Israeli Supreme Court tells Sheikh Jarrah residents to ‘reach agreement’ with settlers trying to displace them

Yumna Patel

Mondoweiss  /  August 2, 2021

In a long-awaited court hearing on Monday, the Israeli Supreme Court refused to rule on the status of ownership in Sheikh Jarrah, instead proposing that the Palestinians remain in their homes under the status of “protected residents.”

The Israeli Supreme Court deferred its decision on the forcible removal of the four Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah on Monday, following months of protests and international pressure to stop the displacement of Palestinians from the East Jerusalem neighborhood. 

In the long-awaited court hearing on Monday, the court refused to rule on the status of ownership over the land, instead proposing that the Palestinians remain in their homes under the status of  “protected residents.”

As protected residents, the Palestinian families would be forced to pay yearly rent to the Israeli settler organization Nahalat Shimon, which claims ownership over Sheikh Jarrah and is seeking to replace its Palestinian residents with Israeli settlers. 

As per the court’s proposal, such an agreement between the families and the settlers would stave off their eviction for the “coming years,” but would not prevent Nahalat Shimon from seeking to forcibly evict the residents in the future.

Accepting their status as protected residents would in effect recognize settler ownership of the land — a condition the residents have categorically rejected. 

According to Haaretz, the representative of Nahalat Shimon opposed the compromise and “demanded the families recognize the Jewish ownership of the land.”

“People must continue to live there and that’s the idea, to try to reach a practical arrangement without making various declarations. We have seen how much this interests the media. We want a practical solution,” Justice Isaac Amit said. 

Haaretz also claimed that “the Palestinians agreed to the compromise but rejected the settlers’ demand.”

Mohammed El-Kurd, a resident of the neighborhood and one of the four families whose appeal was being heard on Monday, however clarified on Twitter that “no decision or agreement has been reached.”

“Instead of making a ruling on land ownership, the court decided to evade its responsibilities and pressure us into reaching an agreement with settlers.”

Earlier in the day during the hearing El-Kurd tweeted that the judges were “placing massive pressure on us to reach a settlement with the settler organization, avoiding a substantive ruling regarding our rights in the land.”

“This cowardice is to evade potentially detrimental international ramifications,” he said. 

Alaa Salayma, another one of the Palestinians under threat of displacement, also told Middle East Eye that the families had rejected the compromise, saying “the minute we pay rent for our homes, it means we have given up ownership. This is not an option. We are the owners of these homes.”

According to testimony from the residents on social media, during the court proceedings, Israeli forces raided Sheikh Jarrah, stormed homes, and arrested people from the neighborhood. 

Following the court hearing, Palestinians took to social media to express their rejection of the Supreme Court’s proposal, with many pointing to the fact that Palestinians cannot expect to receive justice from a court where one of the judges himself is a settler.

Another court date to decide on the fate of the families has yet to be set. At least nine other families in the neighborhood are also under threat of forcible displacement. 

In May the court made a similar decision, telling the residents to “come to an agreement” with the settlers.

Many Palestinians, including residents of the neighborhood, have expressed concerns that the courts are merely postponing the decision on the forcible evictions due to increased international pressure, and will wait until the attention surrounding Sheikh Jarrah dies down to make a decision.

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss