The grassroots campaign united the Palestinians in resistance and turned the world’s attention to the Israeli occupation.
In the past month and a half, we have seen what many are calling a new Palestinian insurgency. Some are dubbing it as the “intifada of unity” because it brought Palestinians together in resistance in colonized Palestine. In fact, they are protesting and demonstrating the settlement of colonialism and its manifestations in different geographical areas from Jerusalem to Gaza.
The catalyst for this new uprising was the threat of the Israeli regime to expel Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah – the famous Palestinian neighborhood in now-occupied East Jerusalem.
Like countless other Palestinian communities, Palestinians living in Sheikh Jarrah have been facing the threat of expulsion for decades. They are engaged in a protracted legal battle with the Israeli regime to stop the capture of their homes and to stop, or at least slow, Israel’s attempts to ethnically purge and completely stop Jewish Jerusalem. .
In late April 2021, the Jerusalem District Court dismissed an appeal against Israeli courts referred to as the “eviction” of eight homes, and ordered that these families vacate their homes by May 2, 2021.
Refusing this order, the families engaged in a lively grassroots campaign to “save Sheikh Jarah” from colonial ethnic cleansing. The campaign was being led by members of the community, specifically the 23-year-old twins, Mohamed and Muna al-Kurd.
The brothers and sisters are sharing the ground reality of Sheikh Jarrah and calling on all Palestinians to take action through their social media accounts, which have hundreds of thousands of followers. Since then his efforts have attracted not only local but also international attention. The campaign has managed to unite Palestinians in colonized Palestine, which is the Palestinian experience: forced displacement.
However, from the very beginning it has faced a major crackdown. Social media users sharing content from and about Sheikh Jarrah reported that their accounts have been censored, limited or closed.
Mohamed al-Kurd himself said he received warnings from Instagram that his posts about the brutality of Sheikh Jarrah and the Israeli regime were violating “community guidelines” and that his entire account could eventually be deleted.
Of course, none of this was unexpected. Social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and YouTube have long been working with the Israeli regime and many of its allies to censor Palestinian speech. Palestinian activists know very well that these platforms have been very effective in helping them reach a global audience, they have also been used for censors and surveys. Over the past decade, several Palestinians have been arrested by the Israeli regime for posting about their struggle and asking people to take action on social media.
Efforts to censor Sheikh Jarrah Bachao Abhiyan and silence those reporting on injustice being done to the community are not limited to social media. Journalists on the ground have also been threatened and harassed by Israeli regime forces. Recently, Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Giwara Buderi has been violently arrested while she attempted to report from the neighbourhood.
Of course, this is also not new – the Israeli regime has been systematically targeting both foreign and local journalists covering Palestine for decades. Israeli security forces have raided several media offices in Palestine over the years, and most recently, they bombed the high-rise building for both Al Jazeera and the Associated Press offices in Gaza.
While Israel has always worked to silence Palestinians, its crackdown on the Save Sheikh Jarrah campaign and the journalists who cover it has been particularly strong and violent. The Israeli military regularly uses brute force to break up protests and regularly sprays Palestinian residents of the neighborhood with dirty water as a form of collective punishment. They have also surrounded the neighborhood with checkpoints since then. Only Palestinians who are registered residents of Sheikh Jarrah are allowed inside, but armed Israeli residents can move around the neighborhood unobstructed at all times. This is the reason why many are now describing the position of Sheikh Jarrah as a siege.
It is clear that the Sheikh Jarrah campaign aims not only because it has succeeded in showing the world the cruelty and injustice of the Israeli regime, but also because it has managed to unite the Palestinians.
However, the brutality of the Israeli regime has failed to stop the campaign or block its access. Activists in Sheikh Jarrah are still mobilized online and on the ground. They not only succeeded in uniting the Palestinians in colonized Palestine in a common struggle, but also drew the world’s attention to the Israeli ethnic cleansing. And for that, Sheikh Jarrah will remain a thorn in the side of the Israeli regime.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.