.

      Now, this may not sound right to you and me, but that’s “justice” for ya.

  5. eljay
    September 22, 2010, 1:53 pm

    >> Was he so discouraged because of the killing? Would he have said the same thing two days before? He would have felt it, Siyan said, but not said it. The killing has made him blunter.

    Without Israel, Siyan would not have the “resilience and energy” to speak so bluntly. I wonder if he fully appreciates his good fortune.

  6. Avi
    September 22, 2010, 2:47 pm

    I see that the article has just been updated with a video courtesy of a.i.c.

    In a few hours, the evening news from the Israeli Channel 1 will be available online. I’ll try to post a link. It will be an interesting exercise to show how the evening TV news in Israel present today’s events.

    Meanwhile, Channel 1′s news for English speakers has already made the claim that, “Riots broke out today in Jerusalem in which a Palestinian was killed and several others were injured [...]

    So, the Palestinian man was killed during, and as a result of, the riots. Case closed, says Israel. Move along. Nothing to see here.

  7. Kathleen
    September 22, 2010, 2:51 pm

    Phil thank you for this up front view. As I have shared my dear deceased friend along with others have been sharing these views for decades with thousands of us. Thank you for your views and experiences.

    this line jumped out at me
    “But the settlers won’t be banished. They have the support of the Israeli government, as they seek to turn this Palestinian neighborhood in the shadow of the Al-Aksa mosque into a Jewish one.”

    Siyan sounds like a wonderful, reflective yet seriously discouraged Palestinian man. Who can blame him.

    glenn Greenwald has been kicking up the dust in the MSM
    link to salon.com

    • AngelaJerusalem
      September 22, 2010, 5:28 pm

      Kathleen, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jawad for many years and he is exactly as you suggest – a wonderful, reflective, highly articulate yet seriously discouraged Palestinian man. I can name many others with whom we Israeli peace activists have regular contact, who also fit that description. It’s incredibly frustrating for activists on both sides that the international community knows full well what is happening and yet no pressure is being brought (to my knowledge) to stop such incidents occurring. Incidentally, I took Jawad Siyam, Nasser a-Ghawi and Sharihan Hanoun of East Jerusalem, and Suhail Khalilieh from Bethlehem’s ARIJ think-tank, in November last year to The Hill, to the J Street Conference and to the UN in New York. We gave 40 congressional briefings and 20 UN Security Council member states’ briefings. Did any evicted family gain re-entry? No. Has Silwan settler violence stopped? No. Has Bethlehem regained its water or farmland or had its closure ended? You gotta be joking. And did any of the congregation of the Upper West Side’s Beit Yeshurun Synagogue to whom we spoke – the first time they’d ever met or heard from Palestinians of East Jerusalem – did any of them DO anything after hearing of the trials and tribulations that contribute to Israeli insecurity? Oh full marks for guessing the answer…!!

      • Kathleen
        September 22, 2010, 6:34 pm

        “Incidentally, I took Jawad Siyam, Nasser a-Ghawi and Sharihan Hanoun of East Jerusalem, and Suhail Khalilieh from Bethlehem’s ARIJ think-tank, in November last year to The Hill, to the J Street Conference and to the UN in New York. We gave 40 congressional briefings and 20 UN Security Council member states’ briefings. Did any evicted family gain re-entry? No.”

        Thanks you for all of your hard and dedicated work. Most of us here are pushing for justice in the conflict in some capacity. Thank you again

  8. Kathleen
    September 22, 2010, 2:55 pm

    Over at Huff P0
    Palestinian President Hints At Settlement Deal, AP Reports
    link to huffingtonpost.com

  9. Avi
    September 22, 2010, 3:00 pm

    Reshet Bet, the Israeli Broadcast Authority’s radio station (In Hebrew), has reported in a press conference with an Israeli police spokesperson that the shooting of the 32 Palestinian man by a settler was “justified”. The spokesperson claimed that the settler was by himself in the [presumably, patrol] vehicle. His life was in danger, so he killed the Palestinian, claims the spokesperson.

    This statement seals the case. That means, no charges will be brought against the settler/colonist.

    • potsherd
      September 22, 2010, 6:50 pm

      There never are.

      And when charges are brought, they are dismissed.

  10. Susan Johnson
    September 22, 2010, 3:19 pm

    It is difficult to know what to say in response to this post…
    Why? lack of care for humanity….we…many individuals and venturing a guess, all world leaders know why. Yet they do nothing or at best very little. How? ditto the answer for why. When? When ever Israelis feel like it…military, police, border patrol, “guards”, settlers, …individuals.
    How? Guns, rockets, missiles, bombs, white phosphorus, cars, bulldozers, delays at check points, failure to provide medical treatment, malnutrition, neglect on the part of their jailers and most of us …..

    Thank god for Phillip and Adam others like them.

    As for myself, Siyan’s statement, “If you want to solve this problem you have to take it on as a job, not a hobby” is racing through my mind, my body. As I sit in my cheap little hotel in Cairo…unable to get to where I was going, the time has come for me to take on this problem with full time involvement… It will take me out of retirement, a full time job, even though I won’t receive a salary. (I hope it counts) This problem is too important to be thought of as a hobby by anyone, especially a Palestinian.

    • Kathleen
      September 22, 2010, 6:36 pm

      Call, contact your Reps in some way about this conflict. About the role the U.S. plays. Let them hear from you. Don’t wait. Keep applying pressure.

    • bijou
      September 22, 2010, 10:27 pm

      …the time has come for me to take on this problem with full time involvement…

      Yes, indeed. The time came long ago. And never doubt the power of what the dedicated few can accomplish. You may not be able to “solve the problem,” but you can certainly save a child, offer hope, mirror dignity to someone who’s never been given that basic decency, share pain, validate suffering, offer kindness, open others’ eyes, and much, much, much more.

    • Sumud
      September 23, 2010, 12:07 pm

      I haven’t kept up w/ MW lately, was wondering how you were progressing Susan. Any light at the end of the tunnel (no pun intended!).

  11. seafoid
    September 22, 2010, 3:37 pm

    Another generation of the shabab, ignored by the rest of the world, standing up for dignity for their people. The whole notion of Palestine on that side of the Med being run by Zionists in their tasteful olive uniforms is as ludicrous today as it was in the 1920s. Do any of those occupation soldiers ever think of what they are doing ?

  12. DICKERSON3870
    September 22, 2010, 3:42 pm

    RE: “It’s disgusting that Palestinian life is so cheap to the settlers, and to the Israeli police, and to Netanyahu himself, and even [Palestinian Authority president] Abu Mazen,” Siyan said with bitterness.
    RECALL THIS EMANATION FROM MARTY PERETZ’S “SPINE” ON 09/04/10: “…frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims.”
    SOURCE – link to tnr.com
    AND NOTE THIS FROM WIKIPEDIA: Psychological projection

    (excerpt) In Freudian psychology, Psychological projection or projection bias is a psychological defense mechanism where a person unconsciously denies their own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, such as to the weather, a tool, or to other people. Thus, it involves imagining or projecting that others have those feelings.[1]
    Projection reduces anxiety by allowing the expression of the unwanted unconscious impulses or desires without letting the conscious mind recognize them.
    An example of this behavior might be blaming another for self failure. The mind may avoid the discomfort of consciously admitting personal faults by keeping those feelings unconscious, and redirect their libidinal satisfaction by attaching, or “projecting,” those same faults onto another.
    The theory was developed by Sigmund Freud – in his letters to Wilhelm Fliess, ‘”Draft H” deals with projection as a mechanism of defence’[2] – and further refined by his daughter Anna Freud; for this reason, it is sometimes referred to as Freudian Projection.[3][4] …

    WIKIPEDIA SOURCE – link to en.wikipedia.org

  13. lysias
    September 22, 2010, 5:43 pm

    “It’s disgusting that Palestinian life is so cheap to the settlers, and to the Israeli police, and to Netanyahu himself, and even [Palestinian Authority president] Abu Mazen,” Siyan said with bitterness. “And we see that to Americans, too, we are a very cheap people.”

    Somebody should show that quote to Marty Peretz.

  14. Kathleen
    September 22, 2010, 6:40 pm

    Remember what has been going on in Silwan

    link to palestinevideo.blogspot.com

    ctivists Protest Settlers’ Archaeological Conference and Tourist Site in Silwan, Jerusalem – Sep. 1st 2010

    Palestinians and supporters stage protest against ‘City of David’ tourist activities
    Source: Wadi Hilweh Information Center – Silwan

    Wednesday, 1 September, 2010

    A number of Palestinians together with Israeli and international solidarity activists staged a sit-in in front of the “City Of David” tourist site run by the “Elad” settlement association in protest at the open day that it organized today (Wednesday 1st September). The illegal settlement is located in the heart of East Jerusalem, on the land of Wadi Hilweh the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan.

    The demonstrators carried banners denouncing the Elad settlement association’s practices in Silwan, namely, calling for and working towards the Judaization of the Wadi Hilweh area. Israeli police are trying to prevent the demonstrators from reaching places near the entrance to the “City of David” tourist site. Six protesters were arrested including solidarity activist Dr. Daniel Agro who was also beaten severely.

    It should be noted that the “Elad” association controls all the settlement tourist sites in the neighborhood of Wadi Hilweh, and also manage several tunnels dug underneath the neighborhood south of the Old City and Al Aqsa Mosque.

    Silwan Archaeological conference Demo Sep. 1st 2010:

    link to apjp.org

  15. Richard Witty
    September 22, 2010, 8:39 pm

    I didn’t see anything conclusive in the video.

    What are the exact circumstances by which the Jewish community in Silwan is residing there?

    Did they buy property from someone? Did the Israeli government acquire property by what method? Did the community just kick residents out of homes that they held title to?

    • Richard Witty
      September 22, 2010, 8:58 pm

      Was the demonstration non-violent in your mind, Phil?

      Low-level violence?

      Appropriate? Effective?

      • Donald
        September 22, 2010, 9:41 pm

        Yes, RW, it’s vitally important that you refocus attention on real or imagined Palestinian violence. No need to waste any time expressing any sympathy or shock or disgust at the killing–just another Palestinian shot, so you go into damage control mode, just as you did for the mass slaughter in Gaza.

      • Mooser
        September 22, 2010, 10:38 pm

        It’s clear as a bell, to obvious subtexts in Witty’s comment. First the usual, that Palestinians are Israel’s hostages, “don’t make a fuss or the Palestinians get it in the neck.”
        And the second one is quite clear to me, since I grew up Jewish:
        “Don’t be a dummy, Phil, get back on the winning side before it’s too late”

        That’s right Witty, quote marks. I’m “quoting” you the way you quote everyone else. Ver-freakin-batim.

      • Mooser
        September 22, 2010, 10:40 pm

        “Was the demonstration non-violent in your mind, Phil?”

        Are the settlers “non-violent” in your mind, Witty?

    • Shingo
      September 22, 2010, 9:28 pm

      “What are the exact circumstances by which the Jewish community in Silwan is residing there?”

      They obviously stole the land as they have done since 1948.

      “Did they buy property from someone? ”

      Probably not.

      “Did the Israeli government acquire property by what method?”

      What methods do they usually use Witty?

      “Appropriate? Effective?”

      Appropriate, effective, as in the massacre of Gaza?

    • sherbrsi
      September 23, 2010, 8:10 pm

      Did the Israeli government acquire property by what method? Did the community just kick residents out of homes that they held title to?

      They wouldn’t be Zionists if they didn’t.

  16. bijou
    September 22, 2010, 10:02 pm

    “What are the exact circumstances by which the Jewish community in Silwan is residing there?”

    Elad is an acronym in Hebrew meaning “To the City of David”. Dedicated to “strengthening Israel’s current and historic connection to Jerusalem”, it was founded in 1986 by David Be’eri, who, “inspired by the longing of the Jewish people to return to Zion”, left his elite army unit to set it up. For a long time Elad refused to reveal the names of its funders; eventually they submitted the names but successfully requested they be kept under privilege. Lev Leviev and Roman Abramovich have been present at Elad events.

    Elad set up a two-pronged strategy: to strengthen Israel’s “connection to Jerusalem” they started to dig – under Silwan and into the land under the al-Aqsa mosque – for the biblical City of David and to create the Ir David tourist site. They called it “salvage excavation” to avoid getting official permits. The “salvage” has lasted for more than 10 years and Wadi Helweh’s houses have started to sink into the hill.

    To help “the Jewish people to return to Zion”, in 1991 Be’eri started to acquire Palestinian property (supported by Ariel Sharon, then minister of construction and housing). His target was principally two Silwan neighbourhoods: Wadi Helweh and al-Bustan (the Garden).

    The Abbasi family’s home, with its nine apartments and two warehouses, was Be’eri’s first target. Be’eri’s wife, Michal, has described how he acquired it: “Davida’leh took a tour guide card and put in his picture, and for a long time he would take bogus tourists on a tour . . . and slowly he befriended Abbasi . . . Of course, it was all staged.” In 1987, Elad pressured the government to declare the Abbasi house “absentee property” and in October 1991, Be’eri led a settler invasion of the house with the intruders singing and dancing and waving the Israeli flag on the roof at daybreak. The Abbasi family went to court and the Jerusalem district judge found “no factual or legal basis” for the takeover; indeed, he found it characterised by “an extreme lack of good faith”. Yet still the property continues to be caught up in legal proceedings and Elad people continue to live in it – and to acquire more Palestinian property: to date Elad has gained control of a quarter of Wadi Helweh….

    Ahdaf Soueif, The dig dividing Jerusalem. The Guardian, May 2010. Read the entire article here.

    • bijou
      September 22, 2010, 10:03 pm

      Sorry, I should have made it clear that these are not my words but rather an excerpt of a piece by Ahdaf Soueif.

      • Richard Witty
        September 23, 2010, 5:23 am

        If the status of the Abbasi issue is still in court, then that is where it is.

        “and to acquire more Palestinian property: to date Elad has gained control of a quarter of Wadi Helweh”

        If they bought it in arms-length exchanges, how is that contestable. I don’t know if that is the case.

        If they did acquire the property by arms-length consented transactions and a locale is seeking to restore it by force, isn’t THAT forced removal, and violation of law?

        It depends on what the facts are.

        Assertions of national rights only really don’t cut it.

      • thankgodimatheist
        September 23, 2010, 5:38 am

        Is Witty satisfied with the answer to his question? The “Jewish community” acquired homes in Silwan by stealth and theft Mr. Witty..but my bet is that you don’t believe it..

      • Sumud
        September 23, 2010, 12:34 pm

        An very interesting read.

        The end of the Guardian piece refers to a book by Soueif, “Mezzaterra”, a collection of 20 years of essays. The industry reviews are very flattering (“Edward Said’s intellectual heir”), the single customer review not so good.

      • bijou
        September 23, 2010, 4:05 pm

        Her novels are better and I highly recommend them, at least these:

        In the Eye of the Sun

        The Map of Love

  17. tommy
    September 23, 2010, 12:26 am

    Rioting is the proper response to Israeli state violence.

    Who supplied the Israeli state with weapons to kill civilians? Did the Israeli police state purchase them, or were they gifts from Americans? Who gave the order to kill Palestinian civilians? Was it a local gauleiter or was it a charter member of Likud? Do American Zionists consider the killing of Palestinian civilians to be too lenient of a response?

  18. Mohammad Alsaafin
    September 23, 2010, 1:07 am

    Phil, your reporting from the ground has been invaluable, hard hitting and articulate. It’s hard to find a report on life in Palestine that accurately reflects what we Palestinians feel on a daily basis, a feeling so ingrained by decades of dispossession that it becomes hard to articulate because its such a fundamental part of our reality. Thank you, and please stay there longer if you can.

  19. RoHa
    September 23, 2010, 7:13 am

    “contempt for politicians”

    So Palestinians are just like the rest of us.

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