SAN FRANCISCO — Palestinian organizers led a car caravan on Saturday after a series of home demolitions in occupied Palestine, including one that was broadcast in a highly-viewed livestream on Instagram, were documented on social media. While the US is ramping up military presence at the Russian/Ukrainian border, the ongoing violence in occupied East Jerusalem is widely ignored, giving Palestinian Americans no choice but to continue bringing that awareness.
“This is pretty much daily life for Palestinians,” said Eyyad Haddad, a youth organizer with the Palestinian Youth Movement. “So it’s not considered newsworthy to people.”
The most well-documented case occurred in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, where a Palestinian family was facing forced displacement by the Israeli police a few weeks ago before demolishing their home. This was followed by days of protests, where 25 people were arrested, which then led to the demolition. According to Al Jazeera, the Salhiyeh family was threatened and assaulted after Israeli police broke into their home, and arrested six of them.
More cases were also listed in a press release by the Bay Area chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement, including families in the Masafer Yatta area of Al-Khalil (or Hebron) being displaced in order for Israeli occupation forces to build a firing range and training ground, and a Palestinian elder named Suleiman al-Hathalin who died after an Israeli tow truck ran him over at the Umm al-Khair village of Hebron.
Organizers of the car caravan also condemned a “forestation project” in the Naqab (also known as Negev) funded by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), a nonprofit organization that brought bulldozers out with police presence and forcefully pushed Palestinians out of their land.
“This is just a way to hide the destruction of Palestinian villages and deprive them of their land,” said Haddad. “And this has been going on since 1948 (or the Nakba), but particularly now there are a lot of escalations where there’s an unprecedented level of people being displaced.”
Starting from the parking area next to the Crocker Amazon playground, dozens of cars trailed bumper to bumper throughout the Mission District, then passing City Hall and Nob Hill, and lastly in front of the Israeli Consulate in the Financial District. While many demonstrations were held there last summer, Palestinian organizers rarely see this ongoing battle as far from over.
“The United States has such a close relationship with Israel,” said Sharif Zakout, lead organizer with the Arab Resource & Organizing Center. “They’re both settler-colonial entities with interests in imperial expansion in conquest.”
Last September, US lawmakers approved $1 billion to update Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system, even though it already had US-backed funding before the vote. In 2020, the US gave $3.8 billion to Israel. Israel is one of the top beneficiaries of US military aid next to Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
But Palestinians aren’t losing hope, and they’re celebrating small victories on a local level, such as ending the Urban Shield program, which was one of the biggest militarized SWAT training programs in the world, and blocking the Israeli Zim ship at the Port of Oakland.
Seeing these wins as glimmers of hope, Zakout felt this was a turning point.
“It is only a matter of time till the occupation of Palestine ends and all of our peoples are liberated globally.”
Photos by Savannah Kuang