Over the past week, Palestinians have been facing the threat of forced evictions to take place in Sheikh Jarrah, violent dispersal of protests by Israeli occupation forces, and airstrikes that destroyed a myriad of Gazan residential buildings and killed hundreds. In light of this, we knew this was the time to raise Palestinian voices and get informed in every way about what’s happening and how we can help. So, we talked to Noora Abdeen, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian fashion designer currently in Sheikh Jarrah.
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Noora was born in East Jerusalem, she studied business and economics and continued her education at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She’s the founder of the Palestinian brand Dar Noora; which celebrates Palestinian culture and heritage by mixing authentic Palestinian embroidery with modern techniques and fabrics. Dar Noora pieces are all made by Palestinian Craftswomen. Noora’s first fashion show took place in Paris 2017 and she has dressed fashion icons like Queen Rania. As a world-renowned fashion designer, Noora has a personal objective to bring to light the Palestinian experience. Here’s what she had to say about the current situation.
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How did the current situation come about?
It all started in Sheikh Jarrah. Sheikh Jarrah is a very important Palestinian neighborhood. It lies 2 minutes away from the Aqsa Mosque and the Old City in Jerusalem, connecting the eastern side to the other neighborhoods. It’s full of international embassies and consulates. Also, most importantly, it’s inhabited by 550 Palestinian individuals.
Throughout time, occupation forces have been gradually attacking this neighborhood to ethnically cleanse its Palestinian inhabitants.
The Nakba that took place in 1948 led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. The Jordanian government, in cooperation with the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees), agreed to give this neighborhood to the Palestinian refugees who were displaced from their homes in the 1948-occupied regions. 28 homes were built, and are currently inhabited by 550 Palestinians.
The Palestinians inhabiting these homes gave up their refugee cards in exchange for ownership of these homes in Sheikh Jarrah.
But, the Jordanian government kept postponing granting them ownership until the 1967 war (the Naksa) took place and even more Palestinian people were displaced.
This is when things got really complicated. Since the 1967 Naksa, the occupation forces had their eye on the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and the homes in it. After 28 houses were built and inhabited by 70 families made up of 550 individuals in total, the inhabitants were surprised to discover a settler organization had forged papers saying that it owned this land. No one knows this organization, it was the first time anyone’s heard of it.
The organization started calling for the evacuation of the families in Sheikh Jarrah and this was of course, illegitimate.
In 2008, the occupation court issued an evacuation notice for Mohamed AlKurd and the families of El Ghawi and Hanoun. And they were in fact evicted with force.
They’re planning to evict all 70 families gradually instead of all at once so as to prevent the issue from becoming a matter of public opinion.
In 2009, the occupation court followed the same procedure of issuing an evacuation notice for 8 more families. Those 8 families are made up of 78 people.
Just before Ramadan and Eid evacuation notices were handed out to families of Dar Al Kurd and Al Sabbagh, Al Dijany, Al Hamad, and Al Dawoudy. They gave them a notice period until the end of August to evacuate in order to hand in their homes to the Zionist Israeli settlers.
The story, in short, is a continuation of the ethnic cleansing that’s been taking place since 1948 and continued in 1967. But, it’s happening now in 2021, so it’s taking a new form.
The families refused to evacuate, even though they were offered a lot of money and deals. They decided to stay put in the face of the settlers and it’s in their right to do so. These are their homes, their memories, where their parents and grandparents lived.
This is the story of Sheikh Jarrah and the hashtag that’s been circulating. Now there are 27 homes in the neighborhood, some of them were taken by settlers.
The most recent wave of activism started because the occupation court started handling the case of Sheikh Jarrah and there was a call from Palestinians to the international community to help prevent the court’s decision to displace the families.
It’s an Israeli court so it’s definitely not going to rule in favor of the Palestinian families.
Supporters of the Palestinian cause are trying to urge governments to pressure Israel to prevent this from happening.
Sheikh Jarrah is a Palestinian neighborhood and it’s not right to displace its families. That’s where the Save Sheikh Jarrah hashtag came from, as a stand against the war and ethnic cleansing the Palestinians face. It’s a purely political case.
There is a legal dispute over the houses in Sheikh Jarrah, you’re currently in one of them, what’s the situation?
Currently, I’m at my sister’s house. It’s one of the homes facing the threat of eviction, beit Al Qawasmy. We can’t leave our houses because Israeli police are keeping us locked in.
We keep getting hostile attacks from settlers and there are a lot of Israeli occupation forces, too many.
For each one person living in the neighborhood, there are 3 or 4 armed soldiers. The situation is very harsh and it changes every hour.
There are no journalists allowed in. There are also iron barriers and you have to show ID to get into the neighborhood. You can’t get in unless you live there or are a first relative to a person living here.
Tell us more about Gaza
Protests against the illegal displacement of Sheikh Jarrah families were brutally and violently dispersed. Every day of Ramadan, there were attacks by settlers on Palestinians.
The Eve of Eid Al Fitr was also the so-called Israeli “Jerusalem Day”, a day where they celebrate the “unification of Jerusalem”. Settlers called for the storming of the Aqsa mosque and so Palestinians had no choice but to defend and protect this sacred place from settler attacks. There was a lot of success in protecting the Aqsa mosque even though there was a huge number of Settlers.
When Gazans witnessed this uprising, they rose up as well, along with the 1948 Palestinians in Haifa, Al-Nasra, Al-Lud, and all northern Palestinian regions and the West Bank.
The uprising was nationwide and popular. Everyone acted out of a sense of responsibility to defend themselves. It came out of belief in the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian right to exist and protect their sacred monuments. Gaza responded to the call of the Palestinians in Jerusalem to resist.
Palestine genuinely became one united front from Haifa to Nasra, Aakka to southern Gaza and Jerusalem. We haven’t experienced such unity in a long time.
What Can People Do From Their Homes to Support The Palestinian Cause?
They can raise awareness about the issue of Sheikh Jarrah because this is a case of ethnic cleansing. Talk about how it’s a political issue and not a legal one and how it’s a continuation of what’s been happening since 1948 and 1967.
On Social Media, post about Palestine using these hashtags #SaveSheikhJarrah, #GazaUnderAttack, #PalestineUnderAttack. Posts, not comments!
Every lawyer, doctor, artist, and pharmacist can write their own letters -whether on social media or in written form- in solidarity with Sheikh Jarrah residents. These people can raise these letters of solidarity to the trade unions and the trade unions can raise them to the embassies or to an international entity that can have a moderating role between the families of Sheikh Jarrah and the Israeli occupation. Celebrities can do so as well.
There have been a lot of protests in solidarity with the Palestinians in London, Madrid, New York, Berlin, Do you feel like Western Media has been looking at the Palestinian Cause differently this time?
I think the issue has become clearer for a lot of people. In the past, everything used to be blurry and unclear to the outside world.
Social Media put the truth not just in the hands of reporters and a TV channel with its own agenda, but in the hands of ordinary people coming out to tell their story.
Individuals now have the power to listen to the Palestinian story and tell it as they understood it. This is very important.
The Palestinians’ right to their homes and their right to exist is not a matter of debate anymore.