|On May 10, a Supreme Court panel of three judges will likely decide on whether it will allow the Askafi, Ja'uni, Abu Hasna, and Al-Kurd families from Sheikh Jarrah to appeal the District Court's decision authorizing their eviction. The likelihood of approving the request is slim. If the request is indeed denied, the four families would be under imminent threat of eviction and could potentially be forcibly removed from their homes in the coming weeks. Such a decision has the potential of impacting the cases of dozens of other families facing eviction lawsuits in the same area.
Concerted intervention to halt these measures is necessary.
Following the District Court's dismissal of the families' petition in February 2021 in which it ruled in favor of the Nahalat Shimon settler group, the families submitted a request to appeal to the Supreme Court. In response, Justice Barak-Erez proposed that the two sides reach an agreement whereby the families recognize the settler group's ownership rights over the properties in exchange for enjoying protected tenancy status. Due to the acute implications of such recognition and the likelihood that the settlers will ultimately exploit one of the mechanisms which allow for the eviction of even protected tenants, the families refused the proposed arrangement. The court gave the sides until yesterday to come to an agreement. Failing to reach a compromise, the families formally informed the court yesterday that the sides were unable to reach a mutual understanding.
The four aforementioned families, numbering 27 individuals in 6 households, are among 8 families (and 13 households) from the Kerem Al'ajoni section (eastern part) of Sheikh Jarrah whom the courts over the past year have ruled to evict. The other seven households, comprised of 31 individuals, stand to be evicted by August 1.
Aggressive Police Measures
Meanwhile for nearly two weeks, armed Israeli forces have been violently dispersing gatherings of Palestinians who have come to demonstrate solidarity with the Sheikh Jarrah families. Use of foul smelling water and stun grenades in residential areas along with armed mounted police charging into crowds and assault of protesters have become a nightly practice of the Jerusalem Police. Yesterday, far right-wing Knesset Member, Itamar Ben Gvir, of the "Jewish Power" extreme nationalist party (part of the Religious Zionist list) announced the move of his Knesset office to the street where the threatened Palestinian families reside. MK Ben Gvir indeed arrived to the area and remained there until past midnight. Along with him, dozens of rightwing nationalists descended upon the area, leading to confrontations with Palestinians. These incidents closely resemble the events surrounding the Damascus Gate just two weeks ago where police violence was compounded by incitement of Israeli Knesset members and mobs of Jewish extremists attacking Palestinians on the streets of Jerusalem.
Over 300 Palestinians under Threat of Mass Displacement in Sheikh Jarrah
A total of approximately 35 families from the Kerem Al'ajoni side of Sheikh Jarrah and an estimated 40 more families in the adjacent Um Haroun section of the neighborhood are at risk of eviction and in various stages of eviction proceedings.
The eviction demands in the Kerem Al'ajoni section are being filed by Nahalat Shimon, a US-registered company, working on behalf of settlers to establish a major settler enclave in the area. The settler group allegedly acquired the rights of two Jewish associations who claim to have purchased the properties at the end of the 19th century and assert ownership on the basis of the 1970 Legal and Administrative Matters Law. This discriminatory law confers Jews with the exclusive right to recover pre-1948 Jewish assets in East Jerusalem now inhabited by Palestinians. After the 1948 War, the Jordanian government assumed management of abandoned Jewish properties in East Jerusalem and thereafter designated land in the Kerem Alja'oni section of Sheikh Jarrah for the resettlement of dozens of Palestinian refugee families, including those mentioned above.
As part of the Jordanian Housing Ministry's refugee rehabilitation project in cooperation with UNRWA, new homes were built in the 1950's for some 30 families in exchange for relinquishing their refugee status. Through invoking the 1970 law, the Nahalat Shimon Company has therefore been advancing dozens of eviction claims against Palestinians, who were legally resettled under Jordanian law in this area of Sheikh Jarrah and now stand to be made refugees for a second time.
More than 1000 Palestinians Stand to be Uprooted from the Old City Basin
The processes of eviction being carried out in Sheikh Jarrah are reflected symmetrically on the southern side of the Old City Basin in Batan al-Hawa, Silwan where another settler organization is waging one of the most comprehensive settler takeover campaigns in East Jerusalem. More than 700 Palestinians from one community stand to be displaced.
In both Sheikh Jarrah and Batan al-Hawa, a total of over 1000 Palestinians are under threat of mass dispossession by settler groups aided and abetted by all levels of the state. These measures not only constitute a flagrant violation of human rights, but also erode conditions necessary for any future political resolution on the city.
Since the eviction claims are based on discriminatory laws, the legal recourse is limited. The only effective means of preventing the widespread displacement of these Palestinian families is through a government directive that can only be achieved as a result of amplified pressure.