Aside from the general reasons for the weekly Friday demos in Sheikh Jarrah, there is another reason that we’re there every Friday, even last week when we held the big rally. The reason is this: every Sabbath evening a group of extreme right-wing ultra-orthodox Jews (henceforth: the hooligans) congregate in front of one of the stolen houses in order to “pray”. So we come every Friday afternoon so as to maintain a presence.
Yesterday (March 12) was no different. First a group of about 100 activists took part in the standard march from downtown West Jerusalem to Sheik Jarrah. This went by without any incidents, as the police used their usual violence to keep right-wing extremists away from us. (One American “Jewish Patriot” holding an Israeli flag yelled at us in English: “Rachel Corrie got what she deserved and it’s too bad there’s no bulldozer for you guys.”)
So far so good, right? Well as “zero hour” (which it to say the start of Sabbath) got closer, things got tenser. When the march arrived in Sheikh Jarrah our numbers swelled to 250. With the approach of the Sabbath, and the hooligans the police changed their strategy: the police declared with a megaphone that the demo is illegal, one of our activists answered with a megaphone (they were standing about a meter apart) that the courts has declared that the demos are legal. Didn’t change the police plans, five minutes later the police brutally attacked and pushed the demo further away from the residents’ compound. Oh, and they arrested 10 activists!
As the zero hour approached, most of the demonstrators dispersed. Some of the activists went to the Russian Compound police station where the detained activists were being held. The activists were subsequently released, with one woman given a summons to an interrogation on Sunday for “organizing an illegal demonstration.”
A few other activists entered the residents’ compound to make sure that there were no attacks on them. Shortly after that the hooligans arrived to “pray”. The tension between the hooligans and the residents could be cut with a knife. Activists called the police, who arrived ten minutes later to buffer between the residents and the hooligans. Net damage: a broken window to one of the resident’s car.
The police then “escorted” the hooligans out of the compound, thinking their job was finished. We activists informed them that they were likely to take out their aggressions on other Palestinians in the neighbourhood. We ran after them, and sure enough they started vandalizing cars, attacking Palestinians and throwing huge rocks. By the time we got the police to come several Palestinians had been lightly injured, some cars had been damaged and rocks littered the main road that separates East and West Jerusalem. All this, of course, took place on the hooligans’ holy Sabbath day.
Have I mentoned that we won’t be intimidated by either police or by settlers’ violence?The struggle for justice in Sheikh Jarrah will go on. We’ll be there – hope you’ll join us too.