We, the undersigned human rights defenders, civil society organisations and victims’ associations comprising the International Network of Victims and Survivors of Serious Human Rights Abuses (INOVAS) strongly condemn the Israeli government’s ongoing aggression towards Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah district.
We stand in solidarity with the decades-long Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation and in support of the Palestinian fight for justice and human rights, genuine peace and recognition. The organisations that make up INOVAS call on the United Nations to dispatch an urgent monitoring mission to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The mission should complement the work being done on the ground by Palestinian activists and human rights defenders, as well as by Palestinian and Israeli human rights and civil society organisations which have been documenting violations in the resistance to the ongoing Sheikh Jarrah eviction plans.
What is happening in Palestine?
Sheikh Jarrah is a historic neighbourhood in the predominantly Palestinian area of East Jerusalem. Jewish settler groups, with the tacit backing of the Israeli state, have long sought to undermine Palestinian property ownership in the area, claiming properties that were once owned by Jewish residents. On 2 May, 2021 the Jerusalem District Court ruled that dozens of Palestinian residents of the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah should vacate their homes, making way for Jewish settlers, as the proposed solution to this so-called ‘property dispute.’
Palestinian protests spread across the OPT and ’48 Palestinian territories’ within Israel in solidarity with the Sheikh Jarrah residents, prompting waves of racist abuse and mob-led street violence primarily instigated by settler groups and Israeli citizens. Backlash by Palestinian mobs in turn led to a narrative that Israel was on the brink of ‘civil war’ fought on its streets, a narrative that obscured the deeply racist and settler colonialist nature of the Israeli state on the one hand, and the unprecedented peaceful street mobilisation by Palestinian activists within Israel itself.
Fierce clashes broke out within the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in early May. Tensions in occupied Jerusalem and Israel escalated and precipitated military action in the Gaza Strip in which Israeli warplanes and ground forces bombed the besieged Palestinian enclave for 11 days. Israeli officials repeatedly defended the military’s actions, arguing that Palestinian armed factions were firing rockets from Gaza into Israel and that they were simply responding with a measured use of force. While Hamas-led attacks did reportedly kill a dozen Israeli civilians as well as one Israeli soldier, there is no validity in suggesting two sides of equal power in this situation. The Israeli Defence Force is one of the world’s most powerful militaries that besieged Palestinian armed groups within the Gaza Strip. Palestinian civilians bore the brunt of this bombardment with Israeli forces killed 256 Palestinians including at least 129 civilians, Fourteen families lost three or more family members, according to the UN.1 The Israeli air force deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure including schools and residential blocks, and destroyed offices used by media organisations including Al Jazeera and the Associated Press, on flimsy claims that armed groups were being harboured in the buildings. Local residents, rights groups and international media organisations have denied these claims.
INOVAS calls for United Nations Intervention
On 21 May 2021, a ceasefire was reached to end the latest round of hostilities in Gaza. International attention quickly shifted away from the region as if the conflict was over. The Israeli police then launched an explicitly retaliatory campaign of arrests of Palestinian activists and of anyone who had participated in the street protests and clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
The perceived ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood is still in progress and the spectre of evictions continues. Israeli authorities have conducted numerous violations since the Gaza ceasefire. On 5 June, Israeli police arrested veteran Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Givara Budeiri while she was covering a Palestinian demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah, causing a fracture of the bones in her left hand for which she was hospitalised.2 On 6 June, Israeli authorities arbitrarily arrested Muna al-Kurd (23) and then summonsed her twin brother, Muhammad al-Kurd (23), for interrogation. The siblings are Palestinian activists and residents of Sheikh Jarrah. Both have become important symbols of the neighbourhood’s broader collective resistance. Both were later released. On 7 June, Israel’s attorney-general, Avichai Mendelbit, informed the Supreme Court that he will not intervene in the Sheikh Jarrah eviction case, ultimately making it more likely that evictions will go ahead.3
In order to halt the evictions as a first step in the broader attempt to hold Israel accountable, INOVAS calls on the United Nations to urgently send a monitoring mission to observe and document the ongoing violations in East Jerusalem towards ending the continuing apparent impunity of Israel as a protagonist in initiating this violence. Israel has repeatedly violated UN resolutions that attempt to protect the rights of the Palestinian people and their historic claim to the land from which they have been steadily forcibly displaced since the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe). INOVAS calls on such a UN Mission to prioritise engagements with Palestinian civil society, activist networks and grassroots associations who have lived under, and struggled against the Israeli occupation for decades.
INOVAS is a network formed by, and for, victims and survivors of serious human rights abuses around the world. Launched in 2021, the network INOVAS aims to re-empower victims and survivors through five core activities: advocacy, empowerment of victims and survivors, protection of activists, documentation, and participatory research. Led by victims and survivors, INOVAS links organisations, groups and individuals from across the world—regardless of their colour, race, religion or belief, culture, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or ethnic origin—and aims to provide victims and survivors with a platform to allow their voices as claim-making agents to be heard, facilitating exchanges and reinforces solidarity between victims and survivors worldwide. The network advocates for their rights, and helps to strengthen their participation in national, regional and international processes related to justice, human rights, social change and peace.
- Asociación de víctimas Renacer siglo XXI (“Rebirth in the 21st century” Victims’ Association) (Colombia)
- Asociación Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas del Conflicto Armado Interno de Guatemala (Q’anil Tinamit) (Guatemala)
- Association of Justice and Rehabilitation (Tunisia)
- Committee of the Families of the Kidnapped and Missing in Lebanon (Lebanon) Initiative for Vulnerable Persons and Women in Action for Integrated Development (IPVFAD) (Democratic Republic of Congo)
- Khulumani Support Group (South Africa)
- Network of Families of the Disappeared in Nepal (NEFAD) (Nepal) Proyecto VOS-Voices of Survivors (USA/Argentina)
- Relais Prison-Société Association (Morocco) Ta’afi (Syria)
- UNOCHA, “Gaza Strip: Escalation of Hostilities (as of 3 June 2021)”, 6 June 2021.
- Al Jazeera English, “Al Jazeera journalist leaves hospital day after Israeli arrest”, 6 June 2021.
- Netael Bandel, “Israel Won’t Intervene in Sheikh Jarrah Case, Making Eviction of Palestinian Families More Likely”, Ha’aretz, 7 June 2021.