Monday, April 12, 2010

Hope Rising from the Despair in East Jerusalem

Sheikh Jarrah is an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem where Israeli settlers are taking over land and houses whose residents are being removed by Israeli soldiers. Many Israelis are increasingly troubled by the way such actions are changing the values for which many Jews migrated to Israel, as Israeli author David Grossman's speech at a recent demonstration explains. The text of his speech follows the introductory paragraph below, with a link to a video of his speech (in Hebrew) at the bottom. Click on the title to read it where it originally appeared, the blog for

David Grossman's speech in Sheikh Jarrah

Before Friday's demo, a delegation of some 30 public figures and intellectuals visited Sheikh Jarrah. Among the participants were former Speaker of the Knesset Avrum Burg, author David Grossman, Prof. Ze'ev Sternhal, and former MK's Naomi Hazan and Zehava Galon. Following the visit with the families the delegation held a peaceful vigil next to the occupied houses. The police quickly ordered the vigil to disperse, and escorted the delegation out of the neighborhood. The police could not forbear from arresting four people - although they did not have the guts to arrest any of the dignitaries.

When the delegation joined the main demonstration up the street, the famous Israeli author David Grossman decided to address the crowd. Here is the full text of the speech:

"[...] what took place during the last few hours. We came early, a group of people, and visited one of the homes here in Sheikh Jarrah... at 1 P.M. The owner told us about the long history of abuse by the settlers, the police, and the army that has been going on for years, about how they are being effectively forced out, about how their lives are being made intolerable day and night, that they are being told how to live, harrassed incessantly, violently attacked. Then we went out, the same group, about 30 people, and stood quietly with signs protesting what is happening in Sheikh Jarrah, condemning the persistent, planned takeover of this place and other places by settlers, by right-wing elements. After all, what's happening here is only the tip of the iceberg. It's only one example of what has been happening in the Occupied Territories for more than 40 years. I think that we are all beginning to grasp - even those who maybe don't really want to - how 43 years ago, by turning a blind eye, by actively or passively cooperating, we actually cultivated a kind of carnivorous plant that is slowly devouring us, consuming every good part within us, making the country we live in a place that is not good to live in. Not good not only if you are an Arab citizen of Israel, and certainly not if you are a Palestinian resident of the Territories - but not good as well for every Jewish Israeli person who wants to live here, who cherishes some hope to be in a place where human beings are respected as humans beings, where your rights are treated as a given, where humanity, morality,and civil rights are not dirty words, not something from the bleeding-heart Left. No. These are the bread and water, the butter and milk of our lives, the stuff from which we will make our lives, and really make them lives worth living here.

We stood with the signs for two or three minutes and then the commander of the police announced aggresively - even violently, I would say - he said: 'You have two minutes to disperse.' I think that even before those two minutes were up, they began pushing us away from there, shoving, knocking people over with unreasonable force. The people here did not come to create a confrontation, they came to express solidarity, to make their cry heard. The police lost its head, behaved in a way that actually proves a lack of confidence, an inability to control itself and the situation. Four of our people were arrested, four people who didn't come here to get arrested, didn't make any provocation and certainly not one that justifies arrest. Of course, all of us here protest that.

I'll finish by saying that I wish that next week, there will be many many more people here. People who perhaps don't understand [stops because of applause] that because of lack of action, of indifference, and maybe out of fear and comfort, are allowing our future to be stolen away from us. They are stealing the country we want to live in, stealing every chance that we will ever have peace based on equality and mutual respect with our neighbours. Making any peace agreement almost impossible because of the places where the settlements are sneaking in, taking root, which really make any future agreement almost impossible, and certainly make the peace that will be attained much more fragile. We have something to fight for and something to struggle for. [People] have to understand this and come here, because this is the place, more than any other place today, to protest and confront the root of the occupation, where you can identify with the motives and with a just cause that can hardly be questioned. You have to be totally blind to not see what is happening here, and through that, perhaps, understand what is happening in all the areas of the occupation, and what is happening in all areas of our lives in Israel. Thank you, and Shabbat Shalom."

The video, in Hebrew, can be watched here:

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