Thursday, December 09, 2010

"Defiant Jerusalem Palestinians Say 'We Will Remain Here'' -- Jillian Kestler-D'Amours

Hundreds of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals demonstrate against the Israeli occupation in Issawiya, occupied East Jerusalem, 3 December 2010. (Anne Paq/ActiveStills)


A huge Palestinian flag was carried up a steep hill in Issawiya on 3 December, passed hand-to-hand between the at least 200 Palestinians, Israelis and international activists taking part in the first-ever solidarity march and demonstration in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood.

People cheered and shouted as the flag passed over their heads, and many carried signs reading "Stop the imprisonment of Issawiya" and "Stop the occupation of Issawiya."

Indeed, in recent weeks, the contrast between the Israeli settlement of French Hill -- home to the main campus of Jerusalem's Hebrew University and Hadassah hospital -- and neighboring Issawiya has been magnified by the near-constant presence of Israeli soldiers and police forces in the Palestinian village.

"It's as if civilization ends at the borders of French Hill and Issawiya," said Hani Isawi, member of the Issawiya Follow-Up Committee, during a resident-led meeting on 24 November in the neighborhood.

"On the one hand, we are suffering because as the rest of the Palestinian people, we are living under the Israeli occupation, and at the same time, we are suffering from a very clear policy of discrimination from the Jerusalem municipality," Isawi said.

Recently, the Israeli media reported that a group of Palestinian youth stoned a car of Israeli Jews that had gotten lost in Issawiya and were asking for directions back to West Jerusalem.

In what residents say is collective punishment for the attack, the Israeli authorities have closed the entrances and exits to Issawiya. Today, only two entrances remain, including one that has been turned into an Israeli army-monitored checkpoint that causes routine delays for the neighborhood's 15,000 Palestinian residents.

"We very clearly discourage and criticize these kind of actions, such as attacking civilians," Isawi said. "But the Israelis are using this as a pretext for implementing very harsh policies against us."

Israeli soldiers and police forces have arrested at least ten children under the age of 16, and more than two dozen others above that age since October, according to the Issawiya Follow-Up Committee. They have also routinely blanketed Issawiya in clouds of tear gas during clashes with groups of Palestinian youth, including shortly after Friday's demonstration.

On 24 September, an 18-month-old Palestinian child died in Issawiya from tear gas inhalation, after Israeli forces threw cannisters at a demonstration protesting the killing of Samer Sarhan in the nearby Silwan neighborhood.

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