Sheikh Jarrah residents reject ‘oppressive’ agreement with settlers

Sheikh Jarrah - a candlelight vigil (Mahfouz Abu Turk - APA Images)

Yumna Patel

Mondoweiss  /  November 2, 2021

Sheikh Jarrah residents have rejected an Israeli Supreme Court proposal that would have made them “protected tenants” in their own homes, and paved the way for future displacement by Israeli settlers.

The residents of Sheikh Jarrah announced on Tuesday that they were rejecting a proposal by the Israeli Supreme Court that would have made them “protected tenants” in their own homes, paving the way for the future displacement of their families by Israeli settlers. 

After failing to rule against the families’ appeal against their evictions earlier this year, the Supreme Court put forward the proposal in August as a “compromise” between the Palestinian families and Nahalat Shimonim, the settler organization seeking to evict them from their homes.

The deal sought to render the Palestinian residents as “protected tenants” who would paid an annual rental fee of 2,400 shekels ($750) to the settler organization, allowing them to remain in their homes.

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

The deal, however, only offered the residents the status for two more generations, after which the families would once again be subjected to eviction by Nihalat Shimonim, which claims the land belongs to Jewish settlers. 

“It is time for our Nakba to end”

In a statement,  the families called the proposal an “oppressive agreement,” in which their “dispossession would still be imminent, and our homes would still be regarded as someone else’s.”

“Such ‘deals’ distract from the crime at hand: ethnic cleansing perpetrated by a settler-colonial judiciary and its settlers,” the statement said. 

In a press conference on Tuesday, Muna al-Kurd said that the families’ rejection stemmed  “from the belief in the justice of our cause and our rights to our homes and our homeland.”

The families accused the court of “circumventing the responsibility to adjudicate the case,” and forcing the residents to make a decision — something they said created the “illusion of the ball in our court.”

With the families’ rejection, the court will now have to make a ruling on the eviction suit. If the supreme court rules in favor of the settlers, the Palestinian residents of the neighborhood will be forcibly removed by their homes, and replaced with settlers — a reality that has already been forced on a number of Sheikh Jarrah families. 

While the the current case is in regards to just four families, a ruling against the Palestinian residents will pave the way for the imminent displacement of more than a dozen other families in Sheikh Jarrah, who are also facing eviction orders. 

The struggle of the families in Sheikh Jarrah catapulted to the world stage earlier this year, drawing massive protests in Palestine and abroad, and the attention of world leaders.

During protests over the summer, Israeli forces were documented violently attacking local residents, as well as journalists covering the events. 

While the increased international attention surrounding Sheikh Jarrah was believed to have staved off any forcible evictions for a while, the residents maintain that real action must be taken to protect them.

“The international community has long maintained that settler expansion and forced expulsion in Sheikh Jarrah are war crimes. Thus, it must respond to grave international law violations with real diplomatic and political repercussions,” the families’ statement said, adding that “the culture of impunity must not be maintained.”

“It is time for our Nakba to end,” the families said. “Our families deserve to live in peace without the looming ghost of imminent dispossession.”

Supreme court confiscates land for municipality 

In a separate decision on Monday the Supreme Court ruled to confiscate a piece of land from Sheikh Jarrah’s residents at the entrance to the neighborhood, and hand it over to Israel’s Jerusalem municipality. 

The confiscated land measures around 4,700 square meters, and is reportedly sought to be used as “public” land by the municipality. 

In a statement to The New Arab, Hashem Salaymeh, a member of the local council in Sheikh Jarrah said the decision to confiscate the property and hand it over to the municipality was “extremely damaging” to the residents’ case. 

“This sends a message that Sheikh Jarrah is being targeted by all Israeli actors, the government, the municipality and private settlers alike. This makes Sheikh Jarrah’s case even more complicated,” Salaymeh  said.

Yumna Patel is the Palestine News Director for Mondoweiss