Occupied Jerusalem Protests Apartheid
Since the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, the Israeli occupying authorities have been intensifying their restrictive and oppressive policies against the Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem as part of their continuous attempts to ultimately alter the Arab and Palestinian character of the city in defiance of international legitimacy. Such cruel acts are part and parcel of Israel’s illegal policies and practices, mainly its colonial- settlement expansion, home demolitions, and forced evictions of Palestinian families, including in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, in addition to its current denial for Palestinians in Jerusalem from running as candidates or participating in the upcoming Palestinian elections.
In this context, it’s imperative to point out that seven Palestinian families currently face the risk of imminent forcible eviction from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood by 2 May 2021. Seventy Palestinian families live in this part of Sheikh Jarrah, 34 of which are undergoing a battle in the occupying power’s legal system to confront the threat of forcible transfer, a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which allows Israeli settlers to replace Palestinians and take over their homes. Israel’s illegal policies throughout occupied Palestine, particularly in Jerusalem, are rooted in an extremist ideology that enforces Jewish supremacy over the indigenous Palestinian population as articulated in the “Jewish Nation-State Law” of 2018 that legitimizes Israel’s institutionalized discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel and turns a de facto apartheid reality to a de jure apartheid regime for all Palestinians in historic Palestine.
The holy month of Ramadan allows Jerusalem’s Old City and Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound to rejoice with the worshippers and the lively atmosphere in the city’s old markets. Under occupation, Jerusalem has suffered severe economic consequences because of its separation and isolation from the rest of occupied Palestine, but this year more so because of COVID-19. The city’s shopkeepers were looking forward to this holy month to help them recover from the severe economic impact of the pandemic.
At the outset of Ramadan, the occupying power issued permits to merely ten thousand Palestinians from the occupied West Bank, only if they have received COVID-19 vaccination, to reach Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound to perform the prayers of the first Friday of Ramadan on 16 April 2021. The occupying forces also erected metal barriers to ban Palestinians from gathering in the plaza at the entrance of Damascus Gate (Bab Al-Amud in Arabic), which is considered a vital and social center for Palestinians in Jerusalem, especially during the holy month. The occupying forces even went further by raiding two minarets in Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound to cut off the loudspeaker wires in them to prevent the evening prayers from being raised through loudspeakers under the pretext of the possibility that the prayers’ sounds would reach Al-Buraq Plaza (The Western Wall), where ceremonies related to the so-called “National Remembrance Day” were held. Several employees working with the Department of Islamic Endowments in Jerusalem were threatened with arrests if they protested this act of deliberate provocation.
All these affronts come in addition to calls by Israeli settler organizations for organizing a vast raid campaign on Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, passing through Damascus Gate and Jerusalem’s alleyways, on 10 May 2021, which falls on the 28th day of Ramadan, to celebrate the so-called “Jerusalem Day” that marks the day when Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 according to the Hebrew calendar.
This report highlights the main Israeli violations and attacks against the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian capital, their properties, and their rights.(1) It neither includes information on published illegal Israeli settlement plans during this period nor other related violations.
Israeli Violations/Attacks on Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem
The occupation authorities have turned occupied Jerusalem into a military barracks to provoke and conduct uninterrupted attacks on the worshipers, specifically near Damascus gate following Ramadan’s daily night prayers, who demanded their right to sit in the plaza and to celebrate Ramadan their way. This act of popular resistance was met with Israeli violence from Israel’s settlers and its occupying forces that used skunk water, tear gas and sonic canisters, and rubber bullets to disperse, physically attack and beat the protestors and arrest them. Within the reporting period, and per the reports of NAD’s Palestinian Monitoring Group, nearly 150 Palestinians were wounded – this number only includes those who received medical care.
According to the daily reports issued by the office of Jerusalem Governorate, approximately 130 Palestinians were arrested/ detained. The highest number of arrests was recorded on Friday, 23 April 2021, when nearly 55 thousand Palestinian worshippers reached occupied Jerusalem despite Israeli military checkpoints and numerous movement restrictions in and around the city. The Israeli occupying forces have also banned Iftar (breakfast) meals from reaching the fasting worshippers inside the mosque on several occasions.
While spreading hate speech and incitement on social media and during various protests, Israeli settlers carried out nearly twenty attacks on Palestinian civilians and their properties. They attacked Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood during their protests against Israel’s colonial settlement expansion, which called upon the international community to prevent the forcible evictions of Palestinian families in this neighborhood. Other Israeli settler attacks involved attacking Palestinian homes with stones and Molotov cocktails and throwing stones, slashing tires, and smashing windows of tens of Palestinian cars, as well as attacking Palestinian civilians in various parts of the eastern and western parts of the city. The hateful anti-Palestinian incitement peaked on 22 April 2021, when hundreds of Zionist extremists marched from West Jerusalem towards the Old City chanting, “Death to the Arabs.” Members of the Israeli parliament, such as Itamar Ben Gvir, a settler in Hebron, Kahanist, and supporter of transfer of Palestinians, supported them. Ben Gvir reached a political agreement with Benjamin Netanyahu during the previous elections. All of this comes in tandem with continued Israeli settler raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, which happened almost daily with the participation of over 1,200 settlers during the past two weeks.
- On 14 April: the Israeli occupying forces (IOF) attacked Palestinian worshippers upon their arrival in Damascus Gate following the night prayers. They prevented the young men from sitting in the vicinity and fired sonic and tear gas canisters to disperse them. Three of them were arrested, and approximately 30 others were wounded.
- On 15 April: the IOF stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound at dawn (and on the evening of the previous day) to arrest eight young men from inside Al-Qibli Mosque and attempted to remove the worshippers.
- On 17 April: the IOF prevented a press conference at the “St. George” Hotel regarding the legislative elections in Jerusalem by erecting checkpoints and preventing access to the hotel. In response, the electoral candidates organized a protest on Salah El-Din Street, and three of them were arrested and later released.
- On 19 April: The Israeli intelligence services handed Sheikh Ekrima Sabri a decision from the Minister of Interior banning him from travel for four months. Sheikh Sabry was handed a similar decision last March banning him from travel for two months.
- On 20 April: the Israeli Jerusalem municipality forced Amjad Jaabis, from Jabal Al-Mukaber, to self-demolish his house (under construction) within five days, or else he would be obliged to pay a fine.
- On 21 April: the IOF arrested Khaled Al-Zeer while on his way to a court session related to the case of Bab Al-Rahma cemetery, which Palestinian activists filed to prevent the occupation from carrying out excavations inside the cemetery to pave the way for the cable car colonial project over Jerusalem’s Old City.
- On 23 April: Dozens of settlers attacked Palestinian homes near Hebron Gate (Jaffa Gate) and inside the old city. This came in conjunction with the IOF’s clampdown on Palestinian protests in various parts of Jerusalem.
- On 25 April: Jerusalem’s young men managed to remove all the metal barriers set up by the IOF in the vicinity of Damascus Gate. And in response to them raising the Palestinian flag, the IOF arrested several protestors celebrating the removal of these barriers and physically attacked others, causing them several injuries/bruises.
Israel’s systematic oppression and inhuman acts against Palestinians in Jerusalem continue unabated since the city’s occupation in 1967 amidst repeated condemnations from the international community that has so far failed to hold Israel accountable. The recent developments within the past two weeks can only be framed as another attempt to fight the Palestinian presence in even outdoor public spaces. These events have sparked protests in various parts of occupied Palestine. Many more Palestinians were wounded and arrested. Israel’s illegal policies against the land and people of Palestine demands action from the international community towards holding Israel accountable for its occupation, colonialism, and apartheid in occupied Palestine. The report issued today by Human Rights Watch, titled “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution,” is solid evidence of Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in occupied Palestine that demands international intervention and action to end them.
1. Main Sources: NAD’s Palestinian Monitoring Group (PMG) and the office of Jerusalem Governorate.