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Palestinians protest planned E. Jerusalem national park

Israeli Solidarity activists join Palestinian residents in an effort to keep up the struggle against the national park being built on private Palestinian land adjacent to Hebrew University. 

By Max Schindler

Nearly 100 Palestinians and Israelis converged on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem on Friday afternoon to march against a planned national park in the Issawiya and A-Tur neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

The weekly demonstration — organized by the Solidarity Movement and in conjunction with the Issawyia and A-Tur community councils — seeks to forestall the building of the national park in the neighborhood.

The proposed plan will place hundreds of acres of privately owned Palestinian land under the jurisdiction of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority. By allocating the area as a national park, the Israeli authorities avoid paying the necessary compensation.

According to Daniel Dukarevich— a long-time activist affiliated with the Solidarity movement— the national park plan is part of the Israeli government strategy to change the demographic reality in East Jerusalem.

“The Israeli government is trying to build a corridor,” Dukavevich said, pointing to the land designated as a park. “This land will connect to the Silwan and Ir David national parks.”

The planned national park prevents the Issawiya and A-Tur neighborhoods from expanding or starting new construction in the contested area, hampering natural growth.

The Jerusalem municipality previously agreed to sit down with the Issawiya and A-Tur neighborhood councils in order to negotiate on the property. Friday’s march was an attempt to raise public awareness and put pressure on the municipality to reach a more equitable solution.

The protest began following the traditional Friday prayer service. Palestinian boys hoisted Palestinian flags in the air, seen by authorities as an affront, and chanted in Arabic, “End the Occupation.”

The demonstration made no mention of yesterday’s stabbing in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of an ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jew, suspected by the police to have been committed by a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem. It remained non-violent.

As protestors descended toward the Mount of Olives, they passed by a contentious Jewish outpost in the middle of the Issawiya called Hoshen, where a 20-foot Israeli flag hovers over the neighborhood, hung from an oversized pole. An IDF army convoy patrolled in front of the residence to prevent neighborhood demonstrators and settlers from engaging in an altercation.

Hoshen settlement, Mount of Olives (Photo: Max Schindler)

A number of protestors still attend the march on a weekly basis. Many described themselves as jaded and pessimistic but that there were few other alternatives.

One elderly Israeli man who identified himself as Uri said, “I feel disillusioned. But sometimes we also have achievements, we can reduce the national park size.”

According to Mohamed Abu Homos, an Issawiya neighborhood organizer, “there is no optimism with the occupation.” Yet Abu Homos says that the struggle must continue, regardless of the political situation. “We don’t accept the reality and it is our responsibility to raise our voice,” he said.

Max Schindler is a student at Cornell University who is spending the year volunteering on a kibbutz and writing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Read also:
National parks in East Jerusalem: New tool in occupation toolkit
What happened to the protests in Sheikh Jarrah? 
Spotlight: Sheikh Jarrah resource page

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    1. Jack

      Some people think that the ethnic cleansing was just something that happend in 1948 and 1967. Obviously its happening everyday and the world arent doing one thing to stop it still the leaders now full well whats going on.

      Reply to Comment
    2. hanan

      this is actually a jewish owned land stolen when the mufti got hitler’s premission to implement satanic murders of jews in jerusalem. It was also taken over after 1948 when jordan took over the area. you cannot contest facts and cornell should be viewing you a a stain of ignorance. long live israel

      Reply to Comment
    3. Lauren

      I suppose Israel is stealing more land for “national security” reasons?
      All this is really about is ethnic cleansing and destruction of culture. As for 1948, hundreds of Palestinian villages were wiped off the face of the map in brutality and murder. These villages were built over and now they are Jewish villages. No matter how you slice it, dice it, whine, cry and claim victim, the truth is already out there.
      Isralis may be deluded after decades of rationalizing genocide, but, the world does see it for what it is.
      This 2012….. we are supposed to be more civilized and not support a culture of blood lust and terror.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Rafael

      Iran should also be displacing its Jews to Islamize the country. Tit for tat.


      The lands and bank accounts Israel seized from Palestinians in 1948, you transferred to Jewish hands because, apparently, when you fled or are expelled from your home, this means a Jew should come to own what’s left behind. The Arab lands in East Jerusalem, even when presently inhabited by Palestinians, should also belong to Jews because some settlers can always show a document proving they owned them back in the 60s or 70s. And the lands you take from Palestinians in the West Bank, should be yours because God gave them to you. You Zionists will always have an excuse, won’t you?

      And, um, what authority did Hitler have over Palestine? Why did the Mufti need his permission to carry on any murder of Zionist Jews? Any violence between Zionist Jews and Palestinian Arabs in the period developed spontaneously from conflict over land ownership, with no need of Nazi ideological indoctrination, much less permission, to explain the tensions. If you want to be convincing, try to paint a more plausible, less sensationalist, scenario – you can start that by not using words like “satanic” in your next posts.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Kolumn9

      Two things.
      1) Didn’t the government cut down the size of the park already to appease the previous protests?
      2) How is this park even remotely going to connect to Silwan or Ir David? Dukavevitch should consult a map.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Menil

      1. There were talks of that, however it’s reasonable that the residents would want to continue struggling, since it’s barely enough. Land allocation in Jerusalem is grossly discriminatory, with Palestinians, who account to about 35% of the population get around 12% of the land, and barely any new construction. Since 1967, Israel built only Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, and no Arab ones. Why is that?

      2. The plan is to connect this national park with other national parks which do reach Silwan. Look at the map:

      Reply to Comment
    7. Kolumn9

      @Menil. 1) In other words, there is no size of national park that the protesters would accept so compromise is really pointless. Sounds familiar.

      2) Thanks. I didn’t realize the protest was against all national parks planned, rather than just this one.

      Reply to Comment