Silwan is a neighborhood in East Jerusalem just outside of the old city walls. The streets of the neighborhood are narrow and steep as most of the houses lie on either side of a deep gorge. The people and the geography of Silwan are unforgiving. Various settler organizations have been taking over Silwan house by house for years with the full assistance and permission of the Israeli goverenment. The leading settler group, City of David, is using archeology as a means of disposing hundreds of Palestinian families their homes. The State of Israel has decided that archeology rubble is more important than Palestinian homes and has regularly demolished houses in the name of protecting archeology ruin. The ELAD group is a leading investor in the creation of archeology parks which function as cover for settlers to take over more land in Silwan.
On 1 September 2010, ELAD sponsored a conference about archeology in Silwan. The conference was a lavish affair with hundreds of invitees and what looked to be lovely food. The Shiekh Jarrah Solidarity committee joined by Ta’ayush and the Anarchists Against the Wall held a demonstration to protest the conference. Joined by Palestinian residents of Silwan, the protest begin in the late afternoon as hundreds attempted to approach the entrance to the conference. Border police and the special ‘yasam’ forces were deployed and allowed to use physical violence to prohibit the protesters from getting close to the entrance. The protest stayed completely non-violent as yasam forces repeatedly attacked protesters, threw them to the ground like rag dolls and arrested them. At one point, a settler literally drove his car through the protest, almost running over a number of people. This was all done under the watchful eye of the police chief on site, Avi Cohen, who did nothing to the driver. This incident can be seen at minute 03:25 of the following video.
Despite the intimidating show of force, the protest continued for hours. The protesters spread out through Silwan and small groups were able to confront the settler conference. As you can see in the following video, once protesters got close enough to speak with the settlers, police forces quickly moved in and begin arresting people. Incidentally, the film crew that is being told to stop in the below clip was from CBS’s 60 Minutes. It will be curious to see if this footage makes it into their segmant on Silwan.
While the videos show the events, they do not capture the atmosphere of the demonstration. Palestinians and Israelis were running through the streets of Silwan last night speaking truth to power. Despite Ramadan and the police violence, we continued for hours into the night and affected some of the participants in the conference. It was a successful demonstration.
All of detainees were released on 1500 NIS bail and the promise of a court date in the near future. Daniel, the man in the front photo was released on 5000 NIS bail and the condition that he can’t enter Silwan for three months. Initially, the state asked for a six month probation from ALL of East Jerusalem. Had this request been granted a number of interesting questions about what exactly East Jerusalem means in the eyes of the Israeli government would have been raised.