The Israeli government attempts to ethnically cleanse another East Jerusalem neighborhood of it’s Palestinian population in order to make way for Jewish settlers to take their homes. This after the latest round of violence was in large part ignited by this very issue in the nearby neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Last year Israel’s Jerusalem Magistrates Court ruled on the forced evictions of 8 Palestinian families, from the Batn al-Hawa area of Silwan, in favor of the Ateret Cohanim settler organisation which aims to facilitate the handing over of Palestinian homes to illegal Israeli settlers. This Wednesday, an Israeli court postponed an eviction appeal made by the families for two weeks, meaning the decision still stands until a possible further ruling that the families be made homeless.
In light of the armed response, in the form of rocket fire, and the popular revolt against Israeli government policies in Jerusalem, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Saleh Higazi, had the following to say:
“By continuing to pursue this court case – after the outcry over the planned forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem – Israel is fanning the flames of the latest upsurge in violence and perpetuating the same systematic human rights violations against Palestinians that are at the root of the latest violence.”
Israel’s top Human Rights Organisation B’Tselem has defined the dispossession of homes from Palestinians in Batn al-Hawa as being done so on the basis of their ethnicity, which would evoke the crime of discrimination as pointed out by Human Rights Watch in its recent report ‘A Threshold Crossed’.
B’Tselem describes the current predicament faced by Palestinians in East Jerusalem, as follows:
“Ever since Israel annexed East Jerusalem, Israeli authorities have employed discriminatory policies against the city’s Palestinian residents, and have worked in different ways toward decreasing their number while increasing the number of Jewish residents, with a view to achieving demographic and geographic conditions that would obstruct any future attempts to question Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem. As part of these efforts, Israeli authorities have confiscated hundreds of hectares of land from the Palestinian population and built 12 neighborhoods designed exclusively for the Jewish population in the occupied area that was annexed to Israel. In terms of international law, the status of these neighborhoods is no different than that of the settlements elsewhere in the West Bank.”
Currently 100 Palestinian families in Silwan are facing violent forced ethnic displacement at the hands of Israeli occupation authorities. Israeli settler organisations are able to use Israel’s Apartheid laws in order to justify a legal means for the ethnic cleansing, based upon primarily the 1950 Absentees Property Law. This piece of 1950’s Israeli legislation has been used historically against the Palestinian people who remained inside what became Israel following the ethnic cleansing of Palestine between 1947-1949, and primarily in East Jerusalem.
Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem in 1980, after it had illegally occupied the territory in 1967. The annexation of East Jerusalem had meant that Israel had applied Israeli civil law over the land, opposed to military law, which it implements against Palestinians inside the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Absentees Property Law now allows for settler organisations to argue in court that land claimed to have been owned by Jewish landlords prior to 1948 (the establishment of Israel), should be returned to Jewish ownership. No such law exists for Palestinians to claim back land they formerly owned.
Beyond Israel’s legal system being described by Human Rights Watch as enforcing ‘discriminatory laws’, Israel’s application of its own laws onto East Jerusalem is not recognised under International Law. No country on earth recognizes the legitimacy of Israel’s actions in East Jerusalem and according to the United Nations the whole area is still an occupied territory – the UN sees Israel’s annexation as violation of international law.
The 8 families, in Batn al-Hawa, set to meet a similar fate to those who currently face being ethnically cleansed from Sheikh Jarrah, are to be made homeless and claim to have nowhere to go if expelled.
Whilst the families of Sheikh Jarrah were originally ethnically cleansed from their homes between 1947-1949, many families of Batn al-Hawa were expelled from the only city of Jerusalem in the 1960’s. This means that in both of these cases, the families are set to experience a double-case of ethnic cleansing.
The UN’s OCHA says that as of a survey conducted in 2020, it was revealed that at least 218 families had court cases against them in East Jerusalem. This means that approximately 970 Palestinians, including 424 children, are at great risk of being ethnically cleansed.
The take away point here, is that all these cases are possible triggers for further waves of violent uprisings against Israeli occupation – uprisings which are protected under international law and the Geneva Conventions – yet Israel’s government and courts are, in their arrogance, still ignoring international condemnation and facilitating ethnic cleansing. Now, the situation on the ground has significantly changed. Whereas before, nothing but condemnation would come as a consequence to Israel’s actions, now the unified Palestinian resistance are ready to react and hold Israel accountable.
If the International Community continues to maintain its current position of offering watered down condemnation with no follow up actions, the Palestinian people themselves will continue to take measures into their own hands by any means necessary.