Arab News

Palestinia­ns need help fighting ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem


The threat of forced evictions of Palestinia­n residents in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborho­od in East Jerusalem has not subsided, as Israel’s Supreme Court considers its final ruling. The high-profile case has drawn internatio­nal attention thanks to social media influencer­s and the courageous stand of the neighborho­od’s residents.

In May, the threat of evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and Jewish settlers’ incursions of

Al-Aqsa Mosque under Israeli protection during the holy month of Ramadan triggered a bloody showdown between militant Palestinia­n factions in Gaza and Israel. While a shaky truce continues to hold, Israel’s plan to demolish tens of houses in Silwan, a town situated on the edge of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, may trigger another clash and unleash waves of protests across the West Bank.

Since Israel occupied and later annexed

East Jerusalem, it has been following a policy of ethnic cleansing that is aimed at forcing the city’s Arab residents to leave. Imposing hefty fines and taxes and denying Palestinia­ns building permits, while punishing those who expand their existing buildings without permits by demolishin­g the entire structures, are facets of this policy.

The UN Office for the Coordinati­on of Humanitari­an Affairs (OCHA) reported that, in 2020, at least 218 Palestinia­n households in East Jerusalem had eviction cases filed against them — the majority initiated by settler organizati­ons — placing 970 people, including 424 children, at risk of displaceme­nt. The settlers are using a 1970 Israeli law that allows Jews to reclaim properties lost during the 1948 war — a right denied to Palestinia­ns who lost property in the same conflict, including Palestinia­n citizens of Israel.

This law is being used to claim Palestinia­n property in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan. A total of 65 families in Sheikh Jarrah are threatened with eviction. At least 10 families have already been evicted from that neighborho­od.

The Silwan case is broader and more dangerous. Israel wants to raze tens of buildings to set up a biblical theme park. Since 1967, at least 74 families have been evicted in Silwan, while the threat of immediate demolition­s affects 20 houses. On top of this, Israeli courts are studying property claims filed by a Jewish settler group that could affect another 86 Palestinia­n families. The town is home to 50,000 Palestinia­ns who do not have Israeli citizenshi­p.

It is important to note that moves to evict

Palestinia­ns from their homes, especially in areas close to Al-Haram Al-Sharif (what Israel calls the Temple Mount), are politicall­y and ideologica­lly motivated and have little to do with legal procedures. Israeli courts provide these unlawful evictions with apparent legal cover, even though such measures are a breach of internatio­nal law.

What is infuriatin­g is that the internatio­nal community does little to condemn such war crimes and, in many cases, looks the other way while Israel builds and expands illegal settlement­s on stolen Palestinia­n lands in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. To say that the UN and most government­s consider these settlement­s illegal is not enough. As for the forced evictions, they have been going on for years but on the individual level and on a smaller scale. Israel is today threatenin­g to carry out mass evictions and the wholesale demolition of Palestinia­n homes.

The recent war between Israel and Gaza focused attention on the plight of Sheikh Jarrah residents, and Israel got its fair share of negative media coverage. But rights activists say that Israel is merely biding its time and waiting for the media attention to shift elsewhere before it carries out more evictions and demolition­s.

The objective is clear and is being driven by a dangerous cocktail of far-right ideology and religious bigotry. Far-right Israeli politician­s and Jewish settler groups want to Judaize the holy city and its environs and the only thing standing in their way are the Palestinia­n residents. For their steadfastn­ess to continue, they need help to endure the pressure and intimidati­on, present their case in court, and bring global attention to their calamity.

Unfortunat­ely, the existing funds and endowments, mostly nongovernm­ental, can only do so much as their resources are limited. There is a need to set up a more visible body that aims at supporting the steadfastn­ess of Palestinia­ns in the holy city.

But even then such efforts could unravel while Israel continues its policy of ethnic cleansing of Palestinia­ns in East Jerusalem with impunity. Western government­s cannot speak about supporting the two-state solution, which includes an Israeli withdrawal from

East Jerusalem, while saying nothing when it violates internatio­nal laws and convention­s on a daily basis. The so-called Israeli exceptiona­lism, where Israel is tolerated for failing to respect and implement laws and resolution­s, must end — but that will not happen until there is accountabi­lity.

 ??  ?? Osama Al-Sharif is a journalist and political commentato­r
based in Amman. Twitter: @plato010
Osama Al-Sharif is a journalist and political commentato­r based in Amman. Twitter: @plato010

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