The front line of ethnic cleansing

Israel may succeed in ridding Jerusalem of its Palestinian inhabitants, but at what cost?

What will be the price of the Judaisation of Jerusalem? [GALLO/GETTY]

A brutish black-clad Israeli police hoard marched up and down a narrow, dusty Silwan street. They marched in a wide-line formation and they wore a brooding, threatening menace on their faces. Wielding their guns and batons, they all looked the same.

They marched up and down past the house of the Nab family. Forty-five people live there – seven families – and the Israeli police were preparing to break down doors and forcibly evict them. I watched ethnic cleansing’s advance guard, and saw Israel’s past, present and future. The Jewish state; the Jewish majority state; the state for Jewish people’s rights and protection to the exclusion of all others; the Palestinian minority state; the Nakba state; the Jewish ghetto state.

Intrepid boys smashed cinder blocks against the pavement and waited for the dull phalanx to pass, and turn and pass again. The boy-matadors pricked the beast each time; chunks of concrete rained down on reinforced helmets and the rage built in the eyes. Rear and turn and the boys were gone. And on and on.

Finally, a police officer charged a small boy. He was two or three metres away from me when it happened. The boy was not throwing stones – they were coming from over a wall beyond where we were standing, but one boy is as good as the next. A whirlwind of dark Teflon enveloped the child and wrenched him away from the fabric of his life. Frenziedly they ran down the street to their waiting jeep, the boy dragging and writhing in their unyielding grip.

Resettling settlers

Israeli police who had been marching past the house of the Nab family dragged a boy away [Credit: Ahmed Moor]

The Jewish people’s Jewish police were in occupied East Jerusalem because Nir Barakat, West Jerusalem’s mayor, ordered them there. Beit Yonatan, an illegal settler outpost about 50 metres away from the Nab family home, was the target of an evacuation order issued by the Israeli high court of justice in 2007. It has been more than three years and the building, which was named after the convicted American-Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, has not been evacuated. Press reports claimed that this week would be different, and that was why I was there.

Barakat – a secular Jew – insists that if the Jewish colonists are evacuated they must be resettled in the Nab family home. According to him, the home sits on the site of a pre-state Yemenite synagogue. If the Palestinians want Beit Yonatan, he says, we get the synagogue. Liberal Zionists are terrified by the implications of Barakat’s policies.

Israel was midwifed by a deliberate act of ethnic cleansing. More than 700,000 Palestinian people fled or were driven out by Zionist militia regulars in 1948. And they were kept out. The country’s elites lied to themselves and the world for decades. They denied the Nakba and claimed that the Palestinians fled their homes at the behest of the feckless Arab leadership.

Many of the West Jerusalem Palestinian families were resettled in East Jerusalem after the war, and it is many of these families that Barakat wants to expel from their homes. Liberal Zionists are concerned that the mayor could set a dangerous precedent. After all, what is to stop Palestinians from demanding their homes in West Jerusalem?

‘Democratic for Jews’

But Israel has never treated Palestinians and Jews as equal under the law. The idea that a Palestinian refugee will successfully petition the Israeli courts to evict a Hebrew University professor from his home in West Jerusalem is fantasy. That is because, in the words of Knesset minister Ahmed Tibi, Israel is “democratic for Jews, and Jewish for Arabs”.

Israel will evict and ethnically cleanse Jerusalem and no amount of petitioning will change that. Liberal Zionists can choose to believe in the fiction that Israel is a nation of laws that apply equally to everyone. But the Palestinians in Jerusalem know better; their tight spaces in the city are growing tighter.

Two weeks ago, Israeli bulldozers destroyed the Shepherd Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. The occupation authorities plan to build settler housing in its place. And just this past week, the Israelis announced the construction of another 1,400 settler housing units on the city’s outskirts to further consolidate the apartheid on the land.

I watched helplessly as the men in uniform dragged the child away. And I understood that the settlers and their mayor would succeed eventually; Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah would both be ethnically cleansed of their Palestinians. Jerusalem would be united – and Jewish.

But the city’s Judaisation comes at a price. The Palestinian struggle for equal rights in Palestine/Israel is underway. Jerusalem will be Jewish, but Israel will cease to be.

Ahmed Moor is a Palestinian-American freelance journalist based in Cairo. He was born in the Gaza Strip, Palestine.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.


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