The affluent Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah has become, in the words of one observer, the new battleground of the Israeli left. By now, most readers of +972 are familiar with the story of struggle and dispossession which has typified the Sheikh Jarrah protest movement. In early 2009, Jewish settlers, backed by American-funded organizations like Ateret Cohanim, won a long court battle over ownership of a number of Palestinian houses in Sheikh Jarrah. Siding with the settlers, the Israeli government decided to evict waves of Palestinian families from their homes, claiming that Jews owned the houses before the founding of Israel in 1948.
The legal precedents set by the profligacy of Israel’s legal institutions were not extended to the evicted Palestinians, many of whom owned homes in Jaffa and West Jerusalem before 1948. Some Israeli critics decried the decision, claiming that Israel was making a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital impossible because of the high number of Jews living in Palestinian areas of the city.
The evictions spurred a handful of hearty solidarity activists into holding weekly demonstrations against the ruling. The small demonstrations grew as hundreds of Israelis started showing up on Friday afternoons to protest their government’s policies. The movement became a gateway drug of sorts for a new generation of activists who sought joint struggle with Palestinians as their preferred exercise of political expression.
The development of the protests breathed new life into an Israeli left long dormant from years of status quo and little political gain on the ground. The movement garnered headlines in the domestic and international press as the Israel police used increasingly heavy-handed crowd control measures against the non-violent demonstrations.
Just Vision, the production outfit behind the critically acclaimed documentary Budrus, has just released a series of short films which explore the people who make up this historic movement. From a Palestinian boy who has become active in the joint struggle to an American-born Israeli mother of two Jewish activists, Just Vision’s new film demonstrates the unique mélange of faces present every Friday peacefully demonstrating against Israeli occupation. If you have ever wondered what drives Israelis and Palestinians to jointly demonstrate against Israel’s occupation, this film is a great place to gain important insight.
Disclosure: I am an associate producer of this film project. You can read more about it and see more clips on Just Vision’s website.