Silwan seen from the archeological siteEven larger numbers of evictions are planned in Silwan, on the south side of East Jerusalem, to make way for landscaped gardens, shrines and monuments to honour King David who Israelis believe lived there. Archeologists have been digging in this area for many years without coming up with any concrete evidence, but since the settler movement Elad was made responsible for the preservation of the City of David national park, in the heart of Silwan, it has been turned from an archeological into a political project. Our team visits this area regularly to talk to the families, get updates, and take part in their protests. After eviction orders have been served, police can come hours, days, or years later, but usually at any time. The waiting causes tremendous anxiety, and children are traumatised by the fear and helplessness they see in their parents.

So, Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, and the Mount of Olives which also has big settler projects, are the current targets. This year alone, from January to July, the UN has documented forcible displacement of 194 people, including 95 children. Another 107, including 46 children, have been affected by house demolitions. Conservative UN estimates show that 1,500 demolition orders are pending. How is it that no compensation is offered and children can be turfed out onto the street in front of homes that their families have lived in for generations without anyone batting an eyelid? (Child protection laws? Organisations defending childrens’?)

An Israeli settlement in SilwanOf course, it’s not true that everybody looks the other way. The Israeli peace camp opposes the spread of settlements. Part of our team’s mandate is to support their activities too. The other day we joined a demonstration called by Peace Now to protested ex-US presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s presence at a settler-organised barbecue in the grounds of the derelict Shepherd Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah, a formerly Palestinian owned hotel expropriated by the Israeli authorities in 1967. The hotel was transferred in 1985 to a settler group that plans to build 90 housing units on its adjacent land. Huckabee, a Christian Zionist, was greeted by peacenik banners saying ‘Don’t make us Jews part of your Armageddon’, and opposite them settler banners saying ‘There’s no such place as Palestine’ or alternatively ‘There is a Palestinian state, it’s called Jordan.’ It was relatively good humoured until the settlers descended on the nearby Hanoun and Al Ghawi families pavement camp to harass and insult them.

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