More than 45 Palestinians are facing eviction from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem as part of the continued displacement of Palestinians in the illegally occupied city.
Settlers groups began to claim ownership of the land on which the Palestinian families had long lived after the 1967 war, registering the lands in their names in 1972, despite the Palestinian’s residency. This is despite Israel having no legal mandate in international law over the occupied lands. In 2003 the lands were sold on to Nahalat Shimon, a company which facilitates settlement in East Jerusalem for Israelis. By claiming ownership of the property Nahalat Shimon were able to begin a legal battle to evict the Palestinians from their homes.
The Palestinian residents ultimately had to appeal to the court of the occupying power and in the autumn of 2018 their appeals were rejected by Israel’s Supreme Court. The court refused to examine the evidence of ownership provided by the Palestinians and they now face eviction. The case raises how the occupation, combined with the extensive denial of equal rights for Palestinians under Israel’s legal system, is forcing Palestinians from the very lands they were born on.
The Sabbagh family, who face eviction, were originally displaced from their hometown of Jaffa during the Nakba, the catastrophe that uprooted nearly 3 quarters of a million Palestinians. The family have lived in the property for over 60 years, but are now due to be evicted. The Supreme Court’s decision to not rehear the case is expected to pave the way for the eviction of many other families in the neighbourhood and allow for more settlers to move in.
Zakaria Odeh, director of the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem – stated “ we’re trying to postpone the eviction as much as possible” and “the general political atmosphere has encouraged the Israeli government and the settler groups to intensify their efforts – particularly with this unrestricted support from the United States government”. Odeh’s comments suggest the Israeli legal system has little interest in preventing violations of international law.
Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying force is barred from transferring members of its civilian population into occupied territory, which would include East Jerusalem which Israel has occupied since 1967.
The Israeli government however recognises Jerusalem as exclusively Israeli and therefore does not recognise the Fourth Geneva Convention in this case. The International Court of Justice, has argued that Israel’s objections to the Fourth Geneva Convention do not stand.
This injustice is also common in other parts of East Jerusalem. In Silwan, on the outskirts of the Old City of Jerusalem, around 700 Palestinians are currently facing eviction and displacement. According to Israeli media, the government has worked closely with settlers to force Palestinians out of the Silwan area.
Evictions are part of a pattern of severe discrimination and unequal rights in Israel and the occupied West Bank, with those of Palestinian origin barred from holding the status of ‘nationals’ under Israeli law, blocked from leasing 80% of the land and able to have their residency in Jerusalem revoked for ‘disloyalty’.