Activists brainstorm tactics for Sheikh Jarrah protests

Meeting follows of 17 activists at a protest in east Jerusalem neighborhood.

sheikh jarrah brawl 248 88 (photo credit: Abe Selig)
sheikh jarrah brawl 248 88
(photo credit: Abe Selig)
Around 75 left-wing activists held a meeting in Jerusalem on Tuesday to debate ways to broaden the protests in east Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, and to hear background lectures on the situation in the contested area.
The meeting followed the Friday arrest of 17 activists at a protest in the neighborhood. On Sunday, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court released the protesters, saying police could not prove the arrests were necessary, even though the protesters had no permit.
The meeting began with Nassir Ghawe describing how his family had been evicted from their longtime home in Sheikh Jarrah in early August and had been living in a tent in the neighborhood ever since.
Ghawe related how his family had lived in Sheikh Jarrah since they settled there instead of fleeing to Jordan in 1948. Ghawe said he had been threatened by police brass and described how police from the Yasam special operations unit had burst into his home in the early hours of August 2 and thrown him and his family out into the street.
In 2008, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that property in Sheikh Jarrah that was part of the former Shimon Hazaddik enclave belonged to the Sephardic Community Committee, paving the way for Jews to oust the Arab families. This past August, the Ghawes and another Palestinian family were evicted from two homes in Sheikh Jarrah, Jews moved in, and protests have periodically rocked the neighborhood since.
Activist Maya Wind told the attendees the protests could be expanded on three levels: legal, diplomatic, and field activities.
Wind said the legal efforts would seek to prove that the Ottoman-era land deeds possessed by settlers were forged.
She added that if pre-1948 land rights of Jews in Israel could be the basis of residential rights today, then the Israeli public should be asked if the same went for Palestinians who had lost land in Israel proper following the War of Independence in 1948.
Wind said the "international" phase would focus on press conferences, letters to foreign leaders and diplomats, and further efforts to bring the issue into the media and the public square abroad.
Field operations would include protests and tours led through Sheikh Jarrah, both to give Israelis and foreigners a sense of the situation on the ground and to bring Arabs and Jews together in a popular struggle.
At the end of the meeting, organizers held a brainstorming session, asking participants
how they believed the protests could be more effective.
Hagai El-Ad, director of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel and one of the demonstrators arrested Friday, called the struggle over Sheikh Jarrah "symbolic" and called on activists not to be cowed by tactics used by police, who, he said, had made it clear they "don't want Sheikh Jarrah to become another Bil'in" - a reference to an Arab village near the security barrier that is the site of regular clashes between police and protesters.
On Monday, activists arrested Friday said police actions would not deter them, and they vowed to return in even greater numbers to Sheikh Jarrah.
Didi Remez said he felt their arrests achieved the opposite of what police had intended.
"There will absolutely be more interest now. I believe there will be far more people, older people and more mainstream Israelis as well, who will come out," Remez said, adding that "the more they suppress, the more people will come."