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Hundreds protest new Palestinian evictions in Sheikh Jarrah

Israeli and international activists march in solidarity with the East Jerusalem neighborhood as families brace for a new wave of evictions.

By +972 Magazine Staff

Hundreds of activists marched from West Jerusalem to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah to stop the eviction of Palestinian families there, on January 18, 2018. (Activestills.org)

Hundreds of activists marched from West Jerusalem to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah to stop the eviction of Palestinian families there, on January 18, 2018. (Activestills.org)

Hundreds of Israeli and international activists marched from central West Jerusalem to Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, on Friday, in solidarity with the families there who Israeli authorities want to evict.

In late November, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected the Sabag and Hamad families’ appeals against their evictions. Residents of Sheikh Jarrah fear that decision could lead to a new wave of evictions affecting as many as 11 families and 500 people.

“We were shocked,” Muhammad Sabag, 74, said in an interview in December. “We waited for a decision for a long time, but we were not ready for such a blow.”

Residents of the neighborhood and activists with Free Jerusalem, a group organizing against Israel’s military occupation, initiated Friday’s action in order to bring attention to the families’ cases and to try and stop their evictions. Other organizations, including Peace Now and Combatants for Peace, also participated in the protest, said Sahar Vardi, an organizer with Free Jerusalem.

Israeli, international, and Palestinian activists march in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah against an expected new wave of demolitions, January 19, 2019. (Activestills.org)

Israeli, international, and Palestinian activists march in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah against an expected new wave of demolitions, January 19, 2019. (Activestills.org)

As protestors were gathering at their meeting point, a man grabbed one of the activists’ glasses off his face and crushed them in his hands, said activist Daniel Roth, who participated in Friday’s demonstration. People who were opposed to the action also yelled hateful, racist statements as the protesters marched into Sheikh Jarrah, added Roth.

When demonstrators reached the neighborhood, Palestinian residents and organizers joined the action. Toward the end of the protest, while activists were standing outside one of the homes of the families facing eviction, Israeli police attacked a man holding a Palestinian flag, said Roth. Activists then stood between the man and police forces, and began chanting “end the occupation” until police backed off.

“At the core of this whole thing is the idea that all people have a right to a home, and what’s going on here is that the powers that be are taking homes from some people because of their national identity, period,” said Roth in a phone interview after activists dispersed. “What we’re looking at is racist policy and action around people’s very homes, and that should wake people up to stand up with these folks.”

Hundreds of activists marched from West Jerusalem to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah to stop the eviction of Palestinian families there, on January 18, 2018. (Photo courtesy of A. Daniel Roth)

Hundreds of activists marched from West Jerusalem to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah to stop the eviction of Palestinian families there, on January 18, 2018. (Photo courtesy of A. Daniel Roth)

In the 19th century, a small Jewish community lived Sheikh Jarrah. By 1948, most of its Jewish residents abandoned the area as East Jerusalem came under Jordanian rule. In 1956, 28 Palestinian refugee families from West Jerusalem were settled there through an agreement reached between Jordan and UNRWA.

When Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, the Palestinian families who had been living in the neighborhood since the 1950s were allowed to stay. But in recent years, several of these families were evicted as a result of Israeli court decisions to recognize pre-1948 ownership claims made by two Jewish bodies, the Sephardic Community Committee and the Knesset Israel Committee.

In 2003, a U.S.-based company named Nahalat Shimon purchased the land from the two Jewish community councils. It is unclear who owns Nahalat Shimon. What is clear is that it is trying to put Israeli settlers in homes currently occupied by Palestinians.

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In response to these evictions, Palestinian and Israeli activists started a protest movement in 2009 that eventually mobilized thousands to demonstrate in the neighborhood every week against both evictions. The struggle led to pressure in the media and the international community and the evictions came to a halt. Since then, Israeli authorities have evicted only one family in Sheikh Jarrah.

Although implemented according to Israeli legal and justice systems, the evictions set a political double standard that justifies Jewish claims to property held before 1948, but does not allow Palestinians to make similar claims to properties they were forced to leave in West Jerusalem.

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    COMMENTS

    1. itshak Gordine

      Who owns the land?

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Itshak: Whose law? If we’re talking about Israeli law, anything goes. If we’re talking about international law, “Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which defines humanitarian protections for civilians caught in a war zone, an occupying power is forbidden from transferring parts of its civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

        https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/01/israel-evicting-palestinian-family-replace-settlers-190115061242614.html

        Americans for Peace Now also has an anlysis:

        https://peacenow.org/entry.php?id=30013#.XEOfiMZ7nCI

        Peace Now: “This is part of an organized and systematic campaign of settlers, with the assistance of government agencies, to expel entire communities in East Jerusalem and to establish settlements in their stead

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          These lands belonged to Jews before their expulsion. They have returned and wish to regain possession of them. In all countries of the world, landlords have priority over tenants. I live in Israel. I rented an apartment in Jerusalem. His owner ended the lease to house his family and I had a few weeks to leave.

          Reply to Comment
          • Bruce Gould

            @Itshak: I see the problem: the idea of the law as a tool of oppression isn’t in your conceptual toolbox. Google “the law as a tool of injustice”.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Who owns the land?”

            Bruce puts it aptly. Conceptual toolboxes. The first thing one has to do when one looks under the hood of this four-word vehicle is add these missing parts:

            “Who owns this land under belligerent occupation and which laws should apply to settling the dispute about that?”

            The contraption runs much better and is of much better service after that.

            That there is no neat, pat and satisfying answer to your tactically narrow and eliding four-word question, Itshak Gordine Ha-Levy, will be clear to anyone who merely looks no deeper than the “Property disputes” section of this general purpose Wikipedia article,
            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheikh_Jarrah

            with its account of conflicting claims of forgeries about which even the flagrantly-stacked Israeli judicial system is evasive. (The settlers would never ever stoop to forgeries? I mean, fanatics would be above that sort of thing, would they? And they’ve never been caught forging things before, have they? And the Israeli courts have never looked the other way or looked in a cursory way at such forgeries?)

            And that all presupposes the absurdity that mere real estate property law (calling Drs. Trump and Kushner!) and all the chicanery attached to it here could ever do justice to the historical and justicial complexity of this situation.

            Ha-Levy, your purposefully narrow and cagey question strikes one as an evasion, that wants to sneak in easy assumptions about who is even permitted to dispute who owns what, where. An attempt to pre-set the rules of what possibly can be contested. That is, an evasion of the apartheid reality operative in the situation described in this article’s conclusive paragraph:

            “Although implemented according to Israeli legal and justice systems, the evictions set a political double standard that justifies Jewish claims to property held before 1948, but does not allow Palestinians to make similar claims to properties they were forced to leave in West Jerusalem.”

            It will take much more thoughtfulness and fairness and vision and largeness of mind and heart (magnanimity—not ever the settlers strong suit to say the least) to solve this problem.

            Reply to Comment