Approximately 30 Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals gathered at the edge of Shu'fat refugee camp today to demonstrate against the new Israeli checkpoint, which opened last Monday, December 12 and that an Israeli activist referred to as "ethnic cleansing." Palestinian children threw stones; Israeli police fired rubber-coated bullets at the kids.
Jeff Halper, founder of ICAHD, on the right
A number of local Palestinian activists were reportedly arrested prior to the demonstration.
The small group of protesters stood in the roundabout nearest to the new checkpoint, holding signs and giving speeches. Israeli police approached and asked the group to move 20 meters back because the protesters were "bothering" them. The demonstrators responded that the checkpoint bothered them and refused to move.
An Israeli policeman argues with a Palestinian protester
After a tense stand-off, the police left and the protest continued.
"This [checkpoint] has nothing what so ever to do with security," Jeff Halper, a co-founder of the Israeli Commitee Against House Demolitions, said. "There are Palestinians on both sides of the border. [The checkpoint] has one purpose--to concentrate 50,000 Palestinians on one side of the [separation] wall so their residency can eventually be revoked."
Halper added that the checkpoint is "ethnic cleansing."
Shu'fat refugee camp was founded by Jordan in 1966. Today, it is home to approximately 50,000 Palestinians. It is located in the eastern part of the city and falls inside of Israeli-drawn municpality lines.
Many of the residents hold Jerusalem residency. But to keep this status, they must prove that Jerusalem remains the "center" of their life. According to activists, the checkpoint--which separates one area of Jerusalem from another, impeding freedom of movement--makes this already difficult task more difficult. Scores of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem lose their residency rights every year; 2008 marked an all-time high, with the Israeli government stripping over 4000 Palestinians of their status.
Jaber Mouheisen, head of the Shu'fat's Popular Committee, called the checkpoint illegal. "We carry Israeli ID cards...This is our right to live here and move freely."
He added that the occupation would fall "sooner or later."
As the protest dispersed, small children threw stones towards the checkpoint. Israeli police fired rubber-coated bullets. After the kids continued, police entered the refugee camp with their weapons drawn. Israeli protesters appealed to them to leave, saying their presence and their weapons were a provocation. The police retreated to the roundabout near the checkpoint.
When asked via email about the purpose of the new checkpoint at Shu'fat refugee camp and whether it was intended to separate Jerusalem residents from other areas of the city, Israeli officials did not respond.
All photos by Mya Guarnieri