Israel Condemned for Arrest of Journalist, 2 Activists in Sheikh Jarrah

Israel’s detention of a reporter and two prominent Palestinian rights activists in Sheikh Jarrah is drawing international condemnation as residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood continue to resist a forced expulsion campaign led by government-backed Israeli settlers.

On Saturday, Israeli police assaulted and arrested Al Jazeera journalist Givara Budeiri as she covered a sit-in marking the 54th anniversary of Israel’s 1967 occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. The police also destroyed Al Jazeera cameraman Nabil Mazzawi’s equipment.

Budeiri, who at the time of her arrest was wearing a flak jacket that clearly identified her as a member of the press, was released hours later on the condition that she stay away from Sheikh Jarrah for at least 15 days.

Budeiri’s arrest drew sharp rebukes from global press freedom organizations and Al Jazeera, whose acting director-general said in a statement that “such attempts to prevent journalists from carrying out their professional duty to inform the world and report events on the ground is a crime against the journalistic profession.”

The Foreign Press Association said the journalist’s arrest represents just the “latest in a long line of heavy-handed tactics by Israeli police.”

Hours after Budeiri’s release, Israeli police reportedly stormed into the home of 23-year-old activist Muna al-Kurd and arrested her, alleging that she participated in ‘public disturbances’ in Sheikh Jarrah. Muna has since been freed.

The police on Sunday also arrested Muna’s twin brother Mohammed al-Kurd, who has gained global attention for fiercely defending Palestinian rights during recent appearances on major media programs. The al-Kurd family is one of many facing possible expulsion. (Update: Mohammed has also now been released.)

“Israel is on a rampage in Sheikh Jarrah, detaining journalists and prominent Palestinians like the al-Kurd twins, all because they won’t shut up about being ethnically cleansed from their homes,” tweeted journalist Alex Kane.

Middle East Eye reported Sunday that “the siblings, whose family has been living under the threat of imminent displacement from their house in Karm al-Jaouni in occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, have become icons of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli settler expansion.”

The latest crackdown in Sheikh Jarrah by Israeli police came just days before the nation’s Supreme Court is set to rule on whether Palestinians in the neighborhood can be expelled from their homes at the behest of Israeli settlers. A hearing on the matter was postponed last month, just before Israel kicked off its deadly 11-day bombing campaign in the occupied Gaza Strip.

“The historic Sheikh Jarrah district is inhabited by descendants of Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their towns and villages by the Zionist militias during the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948,” Middle East Eye noted. “At least 13 families have been ordered to leave their homes in Sheikh Jarrah since May, including 58 people facing the threat of expulsion from their homes where they lived for generations. In October 2020, an Israeli court ruled in favor of Israeli settlers who claim that some eight Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah are living on land that used to belong to Jews.”

A new hearing on the expulsions is set for Tuesday, June 8.

Yousef Munayyer, a Palestinian-American writer and political analyst, said Sunday that “through attacking and arresting journalists there and now arresting two of its most outspoken advocates in Muna al-Kurd and Mohammed al-Kurd, the Israeli government is trying to stop you from hearing about Sheikh Jarrah.”

“The best response,” added Munayyer, “is to listen harder and [amplify] their voices louder.”