Far-right MKs heckled, harassed by angry protesters in Sheikh Jarrah

‘Why are you here? You’re garbage, you’re a cockroach,’ Palestinian resident of the flashpoint East Jerusalem neighborhood shouts at Religious Zionism party leader Smotrich

Head of the Religious Zionism Party MK Bezalel Smotrich gives a press statement at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 21, 2021. (Olivier FItoussi/Flash90)
Head of the Religious Zionism Party MK Bezalel Smotrich gives a press statement at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 21, 2021. (Olivier FItoussi/Flash90)

Religious Zionism MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Orit Strock were met with angry protests when they visited the flashpoint Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem on Tuesday.

In video footage of the confrontations, some Arab residents called the delegation “animals” and one grabbed the phone of Strock’s parliamentary aide, prompting police to intervene. Other residents approached Smotrich and Strock and shouted: “Get out, get out of here now.”

“Why are you here? You’re garbage, you’re a cockroach,” one resident shouted at Smotrich. “Get out of here now, there’s no reason for you to be here.”

A small crowd gathered around the lawmakers and screamed at them to leave. The delegation was surrounded by police officers who pushed the crowd back.

In another video of the event, Smotrich was seen yelling at an Israeli police officer over the way he spoke to Strock.

“Why did you speak like that to her? You have to speak appropriately to a member of Knesset,” Smotrich shouted. “You’re out of line. I’m about to explode… she’s a member of Knesset, you work for her!”

Following the visit, Smotrich slammed the Israel Police and said one of the East Jerusalem men who accosted the group was known to have thrown rocks in the past at groups of Jews in the neighborhood. Smotrich said the incident shows the “incompetence of the Israeli system, from the police to the courts. There is clear evidence of a terrorist throwing stones and trying to murder Jews and he continues to roam free and attack violently. Today, it was Knesset members.”

The Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood has been a flashpoint of tensions in recent months, due to a series of pending evictions of multiple Palestinian families living there.

The looming evictions have sparked widespread anger among Palestinians and Arab Israelis and international condemnation, and were blamed in part for the conflict between Hamas and Israel last month in the Gaza Strip.

The land in question was owned by Jews before the 1948-49 Independence War, when it was seized by Jordan and leased to Palestinian families. After Israel captured the area in the 1967 war, a 1970 Israeli law transferred all abandoned properties still held by the Jordanian government, including the Sheikh Jarrah homes, to the custody of the Israeli government. The law further obligated the release of properties to original owners when possible. The Jewish trusts that had owned the site appealed for its return to their hands, sparking a five-decade legal battle between the trusts and the Palestinian residents.

Israel says the issue is a private property dispute to be adjudicated by the courts. Palestinian residents argue that the demand to reclaim the site is part of a campaign by Israeli settlement groups to displace them and replace their community with a Jewish one.

MK Orit Strock attends a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting in Jerusalem on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Palestinians and members of the international community accuse Israel of seeking to “Judaize” East Jerusalem by slowly evicting hundreds of Arab families and replacing them with Jewish ones. Israel maintains that East Jerusalem is a part of its undivided capital and that the Jews moving into neighborhoods there do so legally.

Palestinian protesters and Jewish residents clashed late Monday in the neighborhood before police moved in to disperse the Palestinians, wounding at least 20. Jewish residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood said protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Jewish homes, lightly wounding a pregnant woman who was hit in the back with a stone.

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