The magnificent Ottoman-era building hangs out over the Via Dolorosa. When I take Canadians there, I often point out the Israeli flag on top of it and then ask them if they have seen any Palestinian flags around. We are in East Jerusalem, after all, I remind them. The UN, the US, even Canada, says this is not Israeli territory. But all we can see are Israeli flags. Why?
Its an ugly game in which fanatical settlers do the dirty work and are supported by the Israeli state. Once they move in, they raise an Israeli flag, arm themselves with heavy weapons, and consciously attempt to force out their Palestinian neighbours, who hang on unhappily as best they can.
"Why don't we see any Palestinian flags in East Jerusalem?", I naively asked my Palestinian tour guide the first time I was there. "After all we are legally in Palestinian territory".
He looked at me with a mixture of disbelief and pity. "Any house that raised a Palestinian flag in East Jerusalem would be raided by the Israeli military that very evening", he said. "They would wreck the house and arrest the inhabitants. They would say they are looking for terrorists. They might even lose their house too."
Bringing settlers in and kicking Palestinian out is part of a planned process. Here is a short video clip showing an example where it has been done by a "legal" process.
Now that Sharon has passed away, I wonder who will move into his house. Perhaps the Israeli government will make it into a permanent memorial for the man called both the "butcher" and the "bulldozer".
Oh, - and Sharon's other house? The one he lived in when he wasn't in Jerusalem? Its in Sderot, in the south of Israel, right near the Gaza border. Sderot is a new Jewish town built in 1951 over top of the ruins of the bulldozed Palestinian village of Najd. Its residents now live in refugee camps inside the Gaza strip.
National Education Committee on Israel/Palestine
National Council on Canada Arab Relations