Sheikh Jarrah and Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City were sites of Israeli violence against Palestinians this Thursday. Al Jazeera’s Linah Alsaafin retweeted this video showing Israeli settlers disrupting Palestinians’ Iftar meal (the meal with which they break their fast every day during Ramadan) using pepper spray. The violence escalated until Israeli police arrived and arrested 15 people – all of whom were Palestinians.

The conflict was the result of growing tensions between the two parties over Israeli settlers threatening to forcibly evacuate several Palestinian families from their homes. These families have been undergoing a lengthy legal battle with the settlers who have been trying to acquire property in the region for a while.

Sheikh Jarrah Dispute

The disputed neighborhood was occupied by Jordan in the 1950s, just after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Jordan made a deal with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) that allowed displaced Palestinian families to settle into houses in Sheikh Jarrah for three years, after which they would become the owners of the houses. In exchange, the families had to renounce their refugee status. In the 1970s and ’80s, Israeli officials contested this agreement and maintained that the land was illegally taken from them by Jordan and that the Palestinian residents were not legal owners. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Israeli officials and the residents had to start paying rent. Evictions started taking place in 2008, with the families being forced out of their homes one by one.

Fast-forward to February this year, the Israeli district court rejected an appeal from the families and gave them an order to leave the neighborhood and their homes by May 2, 2021. This ruling was postponed and another petition has been filed with the Supreme Court, and the ruling is set to happen on Monday. Israel maintains that Palestinians are escalating the conflict and that the Israeli police are only keeping order.

Violence at Al Aqsa Mosque

On Friday, hundreds of worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque, which is not too far from Sheikh Jarrah, were confronted by Israeli police in riot gear. The situation quickly escalated into violence the police used stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets to disperse the crowd, and the worshippers threw chairs, shoes, and other objects at the police. According to The Associated Press, it is unclear what started the violence, but it resulted in nearly 200 Palestinians being injured. The site of Al Aqsa mosque is no stranger to conflict. Not only is it one of the holiest sites of worship for Muslims, but it is also an extremely important Jewish site known as Temple Mount, where they believe the Biblical Temples stood. It has been a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian tension for many years and has been the center of previous Palestinian uprisings. Protests about the Sheikh Jarrah conflict have been continuing in the region, and what happened on Friday was another escalation of the ongoing tension.

Social Media Censorship

Palestinians have accused social media companies of censoring them in matters related to Sheikh Jarrah and the Al Aqsa Mosque clashes. Palestinians and activists have been uploading updates and photos of the protests at Sheikh Jarrah for days under the hashtag #SaveSheikhJarrah, both in Arabic and English. But now they are saying that their accounts have been deactivated, or that they are not allowed to use this hashtag anymore on some platforms.

This is not a new story either. In 2016, Israel’s justice minister at the time, Ayelet Shaked, said that Google, Facebook, and Youtube would comply with 95% of Israel’s requests to delete content that, according to the government, incites Palestinian violence.

More Conflicts Expected

It is expected that there will be more violence in the coming days. Sunday night is a night of religious significance for Muslims as it marks an important night during the holy month of Ramadan. It also marks the beginning of Jerusalem Day, when Israel celebrates its annexation of East Jerusalem. The Monday verdict about the evacuation of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah is expected to add to the general hostility as well.

States censoring dissenting content is a tale as old as time, and social media companies have been notorious in the past for implementing these crackdowns. There are some accounts you can follow on different social media, which are amplifying Palestinian voices and stories. The following Instagram accounts are of members of the Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah that are directly affected right now. You can follow and share their updates.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by محمد الكرد (@mohammedelkurd)


 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Kokym | كوكيم (@kokym7)

The hashtag #SaveSheikhJarrah is being used across social media platforms to show support for Palestinians right now. The IMEU is a nonprofit organization that works to bring Palestinian stories to the world and has resources that have information about Sheikh Jarrah and the history of the Israeli occupation. You can follow them on Twitter and Instagram. It’s important to remember that your voice is powerful, and you can do a lot by using it.

 


  • Supreeta Balasubramanian

    Supreeta Balasubramanian grew up in Dubai, studied in Dubai, India and London and now lives in Chennai, India. She has a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science Engineering and an MA in Creative Writing and Publishing. Her true passions are proofreading, editing, writing and reading. She enjoys words and would love to live the rest of her life playing with them!

https://wp.me/p7kpad-JXr