ICMEP Condemns Israel’s Ethnic Cleansing in Sheikh Jarrah

Last Wednesday, January 19, in the pre-dawn hours, heavily armed Israeli occupation forces stormed two houses belonging to the Salhiyeh family in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah where they had lived for over 60 years (they bought their house in 1958), beating and dragging 15 residents, including many children, from their homes out into the cold winter’s night. They fired rubber-coated steel bullets at journalists and others from the neighborhood observing what was happening, and then demolished their home with a bulldozer and other heavy equipment, leaving the family’s belongings strewn in and around the rubble, and mass arresting more than 40 Palestinians from the area.

This ended a two-day standoff; the Israeli forces had originally planned the eviction and demolition for Monday, but when family members barricaded themselves on the roof they withdrew and instead destroyed a plant nursery, a source of income for the family. In addition, the family was awaiting their court appeal of the demolition order which was ignored by the Israeli forces.

Their eviction made the Salhiyeh family “two-time refugees,” as Human Rights Watch called them. They were originally from the village of Ein Karem, just west of Jerusalem but were ethnically cleansed during the 1948 Nakba, when over three-quarters of a million Palestinians were expelled from their homes and over 400 villages were destroyed.

And what was the cynical pretext for Israel’s demolition of the Salhiyeh’s Sheikh Jarrah family home? The Jerusalem municipality claimed the land would be used to build a Palestinian school for “hundreds of children with special needs from all over East Jerusalem.” Instead, according to Ir Amim, a leading Israeli rights group, Israel has allocated the land for over 1400 settler housing units and a Jewish religious school to consolidate the Israeli settler presence in East Jerusalem, all of which violates international law. According to B’Tselem, another Israeli human rights organization, since 1967 more than 600,000 Israelis now live in over 200 illegal Jewish settlements built on Palestinian land.

Condemnation of Israel’s actions came from all corners of the world:

  • The European Union issued a statement that read, in part, that this action “directly threatens the viability of a future Palestinian state. Israeli settlements are in clear violation of international law and stand in the way of a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas insisted that the United States “shoulder its responsibility and immediately intervene to stop these continuing Israeli crimes against … the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, who are subject to a policy of racial discrimination … and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people….”
  • France, Germany, Spain, and Italy, issued a joint statement denouncing the action as part of the entire Israeli East Jerusalem settlement plan, and the European Union issued its own statement condemning the action;
  • The Foreign Ministers of both Indonesia and Turkey, as well as the Norwegian Refugee Council, called the action “a violation of international law and human rights,” and representatives from the UK and Canada collected photographic evidence of the Salhiyeh home to “bear witness”;
  • Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Director of Human Rights Watch said, “These are war crimes. This is what apartheid & persecution looks like. Perpetrators should be prosecuted & sanctioned.”

And while the Biden Administration’s US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, did call out Israel’s activity in Sheikh Jarrah, it was couched in the typical toothless diplomatic “both-and-ism” equivocation we have come to expect from US administrations. “To make progress [toward peace],” Thomas Greenfield said at a recent Security Council meeting, “both Israel and the Palestinian Authority must refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution. That includes annexations of territory, settlement activity, demolitions, and evictions – like what we saw in Sheikh Jarrah ….”

Indiana Center for Middle East Peace joins with many nations, scores of human rights organizations, and tens and tens of thousands of activists around the world in unequivocally condemning Israel’s actions, as violations of human rights and international law. Like South Africa before it, Israel’s program of house demolitions in East Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank shows itself to be a settler colonial regime and therefore, deserves to be treated as a pariah state by all people of good will.

We call on the Biden Administration and members of the US Congress to strongly oppose Israel’s home demolition and forced displacement policies. We further call for withholding designated funds from Israel that only further embolden such racist policies. And we recommit our support for the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement in all its forms against Israel.

And we stand resolute with the residents of Sheikh Jarrah and all Palestinians in their resistance to Israeli government ethnic cleansing and apartheid policies.

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