By Josefina Morales
On June 20, the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) organized a demonstration outside the Texas Capitol in solidarity with Batn al-hawa, a neighborhood in the Silwan district of Jerusalem where hundreds of Palestinians are currently resisting eviction and demolition of their homes by the Israeli government. Throughout the action, activists emphasized that the ceasefire in place since last month between Palestinian militants and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), referred to by Palestinians as occupation forces, has done nothing to change the oppressive occupation which Palestinians continue to struggle against.
Last month in Jerusalem, an Israeli court delayed orders to evict 86 Palestinian families from their homes before demolition in Batn al-hawa. The original demolition orders were made in favor of a Zionist religious endowment, Ateret Cohenim. Ateret Cohenim claim that they bought these lands from the British Mandate government before the 1948 Palestinian exodus, when more than 700,000 Palestinians were forced from their homeland by Israeli occupation forces. Similar eviction and demolition orders against Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jerrah neighborhood of Jerusalem sparked the 11-day battle last month in which Palestinian resistance squads in Gaza fired rockets into the interior of Israeli-occupied Palestine.
The delay of evictions amounts to an attempt to temporarily pacify the uprisings of Palestinians and is by no means a guarantee that the Israeli State will not evict these families. Activists in Jerusalem have protested outside of the courts in the face of heavy repression, with reports of demonstrators being beaten and arrested. Supporters of the families erected a solidarity camp in Silwan outside of the endangered homes to defend against evictions. However on June 4, Israeli occupation forces attacked these supporters with sound cannons and physical assaults before demolishing the camp.
In Austin, an organizer opened the demonstration by saying, “As Israel furthers its attempts to erase Palestine, our people continue to get stronger. … We are here to say ‘no’ to the demolitions, ‘no’ to land seizures, and say ‘no’ to the ongoing displacement of the Palestinian people!”
A representative of PSC spoke about how recent protests of Palestinians in Jerusalem have been violently repressed by the same State forces that protect Zionist demonstrators calling for displacement of Palestinians, pointing to the role and interests of the Israeli State.
One Palestinian attendee reminded attendees of the multiple fronts of displacement ongoing in Jerusalem: “Sheik Jarrah, 1,500 people are going to lose their homes, 7,000 are going to lose their homes in Silwan, and now they started another attack on the village of Lifta. … They want to demolish the houses and build a shopping mall!”
The crowd soon took the streets and headed down Congress Avenue, downtown Austin’s main thoroughfare. The group chanted, “Down, down with occupation, up, up with revolution” and “intifada, intifada, long live the intifada!” (“Intifada” refers to the most intense periods of Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation.) Marchers held banners and signs reading, “Ongoing Nakba, ongoing resistance” and “Stop the genocide in Gaza.”
As the march passed the corner where Austin activist Garrett Foster was murdered by US Army sergeant Daniel Perry last July during a march for Black lives, supporters of Foster’s family led the crowd in chants of “Garrett Foster, servant of the people!”
One Palestinian attendee who spoke with Tribune at the event explained how the recent resistance in Gaza delayed demolition orders of houses in Batn al-hawa, pointing to the strength of the liberation movement, which has grown in response to repression.
During the earlier speeches, another Palestinian speaker said, “In Silwan, and all throughout Palestine, they may displace us, they may destroy our homes, imprison our families, they may try to bury us, but our roots run deeper than they know. And like the lemon tree, the resistance and strength of the Palestinian people will continue to grow out of the cracks of Israel’s weakening grasp.”
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