US activists demand action against Israel's Sheikh Jarrah expulsions

Support grows in US for Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and Jerusalem after recent Israeli violence
3 min read
11 May, 2021
The planned expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem has captured the world’s attention, as activists in the US pressure Washington to act.
In the United States, favourable public opinion towards Palestine is growing [Getty]
Groups in the West Bank and US are sharing a petition started by residents of Sheikh Jarrah calling for a halt of Palestinian expulsions from the Jerusalem neighbourhood by Israeli forces.

The petition, which is being supported by dozens of NGOs, has garnered more than 170,000 signatures by Monday evening and will be delivered to the State Department on Tuesday.

A demonstration will also be held outside the building in Washington, DC on Tuesday at 4pm.

"Only with pressure from the US will the situation change," Jonathan Brenneman, communications manager with the Friends of Sabeel-North America, told The New Arab, adding that it was the largest petition he has seen. 

"We want the State Department to use its influence to push Israel to stop demolishing Palestinian homes."

Growing popular support for Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah facing expulsion from their homes comes alongside political action, which is being led by the left-wing of the Democratic Party.

So far, prominent politicians who have publicly voiced their concern about the situation include: Senator Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and representatives Marie Newman, Andre Carson, Betty McCollum, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, Rashida Tlaib, Chuy Garcia, Marc Pocan, Ilhan Omar and Debbie Dingell.  

"I think the conversation is growing," Ahmad Abuznaid, executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian rights, told The New Arab. "Some people wouldn't touch the issue of Palestine." 

Congress members are also tweeting in support of Palestinians using the widely used hashtags #StopJerusalemExplusions and #SaveSheikhJarrah. 

Brenneman stressed the importance of avoiding the word "evictions" from the petition, a term being used in the press coverage of the conflict, though possibly misleading given the extent of it. 

"You'll notice in our petition, the word 'eviction' doesn't come up at all," he said. "I think calling it evictions is as if Palestinians are merely tenants." 

Indeed, the residents of Sheikh Jarrah, located in occupied East Jerusalem, are mainly descendants of those who were expelled from their homes in the 1948 war.

The ownership of the houses in the area has been in dispute since at least 1967 and both Jews and Palestinians claim ownership based on different documents. 

Read more: Fighting Israel's erasure of Palestinian identity in Jerusalem

Though this issue is focused on a small number of family expulsions – four in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah – it has captured the world's attention as images of violence against Palestinians have gone viral.

A video of an Israeli settler walking into the yard of a Palestinian woman threatening to take her home has been shared around the world.

Meanwhile, images filmed by worshippers of crackdowns at Al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan have also kept the world's eyes on the Palestinian protests over the past month.  

"I definitely think people are sympathetic because of what they're seeing," Mohammed Habehh, national development coordinator with American Muslims for Palestine, told The New Arab. "The public's view of Palestine is shifting." 

Brooke Anderson is The New Arab's correspondent in Washington D.C., covering US and international politics, business and culture Follow her on Twitter: @Brookethenews