Sheikh Jarrah: Ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem
A single line can be drawn from the Kurd family home in Sheikh Jarrah to every corner of Palestine. A continuum of colonization linking the micro to the macro.
During the Unity Intifada last May, it was repeatedly invoked that Sheikh Jarrah is a microcosm of Palestine. Efforts to expel its residents — themselves refugees from homes that were colonized in 1948 — to make room for Jewish settlements encapsulate the core of the contemporary Palestinian experience. Dispossession, home demolitions, forced removals, mass incarceration, army brutality, legal acrobatics and false narratives constitute today’s Zionist settler-colonial project in Palestine. The threat faced by the residents of Sheikh Jarrah mobilized Palestinians globally because it is a threat we are all familiar with, one lodged into our very being. We feel it viscerally in our bodies. We understand Yacoub, the settler who claimed a portion of the Kurds’ home, to be the individual embodiment of the arrogance, racism, entitlement, and colonial mindset of the Israeli state and its Zionist underpinnings.
Sheikh Jarrah: Ethnic Cleansing in Jerusalem, a project led by Nour Abuzaid, a Palestinian architect and web developer at Forensic Architecture, follows this continuum. It zooms all the way into the very heart of the Kurds’ home, and back out again to encompass the width and breadth of The Land, meaning of course, Palestine, from the river to the sea. The line passes through The Street, Karm al-Jaouni, where the Kurds live in number 13; The Neighborhood, Sheikh Jarrah; and The City, Jerusalem. Through this digital reconstruction, viewers can visually connect with localized apartheid, manifesting in homes, on streets and in checkpoints, with its corollary of Grand Apartheid; the staggering system of Jewish domination that the Zionist movement has built — is building — throughout Palestine.
One of the greatest successes of Zionism is its fragmentation of the Palestinian people, who in their silos, face seemingly disconnected forms of oppression. Palestinians in Gaza are fighting a hermetic blockade while being killed by overwhelming Israeli air power. In the occupied West Bank, Palestinians fight settlement expansions, armed settlers and a vast network of brutalizing checkpoints. Those in 48 fight legalized discrimination, while refugees await return in exile, in camps that are themselves being emptied out in the region. In Jerusalem, the residents of Sheikh Jarrah are fighting against their dispossession. The power of this project is that it shows how these granular challenges are not disparate; they are interconnected facets of a singular regime. It showcases how we can, and should, connect the stories that break into headline news — settlers taking over a home in Hebron, the government refusing to dismantle the “illegal outpost” of Homesh — to constitute the whole.