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  • ACRI

What’s Happening in Sheikh Jarrah?

Sheikh Jarrah
Photo by Keren Manor, Activestills

In East Jerusalem, there are two different laws that apply to property, the combination of which generates discriminatory legal circumstances. Jews who owned property in East Jerusalem prior to 1948 are eligible to reclaim it, despite having received compensation from the State of Israel after losing their property in 1948. On the other hand, Palestinians who lost property that they owned in 1948 – in West Jerusalem or anywhere else in Israel – are not able to reclaim it.

The current struggle in Sheikh Jarrah is over territory near the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik (Simeon the Righteous), which was owned by Jewish committees prior to 1948. Following the war, the Jordanian government and the United Nations built houses on this land for 28 Palestinian refugee families, who were forced to leave their homes and property located in the territory upon which the State of Israel was established. They have since lived there for decades.

Following the conquest of Jerusalem in 1967, the state returned ownership of the land to the Jewish committees, and, since then, legal proceedings have been ongoing between them and the families for decades. In 2007, a private company bought the land from the Jewish committees and launched a renewed legal battle to evict the families. The company wants to construct approximately 200 new housing units on the site and exclusively for Jews only. As a part of this long struggle, four families have already been evicted from the area thus far, and another 13 families are at risk of eviction.

The state alleges that this is a real estate dispute, in response to international criticism of what’s happening in Sheikh Jarrah. Yet this claim disregards the significant historical, social, and identity-based context of this conflict, and the systemic discrimination against Palestinians, per the existing laws. It cannot be ignored that the "real estate" aspect of this conflict is merely on epart of the larger picture.

The taking over of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem by settler groups, under the auspices of the law and the state, is also taking place in the Old City, Silwan, Ba-Tur (the Mount of Olives), Ras al-Amud and Jabal al-Mukaber, with the stated goal of "Judaizing" the ring of neighborhoods that surround the Old City.

And just as Sheikh Jarrah is solely one example of what is happening in East Jerusalem, the expansion of settlements in Jerusalem is merely one example of ongoing efforts by settlers to expand Jewish control over land in the occupied territories, as the authorities either turn a blind eye or even support and subsidize the project of land takeovers and expansion. This is a part of a policy of dispossession, land takeover, and the reduction of Palestinian space in Jerusalem and the West Bank, which has been ongoing for 54 years.

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