On Jan. 19 at 3:30 a.m., Israeli police raided the Salhiyah family home in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The occupation forces violently removed the family and protesters from the property before razing the home to the ground.
At least 18 people were arrested in a violent raid under cover of darkness after Israeli police cut off electricity to the home and fired tear gas canisters in and around the house. Officers temporarily prevented activists, medics and journalists from reaching the home. They also fired what Israel calls “less than lethal” bullets, causing several injuries.
Nineteen-year-old Yasmeen Salhiyah recounted the night to Al Jazeera. About 50 officers “raided the house and began beating up the men of the family,” she said. They also assaulted my aunt … they pulled my father out of bed, beat him along with my brothers and cousins” before arresting them “without giving them the chance to put clothes on.”
The family of 18 was made homeless after the day-long standoff in which the family barricaded themselves on their rooftop, threatening to blow up the house rather than be displaced. This is second time this family was made refugees. The first was in 1948 when Mahmoud Salhiyah’s parents were displaced from the village of Ein Karem during the Nakba, which displaced 750,000 Palestinians.
Sheik Jarrah became a flashpoint of struggle in May when occupation forces attempting to expel Palestinian families and replace them with Israeli settlers led to protests across the West Bank and within occupied Palestine. Israel responded by bombing Gaza. Resistance in the West Bank and Gaza inspired protests across the United States as activists shared what was happening real time on social media.
This week, however, Instagram blocked Palestinian activist Muna el-Kurd from livestreaming the Salhiyah family expulsion to her 1.6 million followers. Muna el-Kurd gained a following in May after confronting a settler in her Sheikh Jarrah home. This is not the first example of pro-Palestine activists or supporters being censored by U.S. tech giants.
The expulsion of the Salhiyah family is ethnic cleansing and was denounced by many. But the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem municipality maintains that it was necessary in order to build a special education school in the neighborhood.The legal Israeli pretext behind the internationally illegal expropriation of land is the Absentees’ Property Law of 1950. The law is used to confiscate properties and assets that Palestinians were forced to leave behind in 1948.
“If you’re a Jew and left Israel, you’ll never be an absentee, no matter how many years you spent abroad,” says Mohammad Zeidan, former director of the Arab Association for Human Rights. “If you’re a Palestinian and sought refuge in another town in the same country, you’re an absentee.”
The policies of the Israeli government strongly restrict Palestinian land access in favor of Jewish citizens of Israel. The Jewish National Fund (JNF) has the explicit mandate to develop and lease land for Jews exclusively. It is instrumental in the expulsion of Palestinians from their lands and was founded in 1901 for this purpose. Its members make up almost half of the Israel Land Authority (ILA), the government agency which manages land distribution. JNF also actually owns 13 percent of Israel’s lands, including in East Jerusalem.
After the Nakba in 1948, the JNF planted pine trees on the ruins of Palestinian villages to prevent refugees from returning to their homes. This practice of greenwashing genocide persists to this day. On Jan. 18, 30 people were arrested for protesting the JNF’s “tree-planting project,” which displaces Palestinian Bedouin from their farm lands, destroying their livelihood.
The JNF is a registered non-profit charity in the United States. Its thinly veiled mission of ethnically cleansing and colonizing the land is subsidized by U.S. taxpayer money because it pays no U.S. taxes. At the same time, occupation forces violently displace Palestinians and their supporters by building schools and reforesting the desert. Despite historically being ignored or presented as banal in U.S. mainstream media, these acts force Palestinian families out of their homes and deny their rights in violation of international law.
Photo: Jan. 22 demonstration in New York City supporting Palestinian rights. Liberation photo