The world has had its eyes on Jerusalem, particularly during Ramadan 2021. At the beginning of May, many worshippers were prevented from even entering the city. During the same time, the Israeli Border Police were on the way to forcibly remove several Palestinian families from neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Sheikh Jarrah was the one grabbing the headlines, but other areas—Silwan, Wadi al-Joz, and Beit Hanina—were similarly threatened. Meanwhile, the chants calling for the “death of Arabs” by extremist Jewish settlers in preparation for “Jerusalem reunification day” grew louder by the day.
During the preceding weeks, the Israeli police had fired tens of stun grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas canisters inside al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as in the streets of East Jerusalem. In May alone, they arrested 677 Palestinian residents, many of them children below the age of 15.1 Protests against forced expulsions of Sheikh Jarrah residents were getting louder; the measure was seen as yet another episode of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Jerusalem. The Israeli Border Police attempted to prohibit Palestinian residents from sitting on the steps of Bab al-Amud, which brought even Haaretz to acknowledge that “the closure of the [Bab al-‘Amud] plaza during Ramadan has turned it into the epicenter of impassioned demonstrations.”2
These went well beyond Jerusalem, as Palestinians took to the streets in various towns and cities including Haifa, Jaffa, Lydda, Nazareth, and Umm al-Fahm. Well-armed Jewish gangs had been roaming the streets, assaulting Arabic-speaking residents and marking Arab homes for later attack, all under the protection of the Israeli police.3
As a result, Palestinians from almost every corner of the country were rising up in protest. On social media, too, the calls to #SaveSheikhJarrah and #StopEthnicCleansing trended. To the surprise of many, the popular struggle in Palestine was back ferociously. Young activists who grew up during the Second Intifada demanded their rights in an exclusivist state. And then war erupted.