Israeli top court suspends Palestinian evictions in Sheikh Jarrah

Sheikh Jarrah - Israeli forces are seen as Palestinians gather in front of homes threatened by Israeli seizure (Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency)

Al-Jazeera  /  March 1, 2022

The ruling is a culmination of a decades-long struggle for Palestinian residents to stay in their homes.

Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that a group of Palestinian families slated for eviction from the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah can remain in their homes for the time being [sic].

The court ruled on Tuesday that the four families could stay in their homes until Israel carried out a land arrangement, a process that could take years or may not be carried out at all.

The ruling is a culmination of a decades-long struggle for Palestinian residents to stay in their homes and could work to ease tensions in Sheikh Jarrah and other neighbourhoods, where protests and clashes last year sparked the 11-day Israeli bombing of Gaza.

Sami Irshid, a lawyer representing the Palestinian families, told AFP the decision was “significant”.

“The decision of the Supreme Court today cancels the eviction while the issue of ownership is decided,” he said.

“The court decides that the past decisions regarding ownership do not apply, and the residents of Sheikh Jarrah can argue their ownership and prove their ownership,” he added.

In August, the families refused a “compromise” proposed by Israel’s top court, in which they would be recognized as protected tenants in exchange for recognizing Israeli ownership of their homes.

The new ruling leaves the final status of the property open to a decision by an office within Israel’s Ministry of Justice, said Gaal Yanovski, advocacy coordinator at Ir Amim, a Jerusalem group opposed to settlements.

Several Jewish settler organizations filed a lawsuit in 1972 against the Palestinian families living in Sheikh Jarrah, alleging the land originally belonged to Jews. Palestinian activists point out that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homes and land when Israel was founded in 1948. Israel has never allowed their return.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, along with the West Bank, in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognized by most of the international community.

Dozens of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem have consequently been at risk of eviction and thousands face the threat of demolition. Israel’s discriminatory policies make it extremely difficult for Palestinians to build new homes or expand existing ones.

Tensions erupted last month when Israeli police on horseback scattered protesters in Sheikh Jarrah who had poured in to support Palestinians facing eviction by Jewish settlers.

Under international law, the Israeli judicial system has no legal authority over the population it occupies.

About 200,000 Israeli citizens live in East Jerusalem under army and police protection, with the largest single settlement complex housing 44,000 Israelis.

Sheikh Jarrah is one example of a wider trend in Palestinian neighbourhoods in Jerusalem regarding forced displacement. Israel’s settlement project, which is aimed at the consolidation of Israel’s control over the city, is also considered illegal under international law.

SOURCE: AL-JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah to stay ‘for years’ after major ruling

Rosie Scammell

The National  /  March 1, 2022

Mass protests rocked occupied East Jerusalem last year over plans to evict the residents.

Four Palestinian families facing eviction in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood will be able to stay in their homes “for years”, their lawyer said on Tuesday following a major Israeli court ruling.

The residents’ planned expulsion in favour of Jewish settlers led to mass protests last year in occupied East Jerusalem, which were followed by the Gaza war.

After months of wrangling, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled the families can stay in their homes while authorities re-examine the question of land ownership.

“They can stay and stay” for years, lawyer Sami Irsheid told The National.

Each family must pay a nominal annual rent of 2,400 Israeli shekels ($745), which will be held in a trust account. [!]

Mr Irsheid said he was feeling “happy and proud” following the ruling, which comes four months after the residents rejected a deal tabled by judges.

The justices had proposed the Palestinians recognize the plaintiffs’ ownership in exchange for being allowed to stay in their homes for a certain period.

The families were given homes in the 1950s by Jordanian authorities, which governed East Jerusalem until Israeli forces took control of the area in 1967.

The case brought against the residents hangs on a law that allows Jews to reclaim land in East Jerusalem owned before the 1948 establishment of Israel.

Palestinians have no equivalent right to return to properties they fled in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

Israel’s lower court ruled in favour of an organization that said it held deeds to the land in Sheikh Jarrah.

The planned eviction of the Palestinian families by Israeli authorities sparked daily protests last spring.

The rallies coincided with demonstrations in and around East Jerusalem’s Old City, which were met with a crackdown by Israeli security forces.

More than 1,000 Palestinians and dozens of police officers were wounded during the protests, medics and officials said. The violence preceded an 11-day conflict between Israel and Gaza militants.

Fears of renewed clashes have hung over the neighbourhood ever since, particularly over plans to evict another Palestinian family this month.

The step was halted last week by the Jerusalem magistrates court, which temporarily froze the move. An Israeli local council member had brought the case against the family.

More than 230,000 Jewish settlers live in East Jerusalem, Israeli NGO Peace Now reported.

The majority of them live in communities built by Israel in recent decades, while about 3,000 have moved into homes in Palestinian neighbourhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah.

Much of the international community views the forced expulsion of Palestinians and the presence of Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem as illegal. Israel disputes this.

Rosie Scammell – correspondent, Jerusalem