Last April, demonstrations in opposition to forcing Palestinians out of their homes in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood helped escalate tensions into what would become an 11-Day war resulting in 270 Palestinian and 13 Israeli deaths in May. Although, back then, the Western media had been forced to cover the issue and with that came the rise of prominent Palestinian voices, now the issue is now escalating again and there is no media attention.
In April and May, 2021, we saw an explosion of violence throughout the Holy month of Ramadan, when Israeli occupation forces continued a campaign of ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem, along with attacks on Muslim and Christian worshippers in the Old City and their access to Churches and Mosques. Thousands of Palestinians were ultimately injured, as clashes between demonstrators and Israeli police forces ensued, especially at times when extremist Israeli settler gangs had taken to the streets to assault and racially abuse Palestinians.
Western media managed to downplay horrific raids into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on a number of occasions, during which hundreds of Palestinians were injured, many whilst praying and others whilst receiving medical attention. Yet, the chaos was not manageable from a propaganda standpoint and the extent of the crimes committed had forced Western media to cover what exploded all throughout social media. From this period, we saw the rise of Palestinian voices, specifically those of Mohammed and Mona Al-Kurd from Sheikh Jarrah.
Yet, despite a temporary freeze in Israeli courts on the cases to evict Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, elsewhere in the likes of Silwan (East Jerusalem) hundreds were subjected to expulsions and home demolitions. This Wednesday, the Sheikh Jarrah case again seemed to escalate. Israeli occupation forces stormed the home of the Salhiyeh families — of 15 members — forcing them into the freezing cold streets during the night and watching on as their home was demolished.
Despite condemnation from European countries, Human Right’s Watch, along with countless foreign diplomats and NGO’s, the story still seems to be a non-issue for Western media. Of those mainstream outlets who covered this issue in there online news pieces, the Israeli propaganda argument was often presented as reasonable, with the exception of the likes of the Independent which noted that the international community view Israel’s occupation, later annexation, of East Jerusalem as illegal. This key fact is often left out of the equation as the pseudo-legal arguments put forth by Israel’s courts fall flat, with the fact that they have no legal jurisdiction over the territory, despite their rulings creating new facts on the ground.
Saudi Arabia’s media has even started referring to the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood as “disputed”, which is often the claim made by Israeli politicians who argue that Palestinians are the true squatters in the neighborhood and not the mainly European and American Jews who often come from oversees to take over the homes of Palestinians. The Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, they argue, is legally Jewish as of the ‘Absentees Property Law of 1950,’ which is labelled as part of an Apartheid legal system by the likes of Human Rights Watch. The Law allows for Jews, but not any other ethnic-religious group, to claim territory that allegedly once belonged to someone who was Jewish.
The way this Israeli law works, is essentially this; imagine that a white British person travels to Australia and finds an area now populated by indigenous Aboriginal families, then is backed legally, and with State power, to evict those Aboriginal families, so that they can live in their homes, because once a white person may have owned the land there. Sounds pretty racist right? Well yeah, that’s because it is. There’s no way around it. It’s a very clear cut case. Now you can go back in time and pull up all the documents you want to try and prove that some white people who came from Britain had owned that land, but this does not make the situation any better.
What is currently happening in Sheikh Jarrah and across the occupied Palestinian territories is now being ignored by Western media; but for how long, we will see. After Israel escalated tensions so dramatically in May of last year, the Palestinian people had had enough and turned to confrontation with their occupier. When Palestinians are suffering, but there is no violence against Israel in return, the situation is one that world powers and Western media can ignore. In contrast, when the retaliation comes from Palestinians, all eyes turn to the conflict. This lesson has been essentially taught to Palestinians struggling on the ground. If you pursue change through peaceful means you’ll suffer and nobody will care. However, if you use violence, you’ll still suffer, but at least there will be some pressure placed on the enemy to change its tactics.