In the most lethal bombardment since the war in 2014, at least 213 Palestinians – including 61 children – have been killed in Gaza, and around 1500 injured. In response to Israel’s escalating, brutal attacks, Palestinians are uniting to fight for liberation.
In the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem – which was illegally occupied by Israel in 1967 – 28 Palestinian families are facing dispossession of their homes. Since 1967, Israel has acted to maintain a Jewish majority in the city – by means such as home demolitions, forced evictions and constructing settlements in-between Palestinian neighbourhoods.
Here and all over the region, resistance is growing. A Palestinian facing forced displacement in Sheikh Jarrah spoke to Sophie K Rosa about the ongoing battle against Zionist settler colonialism.
Me and my family, like many others in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, are threatened with forced displacement by the Israeli state. Recently, I’ve become involved in demonstrations, and have joined my neighbours in protesting peacefully outside of my home in an attempt to resist eviction.
Since May, a lot of people have been coming to our neighbourhood to show their solidarity. During Ramadan, we’ve been breaking our fast in the streets and then singing and chanting with the demonstrators. But despite our peaceful protests, all we get in return is violence.
Usually, when we’re singing and chanting, settlers who live in the neighbourhood order the soldiers to suppress our peaceful demonstrations. One method is using military horses to spread and scatter the demonstrators; another is throwing tear gas and sound bombs. Lately, they’ve also been using rubber bullets.
Another thing the soldiers use, which I think is not only unethical but internationally prohibited, is ‘skunk water’ — basically sewage water with a lot of strong chemicals in it. When they spray it — on the houses, on the people, on the cars — the smell stays for weeks. It also makes you suffer from skin irritations and pulmonary problems.
Since 16 May, we’ve had a curfew in the neighbourhood, which means none of us are allowed to step outdoors. It feels like we’re under siege. Nobody has been allowed to enter the neighbourhood for the past week, unless they live here or they are journalists. Supporters have not been allowed to come in at all. Even the international community has been prevented from entering. A group of lawyers wanted to visit the neighbourhood to talk to us about our rights, but the authorities didn’t allow that to happen.
By contrast, the settlers, who don’t actually live in the neighbourhood, are allowed to enter and do whatever they want, including harassing and provoking people. If we try to tell any of the policemen about this abuse, they just ignore us. But, of course, if it was the other way around, we’d get hit, we’d get put in jail, we’d get shot. The Israeli state is vicious. I don’t understand why they have to use all this violence to disperse demonstrators who are simply singing, chanting and demonstrating peacefully. It’s very frustrating because we are totally discriminated against.
Hopefully, the end result of all this is that we get to keep our homes; that we don’t get ethnically cleansed; and that we don’t get displaced, as we already were in 1948. It is a basic human right to have shelter — a place where we can seek safety and peace of mind.
I’d like the international community to know the truth about what is happening in the ‘Israeli-Palestinian conflict’. The mainstream media is totally biased towards the Israelis. However, with social media, people are getting to know more about the reality on the ground.
I want to raise my voice to the international community. Please stop supporting Israel financially; please write to your governments. They can do things to put pressure on Israel to stop the violence they are inflicting on Palestinians.
It is well known under international law that Israel is an apartheid state. We hope that we will one day be free and that we will have the right to practise our basic rights as human beings.
The Israeli state uses every method it can to make our lives miserable, but we are tough people. We will fight until the last drop of blood in our veins to keep our homes and to stay where we belong – because it is our land.
Resistance is mounting all over Palestine and international support is growing. Inshallah, hopefully, we will get our independence soon.
Sophie K Rosa is a freelance journalist. In addition to Novara Media, she writes for the Guardian, VICE, Open Democracy, CNN, Al Jazeera and Buzzfeed.