While Israeli attacks on Gaza stopped following the ceasefire, Palestinians are facing mass arrests in Sheikh Jarrah and other areas.

The ceasefire between Hamas and Israel last week brought an end to another devastating wave of bombardment on Gaza, the Palestinian enclave, at least temporarily. 

But the ceasefire has not stopped Israeli aggression on Palestinians living in Sheikh Jarrah, one of Palestine’s oldest native neighbourhoods established in the 12th century in occupied East Jerusalem, which triggered the recent escalations between both sides. 

On Saturday, Israeli police used force against protesting Palestinians once again in Sheikh Jarrah, where they came together to praise their “martyrs” in Gaza and across occupied territories and other areas under Israeli rule. 

Also the Israeli police continued to harass native residents of Sheikh Jarrah on the weekend, raiding their homes and assaulting them on the premise to “inspect” their residences. 

“There is no cease fire in Sheikh Jarrah,” wrote Mairav Zonszein, an Israeli-American journalist and researcher, on Twitter. 

“What we have seen consistently in terms of treatment of Palestinians, which often is not recognised and necessarily reported on, is this systemic abuse of civil rights of Palestinian people both within the Green Line Israel and more acutely in occupied territories,” says Yasmine Ahmed, the UK director of Human Rights Watch (HRW). 

“It’s the consistent suppression of their civil rights. It’s excessive use of force by Israeli police in terms of managing and dealing protests and all other sorts of things and civil actions,” Ahmed tells TRT World. 

In Sheikh Jarrah, more than any other place, Israel’s “heavy-handed approach” against any Palestinians protesting human rights violations is crystal clear, according to Ahmed. “In terms of Sheikh Jarrah, what happens is really emblematic as well of the fact that there are ongoing concerns about the behaviour of Israeli forces, not only military forces but also police forces, of their use of excessive force, undermining civil rights,” she says. 

Ahmed also thinks “the introduction of very extreme right-wing nationalism,” which fiercely defends settler activity in occupied territories, foments tensions in places like Sheikh Jarrah. Illegal settlers are “harassing and causing violence to Palestinian people,” she says.  

Along with “the rise of nationalism and violence”, the Israeli state provokes and encourages “this kind of behaviour, which I think is fracturing the society internally within the Green Line Israel,” Ahmed says. 

Right-wing settler activity in occupied territories foments tensions in places like Sheikh Jarrah. In this picture, a Jewish settler and a Palestinian protester hold their mobiles to take pictures of each other, May 5, 2021.
Right-wing settler activity in occupied territories foments tensions in places like Sheikh Jarrah. In this picture, a Jewish settler and a Palestinian protester hold their mobiles to take pictures of each other, May 5, 2021. (Ammar Awad / Reuters)

“There is a fracturing of that society or at least an evidence of that fracturing of society, which becomes more and more apparent and more and more extreme.” 

Fracturing Israeli state

As Ahmed drew attention to the increasing divisions inside Israeli society, during the latest escalations, there have been various protests in towns and cities which have mixed Palestinian and Jewish populations like in Jaffa. 

But Israeli state reaction was the same as it had been in the occupied territories. 

Israeli security forces “announced their intent to arrest over 500 Palestinian citizens of Israel over the next 48 hours,” wrote Yara Hawari, a Palestinian academic and writer, on Twitter. 

“This wave of mass arrests will take place as part of what Israel calls a “law and order” campaign. Thousands of police officers will carry out violent arrests, kicking into doors, brutalizing families and kidnapping our brothers and sisters,” Hawari added. 

During the latest escalations, there have been rebellions from not only Gazans and Palestinian residents of occupied territories in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, but others who hold Israeli citizenships, too.

Seeing an expanding front against Israel, especially from within, Israel is moving to crush dissent - this is visible through mass arrests.

“This is not just an attempt to intimidate and discipline those who participated in the Unity Uprising for justice and liberation. This is a declaration of war. It is the settler colonial project’s way of attempting to crush our people’s spirit, resistance and resilience,” Hawari noted. 

Since the beginning of escalations in early May, the Israeli police arrested more than 1,4000 Palestinians to silence their opposition. 

HRW’s Ahmed underlines that the current ceasefire “will not hold forever until underlying abuses and systematic repression of Palestinian people is addressed.” In order to address that, she thinks countries like the US, the UK and Canada, which have very close relations with Israel, financially supporting it, need to say “enough is enough” to Israel.

Both countries and the international community need to apply pressure in order to stop Israeli aggression against Palestinians, giving a sense to Tel Aviv that its impunity is not limitless, according to Ahmed. 

She reminds us that in the past, Israel’s hardliner Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was heard saying to police officers not to be concerned about accountability, ensuring them that he will protect them against any legal actions. “You have our full backing, do not be afraid,” he reportedly said. 

Palestinian unity and international solidarity

Despite continuing atrocities, Palestinians seem to have found a more united front than ever before against a state led by an embattled prime minister under the shadow of multiple corruption charges. On Friday, under international pressure, Israel was forced to stop its recent assault on Gaza. 

A Pro-Palestinian protest in New York on May 18, 2021.
A Pro-Palestinian protest in New York on May 18, 2021. (Reuters)

“Today, the Palestinian resistance scored a major victory, arguably unprecedented in its proud history. This is the first time ever that Israel is forced to accept that the rules of the game have changed, likely forever, and it is no longer the only party that determines political outcomes in occupied Palestine,” says Ramzy Baroud, an author and a Palestinian political analyst. 

“The consequences of this realisation and Israeli defeat will be far-reaching, not only in the Palestinian people’s collective struggle for freedom and liberation, but also in the nature, scope and language of international solidarity with Palestine and the Palestinian people,” Baroud tells TRT World

“We said it a million times before, and now, we say it again but with greater confidence than ever before, only steadfastness, only sumud, only muqawama, only resistance will deliver justice and freedom in Palestine. Nothing else matters. Nothing else counts,” the Palestinian author adds. 

As Baroud says, the political game across the Holy Land has changed. The more Israel continues to apply pressure on Palestinians, the more it receives international condemnation from every corner of the world. 

On Sunday, more than 250 academics signed a letter directed towards the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who has already launched a war crimes investigation over Israel, urging her “to use all means at your disposal to put an end to this crime: to publicly condemn these forced evictions and put the Israeli authorities and the perpetrators on notice that they may be investigated and prosecuted.” 

“Palestinian families are being forcibly transferred from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem and their property appropriated by Jewish settlers with the full support and backing of the Israeli State, its judiciary and armed forces,” the letter said. 

Source: TRT World