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Explained: The Israeli court verdict on Sheikh Jarrah, and why Palestinians are unhappy about it

While Israel has constantly claimed that the Sheikh Jarrah dispute should be solved in court, about 1000 Palestinians are at risk of getting an eviction notice in East Jerusalem neighbourhoods.

Written by Sanskriti Falor , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 5, 2021 7:24:40 am
Israel, PalestineProtesters hold signs during the hearing on Sheikh Jarrah on Monday (AP photo)

Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday ruled that Palestinians can continue to stay in their houses in Sheikh Jarrah as “protected” tenants and pay an annual fee of 1,500 NIS to the Nahalat Shimon company.

The two-judge bench, hearing an appeal of four Palestinian families who were facing eviction, gave the “practical solution” according to which Palestinians should live as tenants instead of owners in Sheikh Jarrah. However, the judgment has left both Palestinians and a section of Israelis unhappy.

Why are Palestinians fighting for land in Sheikh Jarrah?

Jerusalem has been at the core of the conflict for a long time. The families suffering as a result of the dispute have been living in Sheikh Jarrah since 1950, after they were forced to flee post the declaration of Israel as a state by David Ben-Gurion.

This declaration resulted in a war between Israel and other Arab countries. By the end of the war, Israel had sought 23 per cent more territory than what was promised in the UN partition.

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According to a report in The Guardian, many would-be settlers cite an Israeli law that allows Jews to reclaim ownership of property lost before 1948. The Sheikh Jarrah case is incendiary for many Palestinians as they have no equivalent legal means to reclaim property that went on to become parts of Israel at the same time.

Israel’s Supreme court has been hearing a case on whether the Palestinians living in Sheikh Jarrah should be evicted and their houses be given to Israeli settlers.

The eviction process, which has been going on for years in Jerusalem, is because of a law that states that Jews who can prove their authority over land in Jerusalem before the 1948 war can claim the land.

Why are Palestinians unhappy with the recent judgment by the Israeli apex court?

On Monday, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the Palestinians can continue to stay in their houses in Sheikh Jarrah as “protected” tenants. The Palestinians, according to the court, would have to recognise that the property belongs to Nahalat Shimon, a Jewish settlement company, and pay an annual fee of 1,500 NIS to it.

Palestinians have said that the court judgment ignores their own claims to the property.

Mohammed El-Kurd, an activist from Sheikh Jarrah, tweeted, “Instead of making a ruling on land ownership, the court decided to evade its responsibilities and pressure us into reaching an agreement with settlers. No decision or agreement has been reached.”

He added, “The three Supreme Court “justices” are 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.”

Ir Amim, an NGO focused on the Israel-Palestine conflict in Jerusalem, tweeted, “The residents rejected the settlement, objecting to the claims of ownership.”

Palestinian residents in the neighbourhood say that Sheikh Jarrah was given to them by Jordan, which offered their families homes in return for giving up the refugee status. The Guardian reported that documents presented to the court on Monday suggested Jordan was interrupted in registering the claims by the war of 1967. This was the war in which Israel had seized the Old City, along with East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

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While Israel has constantly claimed that the Sheikh Jarrah dispute should be solved in court, about 1,000 Palestinians are at risk of getting an eviction notice in East Jerusalem neighbourhoods.

According to a United Nations report, Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville had said, “Israel cannot impose its own set of laws in occupied territory, including East Jerusalem, to evict Palestinians from their homes.”

What do Israelis feel about the court judgment?

The Times of Israel, an Israeli media organisation, reported that right-wing Jewish nationalists consider the matter to be a fight to expand the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem by legal means.

Ilan Shemer, a lawyer for the Nahalat Shimon which courts previously declared to be the owner of the land, also disapproved of the plan, the BBC reported.

Shemer also told BBC that this could be an “empty arrangement” and accused the Palestinian families of not having complied with prior rulings.

In the 1990s, Nahalat Shimon, the US-based right-wing settler organisation, had bought the disputed lands and forcefully evicted a family and three families were evicted by 2009.

According to Ir Amim, Nahalat Shimon plans to demolish the existing houses and under its new project, Simon HaTsadiq, and build 200 settlement units.

Lower courts have upheld claims that the properties are owned by the Israeli Nahalat Shimon company, The Guardian reported.

How did this issue play a hand in the recent Gaza flare-up?

Monday’s hearing was supposed to be held in May but the Supreme Court had delayed it amid the protests in the country.

Earlier, tensions rose, leading to some of the worst clashes, after there were speculations over the possiblity of Palestinians being evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and the land being given to Israeli settlers.

The Sheikh Jarrah protests coincided with a decision to ban traditional Ramadan gatherings at Jerusalem’s holy sites, The Guardian had reported. Moreover, there were marches and riots by far-right Jewish groups. The 11-day confrontation with Hamas on the Gaza strip led to the death of 254 Palestinians and 13 people in Israel.

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