Editorial: Freedom in the air

Israeli police on Sunday detained two members of a prominent family in the contested Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Jerusalem who led protests against attempts by Jewish settlers to evict dozens of Palestinian families from their homes in the area.

The twin brother and sister were released later in the day. The arrests of Muna and Muhammad al-Kurd, 23, came a day after police detained a well-known Al Jazeera reporter covering a demonstration in the neighborhood.

The reporter, Givara Budeiri, was held for four hours before she was released and sent to a hospital to treat a broken hand. It was not clear how her hand was broken, but her boss blamed police mistreatment.

Earlier this year, heavy-handed police actions in Sheikh Jarrah and other parts of east Jerusalem fueled weeks of unrest that helped spark an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Those tensions are simmering again and could flare anew if Israeli ultranationalists follow through on plans to march Thursday through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.

Israeli police were expected to hold consultations on whether the parade, which was originally set to take place when the war erupted on May 10, would be allowed to proceed.

Renewed violence could complicate the task of embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political opponents, who formed a fragile and disparate coalition last week, of passing a parliamentary vote of confidence required to replace him and take office. A close ally of Netanyahu oversees the police.

In Sheikh Jarrah, Jewish settlers have been waging a decades-long campaign to evict the families from densely populated Palestinian neighbourhoods just outside the walls of the Old City.

The area is one of the most sensitive parts of east Jerusalem, which is home to sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims and which Israel captured in 1967 and annexed in a move not recognised internationally.

Israel views the entire city as its capital, while the Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Settler groups and Israeli officials say the Sheikh Jarrah dispute is merely about real estate. But Palestinians say they are victims of a discriminatory system.

The settlers are using a 1970 law that allows Jews to reclaim formerly Jewish properties lost during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation, a right denied to Palestinians who lost property in the same conflict.

 

NT Bureau