Recently, thousands of Palestinians have been protesting in the streets of Jerusalem against the Israeli court decision, which rules to forcibly remove 28 Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. This is part of the Israeli policy which have been targeting several Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem, such as Silwan, Wadi al-Joz, Beit Hanina, and others. This ruling has amplified the existing tensions between Palestinians and Israeli settlers.
Sari Harb, programme manager at the RLS Regional Office for Palestine and Jordan in Ramallah, spoke with youth activist and award-winning writer from Jerusalem, Mohammed El Kurd. Mohammed’s family is among those who are threatened to be forcibly evicted.
- Can you explain the current situation of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood? And what are you hoping to achieve?
The current situation in Sheikh Jarrah is similar to the overarching situation in Jerusalem, where many Palestinians are facing state-sanctioned ethnic cleansing. In Sheikh Jarrah, 28 families – 552 people – are facing this effort of dispossession by Israeli settler organizations registered in the United States of America, which are working with the Israeli authorities to throw us out of our homes. We are protesting it. And so we are getting punished for the protesting of colonial violence by being placed under a blockade… by having Palestinian journalists assaulted and arrested… by refusing medics to enter our neighborhood… by refusing Palestinians at large to enter our neighborhood… all while Israeli settlers can walk in with arms and rifles, no questions asked.
- How do you see the role of Palestinian youth in the current uprising?
I see the role of Palestinian youth as central, as in transitioning to the current uprising – the current movement. That’s because they’ve been able to shape the discourse, amplify the rhetoric, and raise the ceiling in what is to be said. This is a clear uprising to the liberation of Palestine. I think this is what makes it key.
- Is the two-state solution still relevant or do you feel that the current political moment requires a rethinking of possible solutions?
There is no geography in which a two-state solution is relevant.
- How do you see international solidarity with Palestine based on the latest events, and what do expect from them?
I really appreciate international solidarity with Palestine, and I do expect people to continue pushing for boycotts, to continue pushing for sanctions, and to think of tangible ways they can help. For example, in Germany, people should start advocating to stop using European guilt (as a means) to massacre Palestinian children; to stop letting European or German guilt justify the killing of Palestinian children and the theft of Palestinian homes. I think it’s important to push to end economic, political, and diplomatic relations, and to hold stern economic relations and oppose fascism all over… I’m not really sure about the Germanic scene, but those are the things I would say: sanctions, boycotts, ending any arms deals, and holding Israel accountable… stop letting it have impunity. But then again, Germany is not the most progressive place on earth, so I don’t expect much.
- Is International media coverage for Palestine changing? From your perception, are you seeing a shift in the mainstream media discourse on Palestine?
I don’t know if the international media coverage is changing. I think our own narrations of what’s happening is changing. I think the ability to use social media has shifted the discourse. We’ve gone from a discourse about humanized relations to a discourse about settler colonials, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid… About our people’s right to resist, our people’s right to defend themselves… to liberate the homeland. We’re now speaking about how Israelis colonize Palestine. We’re speaking about Haifa, Lydd, all these places. I think the international media is out to follow suit. I think the international media is presented with an opportunity to be objective, to be professional, and to look at things and report them as they are. So when it’s state-sanctioned ethnic cleansing, to report on it as such, rather than as a real estate dispute. When it’s a military occupation–a settler colonization– to report on it as such. Not as a so-called conflict. That is not objective.
- Why were you arrested by the Israeli police?
We were arrested on charges of inciting violence against the police. Clearly, anybody with working eyes can see that we were not inciting violence, but instead protecting our homes. What happened is that Israeli occupation authorities are trying to intimidate us or to terrorize us, and this is not happening to us [alone]. It’s happening to thousands of Palestinians across colonized Palestine, who are getting arrested. This is a tactic of instilling fear in Palestinians who refuse to be ethnically cleansed, or to be violated by the Israeli occupation courts. But we will not be intimidated, obviously. And to be accurate, the Israeli police are not security forces. This is an internationally recognized occupation. They are occupation forces that are illegally present in our neighborhoods, and they are not keeping anybody secure… they are not defending anybody. And of course they have us locked down. This will not be the last time we will get detained. We are anticipating more and more. I even had to sign a bill that declared that I will be called into questioning more times. We don’t know what they have in their pockets, but we know that we are not doing anything that is illegal. We know that their presence under international law is within itself illegal, and their presence in our neighborhoods is what is incitement of violence.