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03 January 2011

The struggle for East Jerusalem

Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem are waging a campaign of popular resistance against Israeli land confiscation:

Israel continues to expand Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, placing an increased strain on Palestinian communities in the city [Getty]

The recent Israeli home demolitions, increasing the pressure on the already squeezed Palestinian community, have given rise to local youth organising ruckus street demonstrations, clashing with Israeli police and border guards at the neighbourhood checkpoints. Now the campaign has expanded and the youth of Issawiya have been joined by Israeli anti-occupation activists.

With Israel continuing to expand Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, squeezing and displacing the Palestinian residents under the banner of an undivided Israeli capital (a claim rejected by most of the world), the Palestinian Authority has been powerless in defending the residents of their future capital. Meanwhile, despite murmurs of discontent from Washington and the international community, international diplomacy has proven just as ineffective in advocating for the rights of Jerusalem's Palestinian residents.

Now, failed by national leadership and abandoned by an international community to the mercy of an Israeli government that is forcing them from sight in order to make way for Israeli control and settlement, Palestinian residents are taking it on themselves to defend their land, rights and presence.

As a result, East Jerusalem Palestinians are seeking to use local resistance to gain a voice in a city where decisions are governed by Israeli national and international interests. Issawiya has become the latest East Jerusalem community to instigate protests inspired by the village of Bi'lin's model of popular demonstrations coupled with international appeals for civil society and legal action. Loosing a vast amount of village lands to Israel's wall and settlements in 2005, the West Bank border village pioneered the modern Palestinian model for using popular resistance to fight land annexation. None-th-less, the leader of Bi'lin's popular committee, Abdullah Abu Rahmah, remains in Israeli military prison after completing an internationally condemned one year military court sentence for his political organising.

At Issawiya's first joint Palestinian-Israeli demonstration on December 3, hundreds of local residents joined by left-wing Israelis chanted “From Issawiya to Bil'in, we are all Palestine” in Arabic.

For years now the popular unarmed resistance has been spreading across West Bank villages along the rout of Israel's wall, but the recent emergence of this type of campaign in easily ignitable Jerusalem could force a local Palestinian voice onto a political playing field that has treated Jerusalem Palestinians as an oppressed object rather than an agent for change.

Excerpts :

Jesse Rosenfeld is a freelance journalist based in Ramallah and Tel Aviv. He is an editor ofwww.thedailynuisance.com.

Full story:

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2010/12/2010122911646107575.html