Do not go quietly into that good night - protest tent destroyed in East Jerusalem

Om Kamel's Protest tent in East Jerusalem has become a hub for activists, journalists, and volunteers, inspiring others to set up similar tents, bringing attention the forced eviction and destruction of Palestinian homes.
palestine quds sit in
Israeli security forces at the tent site © Saja Kilani

JERUSALEM, Aug 5, 2009 (MENASSAT) - These tents come as a response to the Israeli authorities' continuous destruction of Palestinian homes, under the pretext that homeowners do not have the proper permits to stay, or the claim that their property was bought by settlers.

Contrary to the tents of refugee camps, erected after numerous displacements of Palestinians from both pre-1948 territories and post-1967 territories, the current tents in East Jerusalem have come to symbolize resistance and an active approach against injustice. 

Om Kamel al-Kurd, a Jerusalem citizen, has become the spokesperson for this movement. After being thrown out of her house by Israeli settlers last November, she placed her tent in Sheikh Jarah the spot from where she was displaced. Dubbed the "Om Kamel Protest tent," it has become a landmark for passersby and a visible story for media outlets; conferences and press interviews have been held there frequently, highlighting the forced eviction of Arabs and the destruction of Arab homes in Israel.

The tent has also become a hub and meeting point for activists, journalists and volunteers, as well as a center of awareness building. It has also worked to attract political leaders and ambassadors.

Shortly after Om Kamel's tent became a focal point in the community, other Palestinians followed suit and set up their own tents - like the Hanoun and Ghawi families who set up tents in Hawd al-Boustan, another area in East Jerusalem.

On Sunday, Israeli security forces surrounded the tent of Om Kamel after expelling the Hanoun and Ghawi families from their homes. The families have lived in Sheikh Jarrah since 1956 but an Israeli court ruled that the homes belonged to Israeli settlers who claimed to own the property.

Over 50 Palestinians lost their homes in Sundays evictions, and sources on the ground said that the Hanoun and Ghawi families were dragged out of their homes by gunpoint.

Tents could spark Intifada

Mohammad Sadeq, head of the Jerusalem Media Center says, "The media turned the tent into a center of stories. We have daily news coming from the tents. They have become a culture, a place to meet for workshops, and the tent has succeeded in becoming an icon for Jerusalem.”

The tent has also become a symbol of resistance and steadfastness, as opposed to the tents created in ‘48 or ‘67 - times when Palestinians were displaced en masse and forced to live in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza and in other countries in the Arab world. The new tents, says Oum Kamel, “will be the flag to return to our homes, and our keys.”

“The media attention helped the momentum of the protest tent, and will also help in the launch of the Jerusalem revolution and the next Intifada. The media attention helped revive these tents, so I don’t think they will disappear,” said Sadeq.

Not limited to Jerusalem, house demolitions and forced evictions of Palestinians take place on a regular basis inside Israel - part of what many say is a state-sanctioned attempt to force the Arab population to leave. Recent demolitions took place in Wadi Aara in northern Israel, in the center of what is known as the Arab triangle region.

As for the destruction of Palestinian homes in '48 territories and in Jerusalem, these largely occur because building permits are almost never granted to Arabs or are not recognized by Israel.

In fact, building permits cost thousands of dollars and are slowed down by bureaucratic processes that are made even more difficult because of inaccurate maps drawn up for Jerusalem and for the Arab territories that have remained incomplete since the Nakba - the forced removal and killing of some 700,000 Palestinians during the creation of Israel in 1948.

Improper mapping has thus added to problems in organization and can be tagged on to a litany of obstacles placed on Palestinians by Israel when residents submit formal construction plans.

As for the more regular occurence of Jewish settlers taking the homes and lands of Palestinians, they regularly claim to have documents - often suspicious documents - proving their so-called religious ownership of the land and to the houses, while claiming that many Palestinians sold their houses to earn money some 60 years ago.

After Sunday's eviction at Om Kamel al-Kurd's tent, a member of one of evicted Hannoun family, Maher Hannoun, released this statement: "Despite condemnation from the international community about the evictions of my neighborhood, Sheikh Jarrah, the Israeli government continues to pursue the ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem. My family were refugees from 1948 and now we have become refugees again. We were forced out of homes to make way for settlers, contrary to international law. The legal case that residents presented in court included an Ottoman-era document which discounts the settler associations claim of ownership over Sheikh Jarrah land and homes. But the unjust policies of Israel to judaize East Jerusalem render our legal proof of ownership irrelevant."