The Ongoing Nakba: Sheik Jarrah and two friends about to be evicted-part one

From my journal, interviews, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. These dispatches are based on my latest sojourns in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. Currently, the Covid-19 pandemic prevents me from returning. I begin making plans to return in fall, 2021.

My major intention is to convey the perspectives expressed by the people I interview, allowing for translation problems and misinformation on the parts of all people involved. The histories they present, for instance, I may not agree with. I feel accuracy in reporting is more important than accuracy of their statements. Rather than insert my disagreements with their statements, which could be regarded as an act of white, Eurocentric, male supremacy, I hope to provide open platforms to those I meet.

(With major assistance from three close friends, all talented writers, LD, LD, and George Capaccio—along with Nabeel and Mohammed and other Palestinians living in Sheik Jarrah to whom this blog post is dedicated. This is a major revision of my earlier post, A brief letter about my heart attack)

When Palestinians think of themselves, they always think of “us,” the Palestinians, the afflicted, the impoverished, those robbed of home, identity and possessions, those thrown into destitution, terrorized, tortured, abandoned by the world and buried alive; they also think of themselves as dedicated, self-sacrificing, courageous, intelligent, successful, pioneering, enterprising and—despite their tragedies—robustly alive.

Salma Khadra Jayyusi

PHOTOS

Sheik Jarrah is a Palestinian neighborhood immediately north of main East Jerusalem. Jewish Israeli settlers, supported by Israeli military and police, regularly threaten the residents who have lived there for decades. Among the leaders of the resistance, Nabeel Al-Kurd and Mohammed Sabagh.

Mohammad Sabagh (left) and Nabeel Al-Kurd with a copy in his lap of All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948, by Walid Khalidi

Nabeel Al-Kurd and Mohammed Sabagh, whom I consider my friends, are immediately threatened with eviction from their homes in Sheik Jarrah, where they’ve lived since the 1950s. Zionist settlers, frequently from the United States, first throw furniture, clothing, appliances, and personal goods of Palestinians into the streets. They then occupy the dwellings, forcing Palestinians to either find other housing, or, in some cases live in protest or resistance tents.

Mohammed and his home on right
Nabeel’s home, one half of his original home, the front half confiscated by Jewish Israeli settlers—even this threatened with demolition

Nabeel and Mohammed’s situation is urgent. About three weeks ago—some two years since my last visit with them—I learned that once again Israel intends to evict the Palestinians from Sheik Jarrah, and possibly demolish some of their homes. This would allow Zionist settlers to occupy the homes, occupy more and more of Jerusalem, and ultimately more and more of the West Bank—the ongoing, relentless, and merciless Nakba.

The following article is written by Nabeel’s son, Mohammed, a journalist and poet now studying and working in the United States:

Israel is committing an ongoing Nakba in occupied East Jerusalem. Settler organizations are threatening to forcibly evict 15 Palestinian families from their Jerusalem homes in the next few months. This amounts to 37 households and around 195 individuals, according to Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq. The families reside in the Karm al-Jaouni area of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and the Batan al-Hawa area of the Silwan neighborhood. In November, Israeli courts ruled in favor of settler groups to evict the Palestinian families. The two groups are Nahalat Shimon International – a company registered in the United States, and Ateret Cohanim – a right-wing settlement organization. Both organizations help implement the Israeli government’s colonization of Palestinian properties in Jerusalem….

Palestinians protest against Jewish settlers who took over their homes in Sheikh Jarrah. (Photo: via ActiveStills.org)

For me, this is much more than another, easily ignored news item in my daily feeds from the region—it is personal. I have known, photographed, interviewed, and written about Mohammad and Nabeel for many years, often visiting them in their homes. This latest threat of eviction strikes me deeply.

It is the equivalent of a heart attack, an assault on my inner being, piercing my heart so severely that I cannot not act. I can no longer grow numb, discouraged, disappointed in myself, too busy, too afraid to speak out, and glide past this particular incident to get to my other, seemingly more urgent, imperatives.

I invite you, my readers, to feel the pain of others, to pay attention to the broader issues of Palestine-Israel, to be moved to act, and to work thru your legislators in our new, possibly more progressive, congress. Here is a way to immediately engage:

#SaveSheikhJarrah – Take Action — Sign our Petition to Members of Congress! (April 3, 2021)

This part of an article quoting Nabeel’s son, Mohammed, demanded my attention because of my personal connections with people write about:

Mohammed El-Kurd’s family is one of those slated to be forcibly evicted from their home in Sheikh Jarrah by 2 May. “My family specifically is currently waiting on, I don’t know, God to do a miracle,” El-Kurd, 22, told The Electronic Intifada. El-Kurd was born and raised in Jerusalem. His family has lived in their Sheikh Jarrah home since 1956. When he was 18, he moved to the United States to continue his studies. El-Kurd said he was terrified for his family, seven members of which live in the Sheikh Jarrah home. “We don’t have a place to go, we don’t have a place to stay, we don’t have the money or finances,” he told The Electronic Intifada. In 2009, El-Kurd says half of his family home was taken over by Elad, an organization whose declared objective is to “Judaize” East Jerusalem by moving in as many Israeli settlers as possible. (This refers to the 22-year-old son of Nabeel, now living in the United States. He writes for the Nation.

Read more of the recent article quoting Mohammad about potential evictions

A 32-person Palestinian family is about to be thrown out of its home in Sheikh Jarrah for the benefit of settlers (Peace Now, January 2019)

The larger picture, provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), West Bank demolitions and displacement | March 2021

NEXT BLOG: Who are these two men?

2 thoughts on “The Ongoing Nakba: Sheik Jarrah and two friends about to be evicted-part one

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