The Threat Is Real: Israel Escalates Its "Ethnic Cleansing, Without Guns"
Seeking to stem the flood of terror. Activestills photos
Facing their 18th order to leave and what would be the fifth demolition of their homes - and the largest such destruction since 1967's occupation - Bedouin residents of the critically located village of Jabal Al-Baba are fighting to halt their eviction by Israeli forces intent on Zionizing Jerusalem by severing the West Bank and surrounding the city with settlements. A week after Israeli forces stormed the embattled village to issue yet another eviction notice to its 300 residents, half of them children, about 100 defiant residents and activists held a rally Thursday, the day they'd been ordered to leave, to insist they will stay.
As usual, they are battling far larger forces. Perched between East Jerusalem and the illegal settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, Jabal al-Baba stands on one of the last hilltops near Jerusalem where Palestinians still live - but, Israel hopes, not for long. The village is part of its E1 project to eventually create a Greater Jewish Jerusalem that would drive out thousands of Palestinians who have lived there for generations; under the plan, Israel would build several thousand housing units to replace Jabal al-Baba, thus forming a ring of settlements around Jerusalem that would cut the West Bank in two, further isolating Palestinians and effectively nullifying their hopes for a state with East Jerusalem as its capital. To Israel, the surviving Arab communities are "like a bone in the throat," says one critic. To Palestinians, the plan constitutes “ethnic cleansing, without guns.”
Taking advantage of stalemate in the region and Trump's obliviousness to the notion of Palestinian rights, Israel is adding to the pressures on Palestinians with increased arrests, demolitions, cutting of services and newly discriminatory laws. The far-right government backs two egregiously racist bills: One would annex to Jerusalem about 150,000 Jews now in illegal nearby settlements; another would deny legal rights in the city to over 100,000 Palestinians on the “wrong” side of the barrier, who would be assigned to a separate local council. But nope, no apartheid at work here.
Caught in these Israeli machinations are the people of Jabal al-Baba, who've already seen their community decimated four times; each time, families who lost homes quickly rebuilt while staying with relatives whose houses survived. This time, they saw the Israelis coming. In August, the IDF demolished their kindergarten. Soon after, residents of another village were told an IDF checkpoint would be moved near its entrance, cutting them off from ancient agricultural terraces that would now become “attractions” in an expanded Jerusalem park. In Jabal al-Baba, the fear of losing homes is "something we live with every single day,” says Hassan Mazarah, whose children were born in the last house Israel tore down. The pain is multi-layered: “Bedouin life is simple, belongings are not difficult to replace," he says. "The bigger problem is...they kill our dreams.” Above all, the world should pay attention: “This is a shame for humanity," he says, "where people are expelled under threats and guns - people whose only dream is to herd sheep mornings and evenings."