Keep your eyes on Palestine

Palestinian students walk past Israeli forces during a crackdown on protests in Hebron-Al-Khalil (AFP)

Asa Winstanley

Middle East Monitor  /  February 28, 2022

This is going to be my last MEMO column for a few months. I’m taking some time off to focus on finishing a long-term project which I’ve been working on. If that sounds a bit mysterious, fear not: details will be revealed when I return from my break.

With that in mind, I am trying to look ahead. Escalation of the long-running war in Ukraine last week means it is quite a frightening time in the world, at large.

With even liberal western media brazenly trying to convince us that (unlike Ukrainians) Palestinians, Iraqis, Syrians and others are part of the “uncivilized” non-European world, it is important now, more than ever, to keep your eyes on Palestine.

Israel’s occupation courts system announced last week that it was postponing – or “freezing” – the eviction of the Salem family from the eastern section of occupied Jerusalem.

Although the family has lived in their home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood for decades, they are Palestinians, not Jewish, and Israel is a Jewish supremacist apartheid state.

As the State illegally occupying Palestine, Israel claims the right to expel the indigenous people by force, for the crime of not being Jewish.

The Salem family was forcibly evicted by Zionist militias during the Nakba, the 1948 ethnic cleansing campaign which enabled the foundation of Israel – upon the mass graves of Palestinians.

Some 800,000 Palestinians were expelled by the militias, which then went on to form the basis of the new Israeli army. Today, millions of Palestinians still live as refugees, banned from returning to their homes in historic Palestine (present day Israel, as well as the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem) purely because they are not Jewish.

Extremist Israeli settlers recently set up camp in Sheikh Jarrah, attacking the Palestinian residents and demanding their immediate removal from their homes, so that Jewish extremists can move in and take their place.

But the Israel armed forces fully back the settlers. The State is the settlers and the settlers are the State. The extremists are Israel and Israel is extremism. As finally recognized in February by Amnesty International, Israel is an apartheid State, a State which wants to drive out the indigenous people and replace them with colonists.

But it cannot always get what it wants. The war in Gaza last year – and the armed Palestinian groups’ resistance to it – showed that. Hamas, and the other Palestinian fighters, put up stiff resistance and imposed new realities on Israel.

And that is why Israel has had to postpone their racist eviction of the Salem family from Sheikh Jarrah.

Recall that the May 2021 Israeli war in Gaza actually started in Jerusalem. For the first time, Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza were able to strike back in defence of their people in Jerusalem.

In response to State-backed mobs of “Death to the Arabs” settlers roaming the city, attacking Palestinians in April-May, and in response to the then imminent eviction of other Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, Palestinian rockets from Gaza began attacking Israeli targets in Jerusalem and as far as Tel Aviv.

The timing of the Salem family’s planned expulsion in March reportedly worried Israeli police, as it would have taken place shortly before the start of Ramadan, invoking the prospect of a repeat of last year’s confrontations with the Palestinian resistance.

Israel’s war last year was launched at the end of Ramadan.

So with the media’s attention now turned more towards Ukraine and Russia, is it possible or likely that Israel will “unfreeze” its evictions of the Salem family from Jerusalem? We can hope not. But one thing is for sure: it is important to keep your eyes on Palestine.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist living in London who writes about Palestine and the Middle East