The New York Times reports on the forcible eviction of several Palestinian families, including 20 children, by the Israeli Defense Forces, who then stood guard as Jewish settlers moved into the Palestinians’ homes:
[The] evictions stemmed from a drawn-out legal dispute over the ownership of a site in the wealthy Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, near the Old City. But the location of the neighborhood and competing Israeli and Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem make nearly every move on the ground politically charged.
As soon as the Palestinians had been forcibly removed from the houses, Jewish nationalists moved in, witnesses said.
Israel took the eastern part of Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 war, but the Palestinians demand that East Jerusalem be the capital of a future state for them. Continued Jewish settlement, especially in the heart of Arab neighborhoods, is seen by the Palestinians and many countries and international groups as anticipating a result of negotiations over the status of the city and strengthening Israel’s hold on it.
Reuters has video:
It’s worth noting that one of the countries that sees continued Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem as anticipating a result of negotiations over the status of the city and strengthening Israel’s hold on it is Israel itself. (Which raises the question of who doesn’t see continued settlement in this manner?)
Back in June, the Times reported that, according to government documents, the Israeli government was “carrying out a $100 million, multiyear development plan… as part of an effort to strengthen the status of Jerusalem as its capital.”
It’s significant that the latest evictions come during a flurry of U.S. diplomatic activity around the Israel-Palestine issue — just after a visit to Israel by key members of Obama’s national security team including special envoy George Mitchell, Defense Secretary Gates, and national security adviser James Jones.
The evictions also came a day before “a delegation of 25 US congressmen began a six-day trip to Israel on Monday in the largest ever Republican mission to visit the Jewish state.”
Representative Eric Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in national US politics, leads the delegation and said before departure the trip was aimed at reassuring the staunch US ally of Washington’s unbending support.
The trip is financed by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF) a charitable organisation affiliated with AIPAC, a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington.
Full disclosure: In July 2008 I traveled to Israel on an AIEF-sponsored trip.
Last month, Cantor spoke to a conference of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), an organization led by Rev. John Hagee, the controversial cleric whose endorsement Sen. John McCain was forced to reject after people started reading Hagee’s numerous bizarre and offensive statements about Catholics, homosexuals, and Hitler’s divine role in the creation of Israel.
Speaking at the CUFI conference, Hagee praised Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, saying that he and his supporters would continue to back “Israel’s sovereign right to grow and develop the settlements of Israel as you see fit and not yield to the pressure of the United States government.” Which is to say that he openly encouraged a foreign leader to violate agreements with the United States.
An important question for Cantor, and the rest of those on his delegation, is whether he believes that forcible evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in the middle of the night deserve “Washington’s unbending support.”