BY: Dr Amira Abo el-Fetouh
Coinciding with the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba (Catastrophe) and the theft of Palestine, the Zionist state of Israel continues to usurp what is left of the historic land and erase the Islamic and Arab identity of Jerusalem by Judaising it. In an effort to unify West and East Jerusalem and erase the Arab presence in the latter, the occupation authorities have resorted to their tried and tested ethnic cleansing, which Israel has carried out since the creation of the usurper state in 1948.
Hence the decision to expel the residents of Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood in the heart of Arab East Jerusalem, which Israel has occupied since 1967. By throwing the Palestinians out of their homes, Israel hopes to establish a huge settlement project that includes 600 settlement units to house Zionist usurpers coming from all around the world with no affiliation or roots in the land. That is exactly what has happened to the Palestinian refugees, whose land has also been stolen.
Sheikh Jarrah is named after the doctor of the great Muslim leader, Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyubi, who liberated Jerusalem from the Crusaders in the 12th century. Sheikh Hussam Al-Din Al-Jarrahi was known simply as Al-Jarrah. The Israelis will change the name of the neighbourhood to erase its inherent Arab identity.
The crisis in Sheikh Jarrah is a microcosm of the seizure of Palestine from 1948 onwards, with Israel using the same tools and deceptions. It serves to remind us about the massive land theft through the establishment of a colonial state on the land belonging to another people.
Israeli claims ownership of the land where Sheikh Jarrah is, just at it claims ownership of the rest of occupied Palestine. It uses deception, propaganda and forgeries to “prove” its claim. The documentary evidence for this actually proves the false nature of Israeli claims. It is a well-known fact that Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid issued several decrees forbidding the sale of land to Jews and preventing them from owning property in Palestine in general, and in Jerusalem in particular. He even banned Jewish visitors from staying in Jerusalem for more than a month. It is entirely false, therefore, for Israel to claim ownership of Sheikh Jarrah’s land.
Turkish historian Omer Tellioglu explained in his interview with Arabi21 that there are hundreds of documents in the Ottoman archive that show that the empire closely monitored the situation in Palestine and the movements of every foreign or non-Muslim within its borders. He stressed the invalidity of the Zionist allegations and pointed out that the Jewish intrusion into Palestine in general and Jerusalem, in particular, has been monitored since it started and was opposed by the Ottomans.
The news site published copies of these important documents that the Turkish government placed at the disposal of the Palestinian Authority, to make use of the Ottoman archive as it pleases. However, what is the PA doing about what is happening in Sheikh Jarrah? What is it doing about the attacks on worshippers in Al-Aqsa Mosque during the month of Ramadan? It is completely absent as if the matter is of no concern. The PA remains satisfied with its security coordination with Israel and handing over the heroic resistance fighters to the occupation security forces.
When the Zionists turned the courtyard of Al-Aqsa Mosque into a battlefield and pointed their guns at the chests of unarmed worshippers, they were faced with tens of thousands of Palestinians from all over their occupied lands and they were stronger than the Israeli weapons. Their defence of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque will pass into legend because of their faith and steadfastness. They struck fear into the hearts of the usurpers.
There is no question that the Palestinians who defend Al-Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Jarrah are defending the dignity and honour of the entire Muslim Ummah. They are paying the price for inaction and negligence of their Zionist Arab rulers with their own flesh and blood. It is down to such rulers that the Ummah is angry at their inability to support them to protect hearts, minds and souls.
What is happening in Sheikh Jarrah and Jerusalem is a crucial turning point; I believe that there can be no going back to the status quo as it was. Palestine will not be the same again.
Moreover, the Aqsa Intifada has brought the Palestinian issue back at the centre of Arab and international attention after it had almost disappeared with the spread of the normalisation pandemic that has swept the Arab world. It has proved that the billions paid by the normalisation countries, headed by the UAE, to erase Palestine from the Arab conscience was in vain. The Arab people’s compass still points towards Palestine and Jerusalem and the normalising countries will not be able to realign it, no matter how hard they try with their power, money and media.
The solidarity of the Palestinians across their lands occupied since the 1948 Nakba with what is happening in Sheikh Jarrah and Jerusalem has spread hope across the region, not just amongst the people of Palestine. Every Arab has felt at some stage that they are Palestinian by nature, which heralds a new Palestinian uprising. It is a historic opportunity to end the political division and restore cohesion to the Palestinian body as a whole by agreeing on a comprehensive national liberation project that will be the core of a wide-ranging resistance strategy which engages the masses on the Palestinian street.
This can then be used to rebuild the Palestine Liberation Organisation based on its first charter, including the clauses regarding the struggle to regain Palestine from the river to the sea which were removed by the Oslo Accords (although I would prefer that the page of the PLO be turned over completely given its disastrous decisions). The PLO’s role has ended; its time has passed and a new Palestinian entity with a young patriotic spirit must be born. The young people are driving the Aqsa Intifada, and we must take this into account, with a new Palestinian leadership elected that restores the Palestinian issue to a national liberation cause, ditching Oslo and its consequences in the process in order to manage the national project in all its manifestations.