Jerusalem Ethnic Cleansing Tour
It is shocking enough to read and watch news coverage of the situation here in Israel from afar. After growing tired of claim and counter-claim of media bias I decided to find out what was going on with my own eyes so I set off for the Holy City. To visit and see for yourself the infrastructure of the occupation is deeply troubling and almost surreal.
On visiting Jerusalem I took a tour with ICAHD. There are many locations in the area in which the ‘Judaification’ of Jerusalem can be observed, and on our short day trip we could see only a few. But it was more than enough to open my eyes to the sheer brutality of the process and the effect on its victims. Much of what we saw was only a stone’s throw from the plush tourist-friendly West Jerusalem, whose residents are predominantly either oblivious to, or complicit in, these terrible crimes carried out by their goverment.
1. Nof Zion
The tour began by taking in Nof Zion, a brand new settlement constructed on the Palestinian side of the green line. But to look at the marketing of the properties, mainly targeting wealthy US-based retirees, you wouldn’t have a clue. The authorities have gone to great lengths to make the whole area look established and well groomed, with the beautiful Tolerance Park constructed nearby on the site of a Palestinian cemetery. The whole area looks just like another well-appointed West Jerusalem suburb and you would have no idea, unless you researched it, that this was an illegal construction under international law. The neighbouring Palestinian neighbourhoods, in stark contrast are run down, without pavements, garbage collection or other basic services such as policing. Beautiful views of Jerusalem and of the “separation wall” can be seen from Nof Zion, shown below.
Next we drove a short distance to Silwan, close to the old city. This bustling neighbourhood has been home to its Palestinian residents for decades. No fewer than 88 multi occupancy housing units here are scheduled for demolition, on the pretext of an archaeological excavation. A viewing tower has been installed in preparation for tourists to observe the excavated site, connected to the old city via a tunnel such that they never need see the Palestinian homes all around or have any sense of the evicted and disposessed residents.
There has been international outcry over these plans, negative comments even from the Obama administration, and there is a danger of a political backlash. The pictures show the observation tower, the dozens of homes approved for demolition, and some of the kids living in them.
3. Abu Dis
At Abu Dis we observed how the “separation wall” has been built straight through the middle of a formerly cohesive Arab neighbourhood. The road simply ended at the wall, which has been topped with razor wire and electronic sensors. The graffiti on the wall sums it up.
4. Evictions at Sheikh Jarrah
Just a short distance from the old city at Sheikh-Jarrah are a collection of homes some of which have already been seized and the residents forcibly evicted. The former residents now live in a protest tent nearby. Their former homes are now occupied by Israeli guards and an Israeli flag sits atop each one. More homes are scheduled for seizure in the area including one with 38 residents. We met some of these residents, and pictured below are their seized homes and the protest tent. A couple of kids, now living in the tent, drew a picture for us. It featured the things that were now just a memory for them – their furniture and their home.
Atop each stolen home, amongst the guards and the military observation tower, are proud Israeli flags.
By the end of the tour I was almost ready to cry.