Telling Lies about Sheikh Jarrah

By Kim Bullimore

In June 2008, I wrote an article called ‘Telling Lies about Bil’in’ in which I outlined how the Israeli military, assisted by Israel’s corporate Zionist media lied about a peaceful non-violent demonstration in the Palestinian village of Bil’in, depicting it as ‘violent’ in order to justify the Israeli Occupation Forces use of unrestrained violence against the peaceful demonstrators. After 42 years of attempting to justify its brutal occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the Israeli Occupation Forces lies have become a matter of course. This week the Israeli Occupation Forces and the Israeli police once again engaged in the violent suppression of a non-violent demonstration and then lied about their actions. The only difference this time around was that it took place in Sheikh Jarrah in Occupied East Jerusalem, rather than in Bil’in in the Occupied West Bank.

In the last year more than 50 Palestinians living in the Karm Al-Ja’ouni neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah have been left homeless as a result of being forcibly evicted from their homes by settlers, supported by Israeli occupation forces [1]. For the last 42 years, the 28 Palestinian families (more than 475 people) of the Karm Al-Ja’ouni have been fighting in the Israeli courts to stay in their homes.  The families, all refugees from 1948, originally received their homes by the United Nations Refugees Works Agency (UNWRA) and the Jordanian government, which was in control of East Jerusalem from 1949 until the region was illegally occupied and annexed by Israel during the 1967 war.  In 1967, two settler organizations –  the Sephardic Community Committee and the Knesseth Yisrael Association (which later sold its claim to Nahalat Shimon) – claimed that they owned the land and that they had deeds dating back until 1875.  Five years, after their first claim, the settler organizations attempted to register their claims with the Israeli Land Administration. While their claim to ownership was noted in the Land Registry, their claims were never formally registered as a title claim.  In 1982, without the families consent, their lawyer agreed to recognize the settler’s ownership of the land in return for granting the families legal status of protected tenants.  The families, however, refused to pay rent on their own homes and continued to fight the settler’s claims in the court.  The lawyer’s actions, however, provided the settler organizations with the basis for current eviction orders.

Since the 1967 claim, Israeli courts have been presented with irrefutable proof that the settler’s claim was a fraud, including Palestinian landowner, Suleiman Darwish Hijazi presenting the court with documents certifying his ownership, as well as tax receipts from 1927. Earlier this year, the families new lawyer, Salah Abu Hussein traveled to Turkey and located documents in the Ottoman Archives in Ankara proving the settler’s documents were a forgery. According to March 19 report in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, "the Ottoman document proves that the Sephardic Leadership never purchased the compound but only rented it" and that "another Ottoman document confirms that the document presented by the Jewish [settler] party is not authentic" [2]. All such documentation, however, has been repeatedly dismissed out of hand by the Israeli courts.

Not content to evict the families, the Israeli police have continued to harass the evicted families, who are living on the streets outside their homes, destroying their shelter and protest tents. The families have also had to endure continue intimidation and harassment from the illegal Israeli settlers now occupying their homes [3]

On Friday, 11 December, Israelis from groups such as Anarchists Against the Wall and Tay’yush demonstrated in solidarity with the Palestinian families for the fourth week in a row.  My team mate and I joined the 100 or so mostly young Israeli activists as they began the long march to Sheikh Jarrah from Mashbir Plaza/Ben Yehuda St in West Jerusalem.  For an hour, we weaved through the streets of West Jerusalem, announcing our presence with the sound of the well organized drum team and chants in Hebrew, and sometimes in English, for freedom for Sheik Jarrah and the settlers to be removed from the homes belong to the Palestinian families. The response from Israel’s West Jerusalem residents was mixed. Some joined our march, many stood by in shock, others yelled abuse and angrily argued with the Israeli activists, while one unseen person high up in one of the residential apartments pelted the march with eggs, while another person in the same apartment grabbed a house and stuck it out their window to spray the passing march with water. 

Undeterred the march made its way to Sheikh Jarrah.  Along the way we also crossed paths with hundreds of Israeli Occupation Force soldiers wandering down the opposite of the street, amongst the road works taking place. For a moment, the chants to free Sheikh Jarrah ceased and the Israeli activists in Hebrew began to call out in unison the refusenik slogan to the passing soldiers "Soldiers listen well, you to have the right to refuse". 

We soon entered Sheikh Jarrah and made our way to the home of the Al-Kurd family. The Al-Kurd’s became the fifth Palestinian family to be forced from their home on December 1, when settlers occupied one section of their home [4]. Israel’s Magistrate Court ruled that an extension added to the Al Kurd’s home 10 years ago was illegal and gave permission for Israeli settlers occupy the house The Al-Kurd’s appeal was dismissed by the court. The following day, settlers backed by heavily armed private security and Israeli police occupied the home, savagely destroying the families household possessions and dumping them in the yard outside the home.

As we entered the yard, drums beating, it was impossible not to trample over the family’s already destroyed possessions strewn around the yard – toys, shoes belong to adults and children alike, a broken table and the little sentimental nick naks which make a house a home. As I looked around the yard, I was astounded to see that the settlers had also ripped the kitchen stove from the section of the Al-Kurd’s home they were occupying and dumped in unceremoniously in the front yard.  To the right of the occupied house, the Al Kurd family stood quietly and with dignity in a makeshift shelter.

For the next 30 minutes, the very loud protest continued peacefully, chanting and drumming, calling for the settlers to leave the house. Behind the cordon of Israeli police, some of the younger settlers stood watching the demonstration, some attempting to argue with the protestors.

According to the Jerusalem Post’s report on the demonstration, however, "Sheikh Jarrah locals and left-wing activists staged a violent protest in the east Jerusalem neighborhood on Friday afternoon against the growing number of Jews moving into houses there" [5]. The JPost went onto state, "A violent clash ensued when security forces attempted to prevent the demonstrators from entering Jewish houses in the neighborhood". Israeli’s most liberal newspaper, Haaretz, also reported the lie being told by police that the demonstrators were violent and trying to enter the occupied house.  According to Haaretz, "protestors marched from the city centre to Sheikh Jarrah, where police said they tried to enter a home that is partly occupied by Jews before being stopped" and that "Police were instructed to disperse the demonstration, but protestors refused to leave" [6]

This was of course a lie. At no stage did any of the peaceful demonstrators attempt to enter the occupied house and the violence perpetrated on the day came solely had the hands of the Israeli police and military present against unarmed and peaceful demonstrators. 

The police violence, as often is the case, came without warning. Suddenly our non-violence was met with violence, as the police began viciously beating those standing closest to the occupied house.   Some our number attempted to stand in the way of the police and their immediate victims to stop the attack, others just tried to get out of the way of the vicious attack. The courtyard we were in was small and suddenly between 100 and 120 people were surging towards the only exit and entrance. 

At the time, I was simultaneously trying to film what was happening, while moving towards the exit.  As I reached the exit, I either fell or was knocked over by the surge of the crowd attempting get out of the way of the brutality of the police. Suddenly I was being trampled under foot by a hundred people. Recognising it was more dangerous to try and get up, I immediately curled up into a ball to protect myself, as I had been taught in non-violent direct action training. I lay in that position for what seemed like an endless amount of time, my fellow activists tripping over me as the police beat them. Suddenly, one of the Israeli activists and some of the young Palestinian men were trying to pull me out of the way to safety. In the end I was lucky, I ended up with only some bruising to my legs, arms and to my right cheekbone from being kicked in the face.

By this stage the police had violently driven the hundred or more protestors into the street outside the Al Kurd’s family home. The police’s violence, however, didn’t end here. For the next hour, the police brutally continued to beat the non-violent demonstrator and the arrests began. The Israeli activists, skilled in non-violent civil disobedience, however continued to non-violently resist.  Drumming, blowing whistles and chanting, they attempting to protect their fellow activists by putting their bodies in front of their comrades who were the target of the police’s unrestrained aggression.

Reinforced by dozens more police and Israeli military, the police began to brutally headlock the Israeli activists. Dragging them brutally to the ground and across the hard rocks and pavement. Other police began to spray pepper spay into the eyes of the non-violent activists. Again engaging in time worn civil disobedience tactics, their fellow activist tried to prevent the police vehicles leaving with the arrested by standing in front of it. The number of the police arriving kept increasing as did their violence. At one stage, either private security or police officers with black balaclavas over their faces to hide their identity entered the crowd. Each of them carried long black truncheons, a signal that things were about to get even more violent.  However, as the hooded men entered, the crowd surged back towards the other end of the street and suddenly the hooded men were whisked out of sight by other security personnel.  

Many of the Israeli activists arrest on the day were women. Later, after the police had finally decided they had made enough arrests, several of the female activists I spoke to reported they had also been sexually assaulted by the Israeli police during the violent attack on the demonstration. One activist, M, told me how when one of the police officers grabbed her breasts (a tactic use by Israeli security forces, which has become common place, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel against woman activists). M told me that she yelled to his commander who was standing nearby that his subordinate was sexually assaulting her.  The commander’s, however, refused to take action, instead derisively tell her that she was ugly and that his subordinate wouldn’t touch her.

In the end the police’s brutality resulted in more than 10 people – Palestinian, Israeli and Internationals – being injured and 24 non-violent activist being arrested, the majority of whom were Israelis. Speaking with Israeli activists later, many commented that the force used by the police was unprecedented. They also believed that the order had been given for the police to try and stamp out dissent and solidarity with the Palestinian families of Sheikh Jarrah.

There was no violent demonstration in Sheik Jarrah as the Israeli police and occupation forces claimed. Instead there was once again a peaceful non-violent demonstration, which was met with brutal force by the Israeli police and occupation forces. To justify their brutality and illegal behaviour, the Israelis "security" forces once again lied to its own citizens, the Israeli military and the rest of the world. 

In Occupied East Jerusalem, just as in the Occupied West Bank, the Israeli police and  military serve the illegal settlers, assisting them to carryout their illegal activity, doing little to stop their rampages and assaults on Palestinians, whose land and homes they have stolen. There are, however, other Israelis: courageous, determined and outspoken, who actively oppose the reign of the settlers and the apartheid policy of their state.  Each week they stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and stand up for human rights and freedom. Despite the brutality of their government and their police force and "security" forces, they will be, once again, next week at Sheikh Jarrah to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian families who remain "sumoud" (steadfast) and continued to struggle for their human rights and freedom.

– Kim Bullimore is currently living in the Occupied West Bank, where she is a human rights volunteer with the International Women’s Peace Service ( She has a blog and is a regular writer on Palestine-Israeli issues. She contributed this article to


  1. Palestinians evicted in Jerusalem, BBC News, 2 December 2009.
  2. Settlers occupying al-Kurd house in Sheikh Jarrah continue to harass evicted Palestinian families, ISM Media release, 8 December 2009.
  3. Hasson, N., (2009) Turkish documents prove Arabs own E. Jerusalem building. Haaretz, 19 March.
  4. Armageddon is coming to East Jerusalem, Palestine Monitor, 5 December 2009.
  5. Police, locals clash in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem Post, 12 December 2009.
  6. Hasson, N., 21 left-wing activists arrested in violent East Jerusalem clashes, Haaretz, 12 December 2009.
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