This hierarchical distinction between levels of catastrophe is common among Palestinians: if you are not evicted from your home, it’s demolished; if you’re not imprisoned then you’re shot in the street; if you’re not shot in the street, there’s a drone in your sky and if it’s not a bomb, it’s exile.’ [1]

Recently, the social media in the Arab world has been bustling with the injustices of what’s been happening across Palestinian-occupied cities. While on the surface level the Palestinian issue ebbs and flows, it has never been a dormant issue on the ground, however, now and then an event takes place that reignites the flames.

So what happened?

Toward the end of April 2021 and the beginning of May, efforts were intensified to evict eight Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Jewish settlers. This comes from an Israeli court that ruled in favor of the Nahalat Shimon settler organization, which claims that the land prehistorically belongs to the Jews and they have the right to reclaim it. This in turn resulted in the Palestinians taking their concerns and worries to the streets in protest of the eventual evictions. The daily protests led to a series of backlashes by the Israeli Occupation Forces where they brutally attacked the Palestinian protestors. Israel’s highest court in May postponed deciding on whether or not to evict the Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah to June. 

Preface to the dispute

Sheikh Jarrah is a neighborhood in Jerusalem’s Old City, home to 28 Palestinian families who sought refuge in the city after losing their homes during al-Nakba in 1948. The relocation to Sheikh Jarrah was administered by Jordan and the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA).

Israel ordered six Palestinian families to leave their homes in Sheikh Jarrah on May 2 to make way for Jewish settlers. Credit – AFP

Currently, Palestinians are witnessing al-Nakba 2.0 at a more calculated pace. As per the results of a survey conducted by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in 2020, at least 218 Palestinian households (around 970 people) are at risk of displacement in East Jerusalem due to having eviction cases filed against them, majority of which have been spearheaded by Jewish settler organizations. [2] It is worthy to note that there are around 130 government-recognized settler organizations and 100 unofficial ones.

Jewish settler organizations have confidence in their tactics as they are backed by the Legal and Administrative Matters Law enacted in 1970. The law permits Jews to sue Palestinians for properties they “claim” to have owned before the establishment of Israel. At the same time, Palestinians are denied the right to build the same case. [3]

Israeli policies in the Palestinian-occupied areas are working towards ensuring the demands of Jewish settler organizations are being met while stepping over the rights of Palestinians. [4] ‘Colonialism in Israel is a state-run project that ultimately aims to achieve the same objective that is being sought in Sheikh Jarrah: the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to ensure a Jewish demographic majority.’ [5]

Human rights violations

What we are witnessing in Sheikh Jarrah is a series of human rights violations. To start, the act of forcing people out of their homes to make room for other people is nothing short of ethnic cleansing. As defined by the United Nations, ethnic cleansing is the act of ‘rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove persons of given groups from the area.’[6]

Secondly, Palestinians and others who post about the Palestinian cause are being censored from left to right. Their freedom of speech is being constrained by social media giants such as Facebook and Instagram. Several users have noted that their stories narrating events taking place in Sheikh Jarrah are attracting a lower than usual view count. In some cases, their content has even been deleted.

Instead of helping liaise the circulation of news and ensuring awareness, Facebook and Instagram, two of the most influential social media agents globally, have actively taken part in delimiting freedom of speech, claiming “technical difficulties”. In reality, the restriction of Palestinians’ freedom of speech or anything related to Palestine is not new news. It is known that the Israeli Ministry of Justice has a cyber unit that systematically surveils Palestinian content and then the unit sends content removal requests to Facebook. It has been reported that the content removal requests sent by the unit increased 600% from 2016 to 2018. Facebook, on its end, rather than taking a neutral stance, has been found to develop policies that unjustifiably take the side of Israel and remove the content as requested.[7]

Other human rights violations that Palestinians are witnessing, amongst others, include the right to adequate housing, the right to privacy, the right to lead a safe and healthy life, and freedom of expression.

The world reacts 

While researching for this article, I couldn’t help but notice how little information there is out there about the incident. While Instagram is flooded with information shared by individuals, the big news agencies have rarely provided the in-depth information required to fully comprehend the extent of the situation. Even on my friends’ stories on Instagram, the only group of people who are reacting to the news or sharing them is mostly Arabs. As opposed to other movements that have garnered a wider social media coverage beyond a continent’s borders. 

On the international level, either than some countries condemning the acts of violence here and there, rarely has any concrete action taken place while the injustices persist. Nonetheless, Egypt opened its Rafah border crossing between the country and Palestine to help provide medical assistance to wounded Palestinians and has permitted Egyptian doctors and healthcare professionals to volunteer to treat Palestinians. [8]

I’ll end with this: ‘Israel can only sustain this regime of oppression with international complicity.’ [9] The violations against Palestinians will persist as long as the international community continues to turn a blind eye to the situation and refuses to step forward to help stop the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.


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