Jerusalem synagogue attack: Seven killed in shooting

Israeli emergency service personnel and security forces attended the scene (Getty Images)

BBC, 27 January 2023

Seven people have been shot dead at a synagogue in East Jerusalem, the most killed in an attack of this kind for years. At least three more people were injured.

The incident happened in the city's Neve Yaakov neighbourhood at about 20:15 local time (18:15 GMT).

Police described the attacker as a "terrorist" and said he had been "neutralised".

Local media identified him as a Palestinian man from East Jerusalem.

Speaking at the scene, Israeli police commissioner Kobi Shabtai called it "one of the worst attacks we have encountered in recent years".

Israeli worshippers had gathered for prayers at the start of the Jewish Sabbath in a synagogue in the Jewish settlement and were leaving when the gunman opened fire. Police say that officers then shot him dead.

Forensic teams are investigating a white car that appears to have been driven by the gunman.

Palestinian militant groups praised the attack, but did not say one of their members was responsible.

The attack was celebrated by Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with rallies and the handing out of sweets.

The attack happened on Holocaust Memorial Day, which commemorates the six million Jews and other victims who were killed in the Holocaust by the Nazi regime in Germany.

"To attack worshippers at a synagogue on Holocaust Memorial Day, and during Shabbat, is horrific. We stand with our Israeli friends," British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly wrote on Twitter.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: "The United States condemns in the strongest terms the horrific terrorist attack."

President Joe Biden talked with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and offered all "appropriate means of support", the White House said.

Shortly after the incident, Mr Netanyahu visited the site, as did the controversial far-right National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Mr Ben-Gvir promised to bring safety back to Israel's streets but there is rising anger that he has not yet done so, says the BBC's Yolande Knell in Jerusalem.

Tensions have been high since nine Palestinians – both militants and civilians – were killed during an Israeli military raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank on Thursday.

This was followed by rocket fire into Israel from Gaza, to which Israel responded with air strikes.

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231 Palestinians were killed this year. These are their stories.

2022 has been the deadliest year for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in decades. We kept a record of all those who were killed by Israeli state and settler violence.

YUMNA PATEL, MONDOWEISS, DECEMBER 31, 2022

Some of the Palestinian martyrs from 2022. (Illustration: Yumna Patel/Mondoweiss)

2022 has been the deadliest year for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in decades. In the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem specifically, this year marked the highest number of killings of Palestinians in the territories since the UN began recording fatalities in 2005. 

The killings began almost instantaneously, with the first two Palestinians killed within the first week of January — one by an Israeli soldier, and one by an Israeli settler. From then on, the killings did not stop. 

Since the start of the year, Mondoweiss has kept a record of all the Palestinians killed by Israeli forces and settlers. As part of our documentation efforts, we have cross referenced the numbers and names of those killed with reports from the Palestinian Ministry of Health, local and international news agencies, and independent journalists.  

At the time of publication, the total number of Palestinians killed in 2022 stood at 231. This number also includes 53 killed in Gaza, 49 of whom were killed during Operation Breaking Dawn in August, and five Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who were killed inside the territory of the Israeli state. 

The vast majority of the deaths this year, however, came from the occupied West Bank, with 173 Palestinians killed. For the purpose of this report, we will focus on those who were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, or those who were residents of the West Bank and Jerusalem but were killed in other parts of occupied Palestine. 

This list does not only include Palestinians who were shot dead by Israeli soldiers, or run over by Israeli settlers. It also includes Palestinian political prisoners who died inside Israeli prisons as a result of “direct medical negligence,” or those who died while resisting Israeli apartheid and colonialism, and are thus considered “martyrs” — those who died for the cause — by the Palestinian public.

Among the 173 killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were 39 children aged 17 and under, making them close to 27% of the total deaths in the territory. 

According to our documentation, the least amount of Palestinians killed in a month this year was six, and the highest number was recorded in October, when 30 Palestinians were killed — almost one person every day on average.

Within the West Bank, the highest number of casualties occurred in two specific regions: Nablus and Jenin, representing 19% and 34% of the total casualties, respectively. The particularly high number of deaths in the two regions of the northern West Bank can be attributed to the resurgence of armed resistance witnessed in both areas, which the Israeli military focused its efforts on quashing this year. 

In late 2021, the Israeli army amended its already loose open-fire regulations in the occupied West Bank, officially allowing troops to shoot at Palestinians who had thrown rocks or Molotov cocktails at civilian vehicles, even if the Palestinian no longer presented an immediate threat. 

The military spokesperson has maintained that the amended regulations only apply when rocks or fire bombs are thrown towards civilian vehicles, not when such objects are thrown towards forces during military raids, and that soldiers are to follow a protocol in which the use of deadly force is a last resort. The nature of the killings this year, however, tell a different story. 

According to documentation collected by Mondoweiss, the vast majority of those killed were shot by Israeli police, border police, and the military during confrontations with Israeli forces. While there was a significant rise in armed confrontation between Palestinians and Israeli armed forces this year, many of those killed were shot while unarmed, or while throwing stones or Molotov cocktails towards Israeli army vehicles and armed soldiers. In many cases, rights groups deemed that those killed did not pose an explicit threat to the lives of the Israeli soldiers when they were killed.  

These are the names and faces of every Palestinian who, according to our records, was killed or died as a result of Israeli military, settler, and colonial violence in 2022. 

Occupied West Bank & East Jerusalem

Total deaths: 173

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Salah Hamouri

Salah Hamouri photographed by Alain Bachellier

Jonathan Kuttab, Friends of Sabeel North America, December 9, 2022

Salah Hamouri is a Palestinian human rights lawyer, from Jerusalem, who has just been informed he will be deported to France in 3 days. He has appealed this decision, but the hope that Israeli court would provide him with justice is minimal. Salah is a lawyer with Addameer, a Palestinian human rights organization concerned with prisoners’ rights. He is currently in prison under administrative detention. Like more than 800 other Palestinians, he is kept in jail, on the basis of “secret evidence” without any charges or trial.  Just because some Israeli official considers it necessary “for public safety and security” that he be kept in jail, for 6 months’ (renewable indefinitely). Salah has been in administrative detention now for about 9 months, and he is convinced it is because of his human rights advocacy. The fact that the organization he worked with, Addameer, is one of the six civil society organizations Israel declared to be a terrorist organization is undoubtedly part of the “secret evidence” used to justify his detention, and threatened deportation before Israeli courts and tribunals.

Salah’s case is noteworthy, however, for additional reasons: First is that he has been stripped of his Jerusalem residency because of “secret evidence” (again), showing that he has failed in his “duty of loyalty” to the state of Israel which has occupied and annexed East Jerusalem, where he resides.  This bizarre charge would have been hilariously ridiculous if it were not so serious.  What “duty of loyalty” is owed by Palestinians to their occupiers? For Israel, This goes beyond the need to punish resistance to the occupation, by requiring the occupied people to have a “duty of loyalty” under threat of losing their residency, and facing deportation!

What makes this case particularly ominous is the new Israeli government with its far-right agenda and the open racism and hostility of some of its components, who are being given key positions of authority over the lives of Palestinians both in Israel, Jerusalem, and the rest of the occupied territories.  It is no secret that these newly empowered racists have made it clear that their ideology and agenda views Palestinian Arabs as a threat to the Jewishness of the state who need to be forcibly deported and removed from the state altogether. Like their mentor and hero Meir Kahana, they hold this view for Israeli Arab citizens in Israel and not just for West Bankers.  Now they are in a position of power to implement their program.

Under Israel’s system, such radical violations of human rights and international law are usually introduced slowly, with legal and judicial acceptance and justification. The courts play their role by presenting what looks like some independent restraining element of review and examination, but then approve the measures; Zionist supporters abroad  try to downplay these activities and seek to justify them as either temporary or needed for security.  They also work hard to shield Israel from any scrutiny or accountability for such blatant actions, which often go against their own professed values.  From torture, to house demolitions, to settlement activities, to administrative detention, to annexation of territory, deportations and extra-judicial killings, the pattern is always the same: Each of these activities were undertaken gradually, with trial balloons to test public reaction, and with judicial complicity and justification, all the while resisting any accountability or sanctions, and leading to a feeling of impunity.  Every effort is made to avoid any external pressure, or involvement by any international body or court.

Eventually, the effort to justify the actions is abandoned, and is replaced by strenuous attempts to prevent any sanctions or accountability, branding such efforts as anti-semitism, or biased and unfair targeting of Israel.

It is therefore important to carefully note what happens with Salah Hamouri. His bizarre case may well be the first step towards mass withdrawal of residency status as well as citizenship,  leading to a forcible deportation of Palestinians. We need to create and demand sufficient international reaction and pushback before this too  becomes a regrettable but acceptable norm of how Israel behaves towards the Arabs under its control.

Israel has deported Palestinian lawyer to France

Move constitutes a war crime

, 2022-12-18

Ramallah, 18 December 2022

Today, Sunday, 18 December, the Israeli settler-colonial authorities are unlawfully deporting French-Palestinian lawyer and human rights defender Salah Hammouri from his hometown, Jerusalem, to France for “breach of allegiance” to the occupying state. Such a move constitutes a war crime under international humanitarian law of forcible deportation of a civilian from occupied territories. It stands as a horrifying escalation in Israel’s systematic practices of ethnically cleansing Palestinians from illegally annexed and occupied Jerusalem (al-Quds).

Despite decades of harassment, Salah has never surrendered his dignity and his basic demand to remain in his beloved hometown. His tenacity and love for al-Quds represents the unwavering Palestinian connection to the city in the face decades of the most brutal policies against its residents.

In his own words from Hadarim prison, Salah Hammouri emphasized that “Wherever a Palestinian goes, he takes with him these principles and the cause of his people: his homeland carried with him to wherever he ends up.” Despite the heartbreak of exile that Israel is imposing on Salah, it has lost morally, and has only reinforced his attachment to his homeland and strengthened the will and determination of millions of others to remain. 

Salah’s forcible deportation is only the latest stage in Israel’s long standing judicial and administrative harassment of him, his family and his crucial human rights work advocating for Palestinian political prisoners. He has been made a prime target of Israel’s policies of intimidation and silencing of those who challenge its regime of institutionalized racial domination and oppression. This has included repeated arbitrary arrests and detention (often without charge or trial), physical violence, separation from his family (including the deportation of his wife a few years ago), spyware attacks and surveillance, and most recently, the stripping of his permanent residency rights in Jerusalem under “breach of allegiance.”

The decision is yet further evidence of the Apartheid nature of the Israeli regime. Salah has sought remedies at every level of the Israeli political and legal system but has been met only by racist policies that operate with the pretense of the rule of law but that exist in reality to maintain Israeli racial domination over Palestinians. Israel’s emboldened Apartheid regime is increasingly brazen in its racism and is now on the cusp of inaugurating the most fascistic government in its history.

Israel’s expulsion of him is a dangerous precedent for all Palestinians in Jerusalem. Hence, on 16 May 2022, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) submitted communications to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on behalf of Salah Hammouri, which details years of persecution and new tactics to forcibly transfer Palestinians from occupied Jerusalem in the context of the ongoing investigation into the Situation in the State of Palestine.

This expulsion, and Israel’s wider apartheid policies, are possible due to the complicity of states and companies that provide the regime with political, economic and military support despite its ongoing breaches of international law. This is evident in France’s failure to use any of the leverage at its disposal in order to prevent the war crime of forced deportation and ongoing abuse of one of its own citizens. 

Salah will soon be reunited with his wife and children from whom he has been cruelly separated for some time.

Like the millions of other Palestinians now in exile, Salah will struggle for his right to return to his homeland.

For more information: https://justiceforsalah.net/

Salah has arrived in France

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Zoom: Playing With Fire — Jerusalem and the Incoming Israeli Government

Zoom 11:30 am Central

Alarming developments in coalition agreements and promised ministerial appointments following the Israeli elections in November have left many of us rightfully worried about the future of Israeli democracy and human rights in the region.

The incoming government, comprised of far-right extremist and Jewish supremacist politicians, is shaping up to give their parties profound power and control over a wide range of politically sensitive and explosive issues in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and within the Green Line.

What does this mean for Jerusalem and the prospects for peace?

Ir Amim (“City of Nations” or “City of Peoples”) invites you to join us for a virtual event exploring the implications of the incoming government on Jerusalem and what it means for civil society organizations active in pursuing justice, equality, and the end of the occupation.

OUR GUESTS
Professor Naomi Chazan – Professor Emerita of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Former Member of the Knesset
Nivine Sandouka – Regional Chief of Staff, Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) & Board Director, human rights NGO Hoqoqna (“Our Rights”)

This zoom event by Ir Imim explores the implications of the incoming Israeli government on a wide range of politically sensitive issues in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and within the Green Line and what it means for civil society organizations active in pursuing justice, equality, and the end of the occupation.

Expulsion of Palestinian tests the waters for future deportations

Legal experts fear Israel’s deportation of Salah Hammouri could set a precedent for similar moves against Palestinians holding foreign citizenship


Salah Hammouri’s mother (left), alongside Attorney Leah Tsemel (center) and Munir Nuseibeh (right), holds up a photo of him at an emergency press conference in Jerusalem, December 2, 2022. (Oren Ziv)

Oren Ziv, +972 Magazine, December 7, 2022

Israel announced last week that it has revoked the Jerusalem residency of Palestinian human rights lawyer Salah Hammouri and intends to deport him to France. Hammouri, who has been held in administrative detention without charge or trial since March, was informed that the appeals he filed to the District Court and Supreme Court in the past year have been rejected, leading outgoing Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked to order his deportation.

The 36-year-old lawyer was born in Jerusalem to a French mother and a Palestinian father, and has French citizenship. He works at the prisoners’ rights NGO Addameer, one of the six Palestinian civil society groups declared “terrorist organizations” by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz in October 2021), based on unsubstantiated allegations of ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) that failed to convince European governments. Hammouri is also one of six Palestinian human rights activists whose phones were hacked with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, according to an investigation by Amnesty International and Citizen Lab last year. 

In October 2021, Shaked ordered to revoke Hammouri’s Jerusalem residency on the grounds of “breach of allegiance” to the state, on the basis of confidential material supposedly proving that he is a PFLP activist. His lawyers denied the charges. About five months ago, the Supreme Court ruled that a renewed status revocation process needed to be conducted in his case, which was completed at the end of November. Meanwhile, Hammouri’s administrative detention ended on Sunday, and he has been transferred to the custody of the Immigration Authority. (Update: On December 7, Hammouri’s legal team announced that the deportation has been successfully delayed until at least January 1, pending further legal challenges.)

‘Breach of allegiance’

When Israel annexed East Jerusalem after occupying the territory in 1967 — in a move not recognized by the international community — it gave the Palestinians living there “permanent residency” permits rather than full citizenship (Palestinian Jerusalemites can apply for citizenship, but face many economic and bureaucratic barriers in the process; the vast majority refuse to apply in opposition to the state’s illegal annexation). The state can revoke these permits for several reasons, including if someone moves their so-called “center of life” away from Jerusalem. Around 15,000 Palestinians have had their Jerusalem residency revoked since 1967.

Attorney Leah Tsemel speaks at an emergency press after Israel announced it would deport Salah Hammouri, Jerusalem, December 2, 2022. (Oren Ziv)

Attorney Leah Tsemel speaks at an emergency press after Israel announced it would deport Salah Hammouri, Jerusalem, December 2, 2022. (Oren Ziv)

The revocation of Hammouri’s residency was made possible by an amendment to the Entry into Israel Law in 2018, under then-Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, authorizing the minister to deprive permanent residents of their status for committing “an act that constitutes a breach of allegiance to the State of Israel.” Shaked, who ordered Hammouri’s revocation, did not specify which actions constituted a “breach of allegiance,” nor did she reveal evidence on which the allegation was based. It should be noted that international law prohibits an occupying power from forcing the subjects under occupation to swear allegiance to it.

The state claims that it has new information about Hammouri regarding “terrorist activity,” His lawyers, however, believe that he is mainly being deported because of his past conviction for involvement in a plan to murder Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the longtime spiritual leader of the Sephardic Orthodox party Shas, during the Second Intifada. In 2005, Hammouri was sentenced to seven years in prison after accepting a plea bargain, before being released in 2011 as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal with Hamas in Gaza. 

Since then, Hammouri has repeatedly been placed under administrative detention, including for 13 consecutive months during 2017-2018. Because of the residency revocation last year, Hammouri’s latest administrative detention procedure was conducted according to military law, as is customary for Palestinians who live in the occupied West Bank without Israeli residency status. In 2016, Israel prevented Hammouri’s wife, a French citizen, and his children from entering the country, and deported them back to France from Ben Gurion Airport; the family has been geographically divided ever since.

Interior Minister Shaked claimed in a statement that “from a young age Hammouri promoted terrorist acts and took advantage of being a resident of Israel for these acts,” including “conspiracy to carry out an attack on Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.” Attorney Danny Shenhar from the NGO HaMoked, who represents Hammouri together with Attorney Leah Tsemel, told +972 that Israel’s attempt to deport him is “a double punishment and retroactive application of the law.”

“This is the first case I know of where a resident of East Jerusalem faces forced deportation to another country,” said Shenhar. “As a member of the indigenous population of Jerusalem, Hammouri owes no allegiance to the State of Israel,” he added. “The fact that this decision was made largely on the basis of secret evidence only exacerbates the injustice.”

A critical case

Last Friday, an emergency press conference was held in East Jerusalem in an attempt to prevent his deportation, attended by his parents, Attorney Tsemel, and Munir Nuseibeh, an expert in international law from Al-Quds University, who emphasized at the event that Hammouri’s deportation would constitute a war crime. The fear, according to the speakers, is that the attempt to deport Hammouri will be used by Israel as a test case to later deport more Palestinians who hold additional citizenships on grounds of “disloyalty.”

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This is no “terrorist wave,”
it is an uprising

Gush Shalom, October 18, 2022

The State of Israel is going
to general elections,
but in the election campaigns
there is virtually no mention
of the main, existential problem
facing all who live in this country.

The West Bank is on fire,
as are the neighborhoods
of East Jerusalem.

This is not “a wave of terrorism”.

This is an uprising
of young people
making a simple
and self-evident demand:
to be a free people
in their country.

Armed with stones
and a few light arms,
young Palestinians are facing
the strongest army
in the Middle East.

Many of them pay
with their lives —
and they are not deterred.
They continue their struggle.

Two soldiers were killed this week.
A young man and a young woman,
Israeli contemporaries of
the Palestinians they face.

These soldiers were not “murdered”.
They were not “victims of terrorist attacks”.
They fell in the battle to which
the State of Israel sent them.

They fell in an unjust war,
a war for maintaining
an oppressive occupation regime,
a war for the settlers
who steal Palestinian lands.

A war which is not worth fighting
and certainly not worthy
of sacrificing one’s life.

The real heroes
of Israel 2022
are the refusers and
conscientious objectors,
held behind bars
at the Kfar Yona military prison.

The prison to which the army gave
the Orwellian name “Abode of Justice”.

Young men who refuse to wear
the uniform of
an army of occupation and oppression
and prefer to go to prison.

Young women who reject with disgust
the distorted idea that for Israeli women,
taking part in the oppression of
Palestinian women and men
is some sort of
“Women’s Empowerment”.

They are the last remaining Israelis
in whom one can take pride.


Gush Shalom (Hebrew: גוש שלום, The Peace Bloc) is an Israeli peace group founded by Uri Avnery, a former journalist and Irgun and Knesset member. The organization has been controversial for sending a relief convoy to Gaza under Hamas administration, and the mainstream Israeli media has described it on occasion as “radical” and “extreme”. In 2010 the American Friends Service Committee said the group was “one of Israel’s most influential peace organizations”.

Israeli Apartheid: A Breakdown

Israel applies an oppressive, separate, and unequal regime on Palestinians. There is only one word for this: Apartheid.

Omar Baddar, Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), Oct 14, 2020

Omar Baddar is Director of Communications for the Institute for Middle East Understanding, and past Deputy Director of the Arab American Institute.

Lina Abu Akleh at Rebuilding Alliance Benefit on Sep. 10th

Please join us — in person or online — for a special evening. I am honored to tell you that
Lina Abu Akleh, niece of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, will be the Keynote speaker at Palestine: Hope and Resilience.

  • Joining her in person are Cindy and Craig Corrie, the parents of Rachel Corrie, who will present the posthumous Parrhesia Award to the family of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh
  • Shireen’s cousins, who live in the San Francisco Bay Area, will also be attending

Please register now to hear Lina Abu Akleh share her memories of Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh as together, we hold on to hope and resilience for the long road ahead.

    Saturday, Sep. 10th, 2022
    Gala Dinner at 5 PM PT, LiveStream program at 6:45 PM PT / 9:45 PM ET

Lina Abu Akleh is Palestinian-Armenian, born and raised in Jerusalem. Inspired by her aunt and mentor, Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, Lina completed her BA in Political Studies from the American University of Beirut and recieved her Masters in International Studies from the University of San Francisco where she chose a concentration in human rights, governance, and global justice.

After Shireen Abu Akleh reported on the struggle to access water around the West Bank’s Jordan Valley, she said, “Lina, not a lot of people talk about this.”  Consequently, Lina chose as her Master’s thesis, The Slow Creep of Settler Colonialism: Exploring Water Control in Palestine, which focused on the northern West Bank Village of Bardala whose water pumping station was locked by the Israeli Army. Just meters away, settlers installed their own exclusive pumping station.

Little did I know that I will be using my degrees, my experience, and my expertise to advocate for justice and accountability for Shireen.”
— Lina Abu Akleh, as quoted in Time Magazine 7/15/22

Rebuilding Alliance asks your help to provide direct aid to Palestinian families in rural Area C of the West Bank, in Gaza, and in East Jerusalem — and for essential Contact Congress advocacy for Palestinian equal rights to restore safety to families and to keep schools, homes, and olive trees standing.  Please help us continue to make a difference for Palestinian families in need.

About the Palestine: Hope & Resilience benefit — so far, 92 people have registered and donated $20,316.

For the event dinner, we chose the Green Hills Country Club, a spacious and lovely venue nestled in the hills of Millbrae with great ventilation. If you would like to join us for dinner, please R.S.V.P. now.  The chefs need to know no later than Wednesday.

See you next week, Saturday!

Sincerely,

Donna Baranski-Walker
Founder and Executive Director, Rebuilding Alliance

Here are way that you can make a tax-deductible donation:

  • Donate online with a gift of any amount by clicking ‘Register / Donate
  • If you wish to pledge and pay by check, click Register / Donate and select “Mail a Check” as your payment method. Make your check out to ‘Rebuilding Alliance’ and mail it to our office:
    Rebuilding Alliance, 50 Woodside Plaza Ste. 627, Redwood City CA 94061
  • Would you like to donate stock? Email us at Contact@RebuildingAlliance.org

Rebuilding Alliance

50 Woodside Plaza, Ste 627
Redwood City, CA 94061

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Giant eye murals bear witness to Palestinians in Jerusalem

Murals that are part of the public art project 'I Witness Silwan' depicting the eyes of local and international figures, including George Floyd, a Black American killed by police, top right, in the Silwan neighbourhood of east Jerusalem, Friday, Aug. 26, 2022. Eyes are always open in this flashpoint district. Now, new eyes emerged; they were painted on the walls of the decaying Palestinian homes. The eye murals, and graffiti of Palestinian symbols, are so giant that make you feel they are watching you wherever you walk in the neighborhood. (AP Photo/ Mahmoud Illean)
Murals that are part of the public art project ‘I Witness Silwan’ depicting the eyes of local and international figures, including George Floyd, a Black American killed by police, top right, Aug. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/ Mahmoud Illean)

Associated Press, August 27, 2022

JERUSALEM — A group of artists has filled a Palestinian area of east Jerusalem with paintings of large, wide-open eyes. The murals are a reminder that all eyes are on the neighborhood of Silwan, a flashpoint where Palestinians say Israeli forces and settlers are working to drive them out of their homes.

Palestinian children walk between murals that are part of the public art project 'I Witness Silwan', in the Silwan neighbourhood of east Jerusalem, Friday, Aug. 26, 2022. At right are the eyes of Silwan Community Member Nihad Siyam; at left, eyes inside two poppies, which Palestinians call their national flower. Eyes are always open in this flashpoint district. Now, new eyes emerged; they were painted on the walls of the decaying Palestinian homes. The eye murals, and graffiti of Palestinian symbols, are so giant that make you feel they are watching you wherever you walk in the neighborhood. (AP Photo/ Mahmoud Illean)
Palestinian children walk between murals in the Silwan neighbourhood of east Jerusalem, Aug. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/ Mahmoud Illean)

The eye murals are so giant that they make you feel they are watching you wherever you walk in the neighborhood. Many are painted on the walls of decaying Palestinian homes alongside national symbols.

“The staring eyes say to people that we see them and they should see us too," says Jawad Siyam, director of Madaa-Silwan Creative Center.

“We want to say that we are here — we love our land and our home.”

Since 2015, the center has worked with U.S. artists to create the murals and maintain them. In total, they have made about 2,000 feet of graffiti and paintings.

Israeli border police stand on a street lined with Palestinian homes painted in murals including one depicting goldfinches and an olive tree, that are part of the public art project 'I Witness Silwan' in the Silwan neighbourhood of east Jerusalem, Friday, Aug. 26, 2022. Palestinian and American artists have painted giant murals in an east Jerusalem district. The art project is meant to draw attention to the suffering of Palestinian residents of Silwan, a neighborhood near the Old City, who face Israeli arrests, home raids, demolitions, and the threat of evictions. (AP Photo/ Mahmoud Illean)
Israeli border police stand on a street lined with Palestinian homes painted in murals including one depicting goldfinches and an olive tree, Aug. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/ Mahmoud Illean)

The “I Witness Silwan” art project depicts the eyes of Palestinian and international leaders and influencers. It also features symbols such as the goldfinch and poppy, which Palestinians call their national flower.

Organizers say the art project aims at drawing attention to the displacements the Palestinians face in this neighborhood near the Old City of Jerusalem.

Murals that are part of the public art project 'I Witness Silwan' depicting the eyes of local and international figures are painted on houses in the Silwan neighbourhood of east Jerusalem, Friday, Aug. 26, 2022. Eyes are always open in this flashpoint district. Now, new eyes emerged; they were painted on the walls of the decaying Palestinian homes. The eye murals, and graffiti of Palestinian symbols, are so giant that make you feel they are watching you wherever you walk in the neighborhood. (AP Photo/ Mahmoud Illean)
Murals on houses in Silwan, Aug. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/ Mahmoud Illean)

Israel occupied Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed the holy city as its indivisible capital. The Palestinians claim the eastern part as the capital of their future state. Peace talks between the two sides ground to a halt years ago.

The Silwan project says it aims to counter Israeli settler groups that work to boost the Jewish presence in predominantly Arab or Palestinian areas of the contested holy city.

An Israeli border police officer watches Israeli Jewish settlers walk on a street lined with Palestinian homes painted in murals in the Silwan neighbourhood of east Jerusalem, Friday, Aug. 26, 2022. A group of artists has filled a Palestinian area of east Jerusalem with paintings of large, wide-open eyes. The murals are a reminder that all eyes are on the neighborhood of Silwan, a flashpoint where Palestinians say Israeli forces and settlers are working to drive them out of their homes. (AP Photo/ Mahmoud Illean)
An Israeli border police officer watches Israeli Jewish settlers walk on a street lined with Palestinian homes, Aug. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/ Mahmoud Illean)

Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem face Israeli arrests, home raids, demolitions, and the threat of evictions. Israeli rights group B’Tselem says Israel is “enjoying far-reaching powers with no accountability for their actions" in running the lives of Palestinians in the area.

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