Daniel Dukarevich has written a powerful account of the events of yesterday, during which a young Palestinian from Silwan, Samir Sirhan, 34, and father of five, was shot to death by an Israeli private security guard paid by the government to “protect” settlers who’ve stolen homes from long time local Arab residents. This is part of a long-term project to rid Silwan of its Arab residents and Judaize it that is financed by far-right American Jewish interests including people like Irving Moskowitz.
The guard claims he was buying gas at a local gas station and was accosted in the early morning by local Palestinians throwing rocks. Believing himself in danger of being “lynched” (the term used by the far-right Maariv in its account of the incident), he shot into the air and then at his pursuers.
Palestinians say that Sirhan was returning to his home from work and the security guard blocked his path. In the ensuring argument, the guard shot and killed him. Haaretz quotes residents raising further doubts about the guard’s account:
Silwan residents called the guard’s explanations illogical, and said they saw no stones or other objects in the street after the shooting. There was no other evidence stones had been thrown at the guard, they said.
As I always say after incidents like this, there is an easy way to confirm the guard’s story–do an independent autopsy and tell us whether the trajectory of the bullet fired proved his story or theirs. Was the victim close or far when shot? I have very little doubt what such an autopsy would show. The fact that the government never releases autopsies in such situations indicates their version of events lacks truth or credibility. But who knows, maybe today will be the day they surprise me.
After Sirhan’s funeral, 1,000 East Jerusalem Palestinians rioted, burned cars, smashed buses, and threw rocks at Jewish worshippers observing Sukkot at the Kotel. Massed riot police entered the Temple Mount to beat back the stone throwers, who retreated to the mosque (which the police didn’t dare enter for fear of a mass uprising).
Jerusalem is a bone-dry powder keg given the tensions accompanying political jockeying between Israel and the PA over a soon to expire settlement freeze, expected construction which will further dispossess Palestinians, and continuing settler violence in East Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank. Though the U.S. is brokering peace talks between the parties, it could all go up in a puff of smoke given provocative incidents like this one. In fact, I have little doubt that settlers would be capable of deliberately provoking an incident like this in order to derail the entire process. All they need is a few days of intense rioting, perhaps a hint of third Intifada for one side or the other to withdraw and send us back to Square One.
The violence has subsided, though Daniel writes on his Facebook page that live fire continued today from the Silwan settlers. Here is Daniel’s report in full:
You never know what kind of a day you’ve woken up to in this city. Will it be a lazy and serene day, the first day of a vacation that I’ve waited so long for, or a day where the entire city turns into a Kafkaesque story. Perhaps it’s not the city – but the people who live here. So here’s the story: it’s about murder; the police; detainees; missing people; hate; lies and loads of stupidity and folly. In short a typical day in East Jerusalem.
1. The Murder: At around 4 AM one of the settlers’ private security guards opened fire in the direction of some residents in Silwan. At least one man was killed by the shots. 32 year old Samer Sirhan, a father of five. These are all the facts that are certain. According to the security guard he was pelted with stones and his life was in danger. According to Silwan residents Samer was on his way from his home to work and the guard prevented him from continuing, during the ensuing argument the guard took out his pistol and fired.
2. The backdrop: The Jewish settlers in Silwan have a set up a private armed militia for themselves, and we all foot the bill. $17.5-million is paid every year by the Ministry of Housing to guard a couple of hundred Jewish settlers in the middle of Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem. The guards are regularly briefed by the settlers, and very often are hired by the heads of the right-wing organizations. The guards are armed only with live ammunition. This is how an armed militia operated by the settlers came to be.
These militiamen have opened with live-fire at least seven times in the last three months. And those are just the instances that I am aware of, apparently there have been many more. This time it ended in disaster.
3. Silencing: From the moment that the murder took place the Jerusalem Police started a comprehensive operation to silence the matter. Large police forces surrounded the event site and prevented people from getting near. When it became known that a man was shot in Silwan, the police spokesperson stated that it was the result of a dispute between clans. This announcement was made hours after police forces were at the site and had already questioned the security guard. The pinnacle of the event for me was that the police reporters that I talked to continued to assert during the course of the morning that this was a case of a dispute between rival clans, despite the fact that the guard reconstructed the event before our eyes. They sucked up their information directly from the police spokesperson.
4. Missing people: Up until now, 18 hours after the event, nobody knows exactly how many people were injured by the shooting. Early rumours contended that there was another casualty, and 18 year-old youth who was in the area. Jerusalem hospitals, the Institute for Forensic Medicine in Abu Kabir and the Israeli Magen David Adom refused to provide any information whatsoever regarding those injured or killed during the event, and what their condition was. Even the information that Samer was killed was given to his family only many hours later. According to reporters a blanket silence such as this, where no one is willing to provide information, many hours after the event, was exceptional to say the least. Although we’ve already seen situations where hospitals and Magen David Adom have been threatened by the Israeli security forces and prefer not to become embroiled, however, in general, after a couple of hours the information becomes public. Not in this case. (As opposed to the conspicuous prominence of hordes of Israeli hospital directors who are interviewed after every Palestinian terrorist attack).
5. Arrest warrants against Israeli left-wing activists: How do you get rid of a left-wing activist who’s in the area? For this too the police have a creative solution. A “Solidarity Sheik Jarrah” activist was arrested in Silwan this morning and was taken in for a police interview about an event that had taken place on April 30th this year. Their timing is a bit curious, the activist was apparently to close to the crime scene at the time that the security guard was reconstructing the murder.
6. Meanwhile in Sheik Jarrah…: 60 “Solidarity” activists and Palestinian residents decided despite the events to build a sukkah in the neighbourhood, next to one of the residents’ house. The sukkah which was planned as part of the joint celebration of Sukkot (The Jewish Festival of Booths) was also meant to serve as a mourners’ tent regarding the murder in Silwan. Three building inspectors from the Jerusalem Municipality (who apparently remembered that they are supposed to provide services to East Jerusalem) turned up accompanied by dozens of police and demolished the sukkah time after time. Somehow they overlooked two giant sukkahs that the Jewish settlers had built in the neighbourhood, not to mention hundreds in the public domain throughout the city. And so, the peace sukkah in Sheikh Jarrah became the only one to be destroyed during the holiday.
7. Kafkaesque arrests: 2 women activists were arrested during the course of the inspectors’ courageous assault on the sukkah. Here too, the police set a new record for creativity. The arresting police officer decided to arrest one of the activists since the Jewish settlers might assault her in the future. And so the activist was brought into the police station in order to ensure her safety. The good soldier Schweik would certainly be jealous of such a plot twist.
8. From the Israeli media: “Dozens of left-wing activists attempted to approach the Tomb of Simon the Righteous in the area where Jews reside in Sheik Jarrah, the police prevented them and detained one activist for interrogation regarding the breach of public peace and assault against a police officer”. This is the wording of the police statement regarding the events in Sheik Jarrah, which the media hurried to parrot. This was definitely a comprehensive report regarding an event in which activists constructed a sukkah next to a Palestinian home, and the police destroyed it time after time. It’s interesting to note that the Police don’t believe their own statements: the proof being that neither of the activists arrested was accused of assault.
9. At the end of the day: It’s now evening in Jerusalem. The festival of lies, distortions and fictions has run its course. Apparently, only to resume again tomorrow. Tomorrow will bring a new dawn, in which each of us will have to choose between being a captive of the “Jerusalem Syndrome” or to see oneself as part of the hard reality to which the city awakes every morning.