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Historic Protest in Ras al-Amud, Jerusalem

30 May 2011

For the first time in decades, Palestinian activists in Ras al-Amud, a neighborhood of Jerusalem south-east of the Old City, invited Jewish Israeli activists to join them in their protest against a fortress settlement in their area. The neighborhood is the site of nearly daily confrontations between Palestinian youth and Israeli forces, and is sometimes referred to as the "daily intifada". It is located in an area known as E1, or the "linchpin settlement" which if won over by settlers, would officially divide the West Bank into a south and a north half. The Real News' Lia Tarachansky spoke to Michel Warschawski, the author of On the Border, and Sarah Beninga, a central activist in the Jerusalem Solidarity movement about the demonstration where for the first time Israeli police used tasers, about the strategic importance of Ras al-Amud, and about the behind-the-scenes of building solidarity.



Michel Warschawski is a journalist and writer and a founder of the Alternative Information Center (AIC) in Israel. His books include On the Border and Towards an Open Tomb - the Crisis of Israeli Society.


LIA TARACHANSKY, TRNN: Ras al-Amud is a Jerusalem neighborhood southeast of the Old City, sometimes referred to as the daily intifada. For years, Palestinian youth have thrown stones at the police and were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and more often than elsewhere, live ammunition.

~~~UNIDENTIFIED: In the midnight, the soldiers come to their houses and took them to the prison. Every day, we have two people: soldiers and the young Palestinian. They--.



UNIDENTIFIED: Every day. Soldier give gas against our young people. Young people give stones. And the result, they took them in the midnight to the prison.~~~

TARACHANSKY: On Friday, for the first time in decades, Jewish-Israeli solidarity activists were invited to demonstrate against the fortress settlement established in the neighborhood. The Real News spoke to Sarah Beninga, one of the leading activists who was injured and arrested on Friday.~~~

SARAH BENINGA, JERUSALEM SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT: So we've been demonstrating for a year and a half or over a year and a half in Sheikh Jarrah. It's another neighborhood in East Jerusalem. In Silwan, also, before we had demonstrations there, we had connections there, and it took a long time for things to come to the point where we were able to do joint demonstrations [incompr.] because it's also another area which is very violent because of the huge settler existence there and the police supporting the settlers there. And the police were very violent as well.

TARACHANSKY: It took you a while to go from Sheikh Jarrah to Silwan and from Silwan to Ras al-Amud and what it takes to be finally trusted and invited by the Palestinians.BENINGA: The Palestinians, rightfully so, are very suspicious of Israelis coming into their neighborhoods, because they don't [incompr.] their experience throughout the past 40-something years. They've been betrayed many times and used and so on [incompr.] the settlers use all kinds of horrible methods to get people out of their houses. So I'm saying there's a basic suspicion. And we're talking undercover police. We're talking what's called /mIs.taU."vi/, which are people who supposedly look Palestinian, and they come into a demonstration, and then they start throwing stones and make--and then it gives the military or the police an excuse to come in and start raiding the demonstration or gas or bullets or whatever.~~~

TARACHANSKY: The protesters were demonstrating against the addition of 25 families to the fortress settlements of Maale HaZeitim. Carved out of the center of the neighborhood, it's heavily guarded by private security guards 24 hours a day. Until recently, the struggle here has been going on in the background and it's been led by youth. Defense for Children International reports that children are often arrested in the middle of the night in Ras al-Amud, beaten, and interrogated by Israeli forces. But the fight here is only part of the larger battle for Jerusalem. Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the US Congress, reiterating the longtime Israeli position towards the city.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.TARACHANSKY: The Real News spoke to Michel Warschawski, the cofounder of the Alternative Information Center, a longtime Israeli activist, and the author of On the Border. At the end of the '80s, Warschawski was a political prisoner sentenced to jail time for his work on the issue of borders and Jerusalem.~~~

MICHEL WARSCHAWSKI, AUTHOR AND ACTIVIST: In 1967, the annexation of East Jerusalem was done under the pretext of reunifying Jerusalem. Reunifying is something very sexy, very positive, like Berlin, like other artificially divided cities. The problem is that what was annexed had nothing to do with Jerusalem ever. It is ten time bigger than what was Jerusalem. In fact, what was annexed was all the territory that could be described as Jerusalem. This is why it stopped in Bethlehem--no one would have bought the idea that annexing Bethlehem would have been reunifying Jerusalem in the south. So we went to--until Bethlehem, and it was annexed. Until Ramallah, but without Ramallah. It was annexed. And until the eastern neighborhood of East Jerusalem, the very populated neighborhood of Abu Dis. And the principle was maximum lands, minimum Palestinian population. Where there were Palestinian population, it was outside the annexation. The empty lands or the mostly empty land of these small towns or villages or neighborhoods outside Jerusalem were taken. The villages and the cities were kept outside. At the heart of this project is what is known as E1 area. E1 is a big space between the Old City in East Jerusalem and Maale Adumim. And the priority since more than ten years is to create a continuity of Israeli existence between Maale Adumim and East Jerusalem in E1. It's mathematically impossible to find the number of people able to settle it. So you have a plan for a cemetery, for a park, for a hotel complex, and several neighborhoods or several settlements. E1, in my opinion, is top priority to fight against. Confrontation with the local population in Silwan, as well as in Sheikh Jarrah or in Ras al-Amud, is now part of the policy of the government, which implies, of course, physical confrontation, repression, and then, at a certain stage, the expulsion.

TARACHANSKY: So it sounds like a vicious sort of race to get as much as possible of East Jerusalem Judaized in the case that there's ever a division or if any--let's say the United States imposes giving back the territory that was occupied in '67.

WARSCHAWSKI: Absolutely.~~~

TARACHANSKY: On Wednesday, tens of thousands of settlers are going to ascend on Jerusalem for an annual march celebrating what is known as Jerusalem Day. This march often ends in violence for the local Palestinians living east of the Green Line in the city.

BENINGA: Jerusalem Day is a day that celebrates the unification of Jerusalem that happened in the '67 war. Although Jerusalem has been declared unified, it's really a separated city. It's actually a kind of small apartheid city. And you see this [incompr.] like Arab neighborhoods don't have basic things. They don't have a city plan. Some of them don't have sewage and electricity done by the municipality [incompr.] because they don't have a city plan, there are no permits given out, or there are very little--I think 100 given out in the last year. And social service is very different, like much more in the Jewish--in the West Jerusalem. And on Jerusalem Day, what they do is at night they have what's called [incompr.] it's like a parade of flags. It's basically a day that celebrates the occupation.

TARACHANSKY: Six protesters were arrested and released later in the day. Several were injured lightly, and one demonstrator was Tasered. This was the first time police used Tasers in such protests, according to the activists. They are now preparing to demonstrate against the tens of thousands of settlers who will ascend on the city on Wednesday for Jerusalem Day.

End of Transcript

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