Middle East Eye / February 13, 2022
Jewish Settler violence in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood surges after a far-right Knesset member opens office on land belonging to a Palestinian family.
On Sunday morning, Jewish settlers stormed occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, ahead of the reopening of a far-right Knesset member’s office on land belonging to a Palestinian family, according to a Middle East Eye correspondent.
Dozens of settlers set up a tent on the Salem family land, who are facing imminent expulsion, and clashed with residents and supporters, injuring 73-year-old owner Fatima Salem.
Settlers scuffled with the residents and used pepper spray, as chairs were hurled by both sides, before Israeli police stepped in to push Palestinian crowds back.
Lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir joined the settlers in the tent where he reopened his office, claiming that they are “the landlords”.
Ben-Gvir is head of the Jewish Power party, part of the Religious Zionism political alliance that calls for the eviction of Palestinians from their lands and running Israel according to Torah texts.
On Saturday, he announced his intention to reopen his office in Sheikh Jarrah on a plot of land belonging to the Salem family that was confiscated by settler groups last month.
Following the announcement, dozens of settlers raided the neighbourhood just after midnight, pelting stones at Palestinian homes and damaging cars.
Settlers then reached the house of the Salem family and assaulted women and children with pepper spray, residents told Anadolu Agency.
“They came out of nowhere and pepper-sprayed me and my neighbour Abu Mohammad. My eyes were burning and I couldn’t open them. I couldn’t breathe,” Fatima Salem said.
Israeli security forces used rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear gas to disperse Palestinians in the ensuing confrontations, according to Palestinian media.
At least 16 residents were injured, an ambulance service told local media. Six Palestinians were arrested.
Meanwhile, two settlers were also wounded, Haaretz reported.
The Salem family has been fighting for decades in courts against settler claims over their home.
In 1987, Fatima Salem was ordered by an Israeli court to vacate the house on claims that she couldn’t prove her residence there before the death of her parents. Salem says she was born in the house and has lived there since.
She now lives in the house with her son and daughter and their families.
The court order is based on a claim by settler group Nahalat Shimon, who has been active in pursuing eviction orders against Palestinian families in the Jerusalem neighbourhood.
Nahalat Shimon is the Hebrew name of Sheikh Jarrah. Settlers say that Jewish families lived in the area before 1917 and that the properties belong to them.
The 1987 decision was frozen in the same year but the case was reactivated in 2015. In December 2021, the family were given a final eviction notice.
On 21 January, Jewish settlers accompanied by police seized a plot of land owned by the Salems, adjacent to the home.
Last week, authorities informed the Salems that they have until 1 March to leave the house.
Currently, 37 Palestinian families live in Sheikh Jarrah, six of them facing imminent eviction. Since 2020, Israeli courts have ordered the eviction of 13 Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah.
The area became a focal point of protest and sit-in solidarity activities last year, drawing in Palestinian and anti-occupation Israeli and international activists.
* MEE correspondent Latifeh Abdellatif contributed to this report from Sheikh Jarrah.