Thursday, June 11, 2009

Silwan facing demolition

When the afternoon's sweltering heat subsided, an ISM volunteer took us to Silwan. Silwan is a Palestinian neighborhood on the south east side of Jerusalem. It is more slummish than the neighborhood we are staying in, with houses toppling over each other and people crowded on to stoops and balconies. It is a tight knit and politically charged area - when the second Intifada came to Jerusalem, it began here.

The Israeli government has condemned the entire neighborhood to be demolished. They want to build an archeological park- a tourist trap that would come at the price of at least 88 Palestinian homes (design plan pictured right). Unlike at the Hunnoun house, the Israeli government is not even pretending that these houses do not belong to the Palestinians living there. They simply do not care. They are using the Israeli equivilant of imminent domain, a legal device that allows the government to confiscate land when they deem it "in the public interest" to do so. And of course it is in the public interest, so long as Palestinians are not part of "the public." Silwan is a political threat - what could be more in Israel's interest than demolishing it? (left is repeats of 8 demolition orders they recieved yesterday)

The residents of Silwan have set up a large tent in a pull out from the main road. The tent has become a center of their struggle against the demolition. Every week they flier, send out press releases, and bring tour groups to the tent in an attempt to expose the blatant ethnic cleansing taking place in Silwan. Like at the Hunnoun house they have exhasted all legal options, and are now relying entirely on media exposure and international pressure. Unlike the Hunnoun house, there are no set demolition dates. The bulldozers could come at any time to any house, and there will be no time to call the media or bring in internationals.

Many families have removed all the furniture from their homes. They have survived demolitions before, and don't want to go through the process of replacing everything they own again. Many sleep with their belongings packed in bags by their beds, so that they are ready to flee when the time comes. But not all of them plan on fleeing. For some it is better to be buried in alive than to surrender their homes.

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