The price of Jerusalem
I turned on Al Jazeera on Sunday to see a live interview with Maher Hanoun. In 2009, I was living with Maher’s family in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah when they were evicted from their home.
It was 5:15am on Sunday 2nd August, when I woke up to the sound of the Hanoun family’s front room windows being smashed in. I had just laid down to rest 20 minutes earlier.
We had known that the threat of eviction was imminent ever since the first order of this year was served on 19 February of that year. The family had already been kicked out of their home once, in 2002, but it was still hard to imagine that the day would ever come.
By the time I’d got to my feet, scores of soldiers were rushing into the house and had surrounded me. Due to my disability I cannot walk at a fast pace, which they used as an excuse to increase their level of aggression, kicking me as I fell to the ground and pushing me out the front door. As I tumbled down the stairs outside, I pointed at my wheelchair:
“That’s my wheelchair,” I said. “I need it because I can’t walk.”
“No! No!” the armed Israeli forces replied, continuing to shove me away.
It was only a couple of hours before a van of Jewish settlers drove up and began moving in to the Hanoun family’s house. We slept the night on the pavement opposite the home.
The next day, Maher spoke to reporters who had gathered by the olive tree we sat under for shade in the day, and slept under for shelter at night:
“We have been made refugees again,” he told the reporters. “This is a slow genocide they are conducting against the Palestinians of East Jerusalem.”
At the time, the local representative of the Palestinian Authority was prompt in delivering a verbal condemnation of the eviction of the Hanoun family. But we now know, thanks to ‘The Palestine Papers’ leaked to Al Jazeera, that their words were nothing but a facade, and that the PA had already offered Sheikh Jarrah, along with most of the rest of East Jerusalem, to the Israeli government a year and a half previously.
As he was interviewed on Al Jazeera, Maher spoke with the same courage as he had during the time I spent living with his family that summer:
“Jerusalem must be first,” Maher asserted, “all of Jerusalem. I do not see how there can be a Palestinian state without it. If this is the case, negotiations must be stopped immediately.”
I suspect that his words will speak for many Palestinians in the coming weeks. For the so-called “Palestinian Authority”, I cannot see these papers as anything but the final straw.
What the PA have now put beyond doubt is that they do not care for people like Maher and his family. They do not care for Palestinian families who have lived in Jerusalem for generations. When Saeb Erekat tells US state department officials that he wants only “a symbolic number of refugees” to return, he shows that he does not care for the masses of Palestinians living in camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, and the millions more scattered across the world.
Mr. Erekat went on Al Jazeera to defend himself, but his argument was pathetic, at best:
“Is it not strange that we would accept all these concessions that Israel is asking for and there is still no peace deal?”
Yes, Mr. Erekat, that is exactly what we think. We think that the PA have offered concessions of epic proportions, concessions that sell out the most basic rights of their people, with nothing offered in return, and that Israel have still rejected your offers. In fact, Mr. Erekat, we have thought it for a long time, but it is now documented fact.
Mahmoud Abbas, the disputed President of the Palestinian Authority, expressed his “shock” at the release of The Palestine Papers. I think Mr. Abbas has a lot more shocks to come in the next few days. Perhaps the Saudis should keep a room free for him and Erekat; I’m sure they’d be happy to stay with the recently deposed Tunisian President Ben Ali.Tagged in: Al Jazeera, jerusalem, Maher Hanoun, Palestine, Saeb Erekat, Sheikh Jarrah
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