“A child is not born hating Israelis, they grow up suffering from the occupation”

“When you keep someone under pressure for years, boom!, it just explodes”. Mohammad Al Sabbagh You know this feeling well. He lives in the eastern part of Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since 1967. The same one where the two Palestinian attackers who opened fire on Israeli civilians last week in the holy city resided. Each one comes from a different neighborhood and from distant generations. But the 361,700 Palestinians from east jerusalem share a sentence. They all suffer abandonment of the institutions and attacks constants by colonists and institutions that want to take over their land.

Al Sabbagh lives in the same house in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah East Jerusalem since 1956. “When we had to flee our native Jaffa, the government of jordan offered us this land to 28 families and UNRWA [la agencia de Naciones Unidas especializada en refugiados palestinos] he built our houses”, he recalls after lighting a cigarette. His three brothers also continue to live in the same building, which they divided to get more privacy. One of them, however, moved to the United States. “I can’t go; if I leave, I don’t know what can happen to the house”, he expresses while between his fingers, he caresses a portrait of his father of the 1950s in an empty and wild Jerusalem.

Coexistence with settlers

“You can never live in peace, you can’t relax for a second,” he told EL PERIÓDICO. Following the escalation of violence over the attempt by the Israeli authorities to evict Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah in May 2021they have got some court victories. Decades ago, several associations of israeli settlers they try to throw them out of their homes to conquer more territory in the Holy City. Now, 220,000 ultranationalist jews they live in East Jerusalem, which is equivalent to 39% of the total population. Coexistence between the two groups is becoming increasingly impossible. So much so that it leads to 13 year old to pick up a gun and shoot anyone who looks like an Israeli.

The 73-year-old Palestinian also sees it that way. “A child is not born hating Israelis, but grows suffering the occupation and ends up loathing it”, says Al Sabbagh. The decades of struggle to preserve his home draw a furrow of wrinkles on his forehead. With only that labyrinth on his skin, one can count the stories of the thousands of Palestinians who live poorly in East Jerusalem. “Israel has been treating the city’s Palestinian residents as unwanted immigrants and has been working systematically to expel them”, denounces the Israeli organization for human rights, B’Tselem.

Less and worse services

Since the annexation of this Palestinian part of the city in 1967the Israeli authorities have drawn up plans to extol the Jewish majority from Jerusalem. The new municipal boundaries left out densely populated Palestinian areas. Furthermore, those Palestinians who stayed do not have Israeli citizenship. They have a permanent residence permit that gives them less rights. Although they can live and work in Israel while receiving social benefits and health insurance, they are not allowed to participate politically. The Palestinians of East Jerusalem they can’t vote in the national elections neither appear as candidates nor as mayors of their city.

In addition, the continuous land expropriation and restrictions on construction limit the life options of Palestinians under occupation. But, living on the other side of the separation wall, they grow apart from their compatriots in the occupied West Bank. To all this is added the lack of investment in infrastructure and services in Palestinian neighborhoods by the Jerusalem Municipality. All aspects of the lives of Palestinians in East Jerusalem are affected by this policy. the israeli organization Go Amim It estimates that, since 2017, there are 2,557 classrooms missing in Palestinian neighborhoods and a third of children do not complete 12 years of schooling. Only 52% of the population has legal access to the water network.

“Constant Pressure”

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But somehow, Israel is shooting his own foot with this marginalization policy. In terms of security, the Israeli Army has less control over the population East Jerusalem Palestine. Most of the 361,700 Palestinians live outside the separation wall and military checkpoints, making it easier for them to carry out attacks inside Israeli territory. “The pressure is constant, we don’t get rid of it lifelong“, tells Al Sabbagh to EL PERIÓDICO. “Some, without being able to avoid it, they end up exploding“he says, referring to recent attacks by East Jerusalemites.

His fingers do not tremble when holding that precious photograph of his father abedin a suit in front of the house that welcomed them when they fled the violence of that May 1948. This 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of the Palestinian catastrophe that condemned the Al Sabbagh family to another fight. “This house belongs to us They gave it to us because we were refugees and they are not going to kick us out,” he defends with a firm look. They have already 66 years between those four walls. Even so, he keeps more recent images of when, together with his brothers, they visited his old house in Jaffa. “They have already stripped us of too many things, but we will continue without giving up,” she concludes with tears in her eyes.