Lyd, Israel–For the past year and a half, Israelis, Palestinians and international activists have held weekly demonstrations in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, protesting against the evictions of Palestinian families there and the move by settlers to take over their homes.
The solidarity movement, which has garnered international attention, is now expanding to different threatened neighborhoods in East Jerusalem like Issawiya and Silwan, as well as to areas in Israel such as Al-Araqib.
The latest area in Israel to see Sheikh Jarrah activists demonstrating is the mixed Jewish and Palestinian city Lyd, where, on one of the stormiest days of the year in December 2010, the Palestinian Abu Eid family’s 7 homes were demolished by Israeli authorities.
Weekly protests, like today’s evening protest, have been held in Lyd against the demolitions. The demonstrations see Israeli activists involved in the Sheikh Jarrah struggle, as well as some Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah who have been evicted or are threatened with eviction, join the residents of Lyd.
“People outside of Israel have to know what’s happening,” said Revka Vetenberg, an Israeli activist involved in the Sheikh Jarrah struggle who was demonstrating in Lyd. “Our Israeli government doesn’t want peace. They want only war, to say that this is our territory.”
The demolitions left 67 people homeless, with the men sleeping in tents and the women sleeping in their neighbors’ homes. The Israeli authorities said that the Abu Eid family did not have permits to expand their homes; permits are routinely denied to Palestinians to build, while Israeli Jews can build freely at will.
Chanting slogans of resistance and unity while marching down a street with activists drumming in the Palestinian area of Lyd, over 100 people protested the destruction of the Abu Eid family’s homes early this evening. While a significant police presence was there, no arrests were made. At the end of the demonstration, a concert was held with musicians from various groups joining together.
The activists from Sheikh Jarrah say they see the struggle in Lyd as the same struggle they have been fighting in East Jerusalem. The idea, activists say, is to expand and connect the struggle from Sheikh Jarrah to other areas with similar issues.
“We believe that these things are strongly connected. We strongly disbelieve that Jews have to demonstrate by themselves inside Tel Aviv like the Israeli left usually does–demonstrating by themselves without Palestinians and even without Israeli-Palestinians,” said Daniel Argo, a leader in the Sheikh Jarrah solidarity movement. “All the local issues are drawing us a bigger picture. In the longer term, this kind of activity can mobilize a bigger part of Jewish Israeli society to see with their own eyes what is happening on the ground.”
Buthaina Dabit, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who is the director of the New Israel Fund’s Shatil project, sees the oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories as similar to the oppression of Palestinian citizens in Israel.
“We are one nation. We are oppressed by the Israeli law here and there, and by the military forces,” said Dabit. “We are very happy to make this cooperation [with the Sheikh Jarrah movement], and to meet our Palestinian relatives because we are one part. Together, we are more effective.”