‘Ownership is Ours’: Sheikh Jarrah Families Refuse ‘Protected Tenants’ Deal by Israeli Supreme Court
© REUTERS / RONEN ZVULUNA supporter of the El-Kurd family, Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem who are facing eviction, looks on as family members flash victory signs during a court hearing, in the Israeli Supreme Court, in Jerusalem August 2, 2021.
Protests against an Israeli court’s ruling against Palestinian Sheikh Jarrah residents in May coincided with violence elsewhere in Jerusalem during Ramadan, including the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli police, which together helped set off 11 days of rocket bombardments by Hamas and airstrikes in Gaza by the Israeli Air Force.
On Monday, the Israeli Supreme Court postponed its ruling on an appeal to a lower court’s decision to allow four Palestinian families to be evicted from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, saying it had not sufficiently heard arguments from both sides of the case.
During the hearing, which has been anticipated for months, the court suggested the families become “protected tenants” of Nahalat Shimon, the Jewish settler organization awarded the land by a lower court.
“This compromise will give us breathing room for a good many years until either the land is properly regulated or there is peace,” Justice Yitzhak Amit told a packed courtroom in Jerusalem on Monday, according to the Times of Israel.
However, the Palestinian families, together some 70 people, refused the offer.
“This means we’d have to concede ownership.This is something we definitively reject because the ownership is ours,” Alaa Salaymeh, one of the residents facing eviction, told Middle East Eye outside the courthouse after the court adjourned. “And we brought papers from Jordan that say the ownership is ours.”
Sami Ershied, a lawyer representing the Sheikh Jarrah families, told Al Jazeera that the proposal was unacceptable, but added it was “a good indication” that the judge did not reject their appeal out of hand.
“So far, we did not hear an offer that was fair enough and preserves the rights of residents. Therefore, we did not reach any compromise,” Ershied said. “We hope that the judges will continue listening to our arguments and take into consideration all the new details we’ve submitted and at the end of the day, conclude in favour of the residents of Sheikh Jarrah.”
“This entire country was established on land theft and stealing homes from Palestinians. I don’t think this system will ever be fair or just to me,” Mohammed el-Kurd, a journalist from another of the families, told reporters.
“I have zero faith in these courts but I do have some hope. But, you know, this is an entity that has behaved for so long with such impunity that I don’t think a dozen diplomats are going to change the tide,” he added. “Although, I hope. All I can say is that I hope. I hope things go in my favor. Who doesn’t want that?”
© REUTERS / RONEN ZVULUNProtesters take part in a demonstration to show their support for Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood facing eviction during a court hearing, outside the Israeli Supreme Court, in Jerusalem August 2, 2021.
Protesters take part in a demonstration to show their support for Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood facing eviction during a court hearing, outside the Israeli Supreme Court, in Jerusalem August 2, 2021.
After a lower Israeli court ruled in favor of the settlers and groups of Jewish settlers terrorized Sheikh Jarrah, setting off massive counter-protests, a delegation of European diplomats visited the neighborhood to “listen from the families who are threatened of expulsion from their homes,” an official from the European Union office in Jerusalem told Anadolu Agency on May 11.
A day earlier, Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian party governing the Gaza Strip, fired off a slew of rockets at Jerusalem as the part of what it called “Operation Sword of Jerusalem,” which it said was in defense of Al-Aqsa, the third-holiest site in Islam, in response to what Palestinians described as its “desecration” by Israeli police.
In Israel, 13 people were killed by Hamas rockets, two of whom were children, since the vast majority of projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system.
The war delayed the Supreme Court’s ruling, which had been expected that month.
Israel seized East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, having previously captured West Jerusalem in 1948, despite the city being declared an independent international city by the United Nations mandate underpinning Israel’s creation. Waves of evictions have slowly removed hundreds of Arab families from the city, to be replaced with Jewish settlers.
The Palestinan residents of Sheikh Jarrah were originally refugees from lands seized by Israel in the 1948 war and were settled on the area north of Old Jerusalem in 1956 via an agreement between the government of Jordan and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The agreement included 28 families. However, since 1967, lawsuits have resulted in the removal of many of them, as Jewish groups have claimed the land was inhabited by Jews before the refugees arrived.
In addition to Sheikh Jarrah, another East Jerusalem neighborhood is also fighting back against eviction: in Silwan, demolition has already begun of several Palestnian homes and businesses to make way for a theme park.
Defense Silwan Committee member Fakhri Abu Diab told Al-Monitor last month after the IDF declared Silwan a closed military site and set up checkpoints around the town that 6,800 demolition orders had been delivered, threatening more than 1,500 residents.
On May 10, UNRWA issued a statement in support of the Palestinian families in both Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, noting that Israel’s “forced eviction of Palestinians is occurring within the context of Israeli settlement construction and expansion, illegal under international humanitarian law.”