Israel’s court system, government, and settler organisations are pushing for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the East Jerusalem town of Silwan and the International Community has yet to move a muscle to step in and help them.
Many people may have heard of the case of Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood located in occupied East Jerusalem, where up to 28 families are under threat of expulsion from their homes, in order for illegal Jewish settlers to steal their houses. However, many are not so aware of a similar, yet even larger scale ethnic cleansing campaign that is being waged against the people of nearby Silwan.
In the neighborhoods of al-Bustan and Wadi Yasul the Palestinians of Silwan face imminent home demolitions, under the Israeli government pretext of their homes not carrying a valid permit. In al-Bustan, an Israeli court order issued earlier this June slated the homes of over 100 Palestinian families for destruction. In this neighborhood alone, 1,500 people will be left homeless, following the completion of an ongoing demolition campaign by Israeli occupation forces, started only days ago. The court order stipulated that Palestinians would have to either pay for the destruction of their homes prior to the 27th of June, or Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality forces would do it at a much higher cost and would be accompanied by Israeli occupation forces which would violently expel the families.
Israel’s settler organisations responsible for the court cases used to force Palestinians from their homes, using discriminatory laws to do so, wish to clear the al-Bustan area of Palestinians in order to construct an illegal settler garden called “King’s Garden”. The settlers argue that the area, without physical proof, was once a Garden thousands of years ago for King David.
In the neighborhood of Batn al-Hawa, also located in Silwan, Israeli settler organisation Ateret Cohanim is battling in court to displace 86 Palestinian families, around 800 people in total, in order for illegal settlers to take their homes. The families would be left homeless, whilst any Jewish Israeli would then have the opportunity to steal the houses of the now homeless Palestinians.
Roughly 7,000 Palestinians in Silwan alone are under threat of being made homeless, either by way of home demolition or through forced ethnic displacement under which their houses will be stolen by illegal Israeli settlers.
All of this may sound like something you may have read in a book, or watched in a documentary about the racist regimes which existed over 100 years ago. Thousands of people being forced out of their homes purely because of their ethnicity, to make way for primarily European settlers, justified by a racist legal system set up to advantage one nationality over another. But this is not something of the past, it’s a very real and heart-aching reality for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, today.
Under international law, and as recognised by the overwhelming majority of UN member states, East Jerusalem is an illegally occupied territory. Therefore, Israel’s courts have no legal jurisdiction in that territory, yet, despite this repeatedly recognised truth, the international community does absolutely nothing to stop Israel from committing its heinous crimes against the Palestinian people.
The Israeli hazbara excuses for the ongoing ethnic cleansing campaign – which wishes to over complicate and entangle Western audiences in a litany of pseudo-legal jargon – has absolutely no legitimacy. In the case of Sheikh Jarrah and Batn al-Hawa, Israeli propagandists attempt to excuse New Yorkers stealing the homes of native Palestinians, as a complicated “legal dispute”. What they are describing, in reality, is an illegal occupying force working with illegal settler organisations, using a court with no jurisdiction over an illegally annexed territory, in order to uproot an indigenous population from their homes so that illegal settlers can take them.
The reality is that American citizens, who have lived the majority of their lives in the United States, can at any time claim Israeli citizenship, due to Israel’s discriminatory policies, if they can prove Jewish ancestry, and go on to commit a war crime in taking over the home of a Palestinian family. This is a point often glossed over by many, yet is a hard reality. These illegal settlers come from places like New York City and are able to travel back to the United States after stealing the home of a Palestinian in an illegally occupied territory without any questions asked. Illegal settlers face no consequences for their actions, not even in their native countries where some had grown up and lived the majority of their lives, making them essentially above International Law.
The inner workings of the court cases against Palestinian families mean absolutely nothing because the Israeli courts and Israeli Jerusalem Municipality have no legal right to decide anything in East Jerusalem. Even with the court itself, it upholds what Human Rights Watch describes as a discriminatory law, the 1950 Absentees Property Law, which gives Jewish organisations – sometimes State-run and sometimes privately-owned – the right to claim properties which were said to have once belonged to Jews, yet there is not a single law which allows the Palestinians to claim back land that once belonged to them. In fact, if the Palestinians of Sheikh Jarrah were able to claim back the land they were illegally uprooted from in 1948, then they would not be in Jerusalem, instead they would be living in Jaffa, now part of Israel.
The same can be said about the rest of the 800,000+ Palestinians who were forced out of their homes and ethnically cleansed from between 1947-1949. If the Palestinians had a similar law, Israel would no longer exist.
Israel also often advertises Palestinian citizens of Israel as somehow being equal under the law there. Whilst Palestinian citizens of Israel do indeed live better than Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and refugee camps in surrounding countries, they are far from equal at all. Currently there are over 700 Israeli towns where Palestinians can be legally barred from living – if the Jewish communities wish there to be no Arabs – whilst only 3% of the land there is open for Palestinians to buy property.
The saddening reality is that thousands of Palestinians in East Jerusalem now fear that any day could be their last living in their current homes. This is not because of any fault of their own, but simply because they are Palestinians born in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is just one of the reasons why the term Apartheid is being used by top Israeli Human Rights Group B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch, to describe the current conditions under which Palestinians live. There are also demonstrations ongoing daily in Silwan against Israeli settlers, settlements, and the occupation forces themselves, in which tens of Palestinians have been wounded.
Because of this ongoing ethnic cleansing campaign, which is being waged against the Palestinians of Silwan, Hamas and other Palestinian political factions have recently stated their intentions to open fire upon Israel from Gaza, if the demolitions of homes do not stop.