The Israeli government just evicted more Palestinians from East Jerusalem and destroyed their homes, following a prolonged standoff. This time the stated purpose is to construct a school that magically can’t be placed anywhere else except for where some Palestinian families happened to be living.
These evictions took place in the predominantly Palestinian section of Sheikh Jarrah, the exact same section of East Jerusalem where another eviction standoff last year sparked a minor intifada and an exchange that included Israel blowing up an Associated Press office in Gaza.
Hamas has consistently urged Palestinians in East Jerusalem to resist evictions as much as possible, as Israel’s apparent goal is to ethnically cleanse the area of East Jerusalem and make it more Jewish.
East Jerusalem refers to a part of the city that is outside of the so-called “1967 borders”, which are sometimes recognized as more legitimate borders for Israel. Besides East Jerusalem, those borders also do not include the Golan Heights nor all the settlements in the West Bank. East Jerusalem is supposed to be the capital of a true Palestinian state, and it also the location of many Christian holy sites.
East Jerusalem was under the protection of Jordan until the aggressive Israeli conquests of the 1967 war, and has been under Israel’s occupation ever since. As in some other areas of the West Bank, Israel has been encouraging Jewish settlement and slowly squeezing Palestinians out.
Israel generally does not expropriate Palestinian property under any explicit policy of “f*ck Arabs, Jews win”. There is usually some kind of pretext or excuse. In this case, Jerusalem is taking advantage of some kind of internal property dispute among Palestinians. I make no claims to understanding of being able to adjudicate disputes of this kind – other than to say it is no resolution to simply bulldoze the property to build a Jewish school.
The Israeli government is also pulling a fairly common trick they often pull with Palestinians in East Jerusalem: they appeal to a legal technicality by which the State of Israel has the right to be custodian of “absentee property”. Specifically, since many Palestinians were displaced in earlier wars, and left for a time period, the government of Israel is officially the custodian of a lot of the property even though Palestinians are back on their property and living in it.
In effect, these laws provide a catch-all that allows Israel to challenge the property rights of Palestinians and/or to make decisions that the actual residents don’t agree with. And settler groups are aggressively using whatever form of lawfare they can to screw with Palestinians.
More important than the actual provisions of the absentee property laws is the fact that Israel selectively applies it when it favors Jews. Jignats clearly understand that demographics matter, and down to the level of minor property disputes they are taking steps to manage the demographics of East Jerusalem in their favor.
In this most recent event, the evictions were not done for the purposes of new Jignat settlers, but for the city government of Jerusalem to build a school. The victims this time are an extended family named Salhiye. They attempted a standoff with Israeli police but were overpowered in a raid and many were captured.
This is a bigger issue than these things normally are because of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in particular, which is a particularly hot spot. A failed eviction attempt in the section triggered a mini war only last year.
Sheikh Jarrah is and has for a long time been an Arab Muslim sector. Due to the displacement of the 1948 war, many Palestinians left and activist Jews came in and set up what they could. Over time, many Palestinians moved back as the area was under Jordanian protection. As a result, a lot of property is under genuine dispute. But the resolve of Jewish activists to solve these disputes always seems to cut one way. And ever since Israel seized the area in 1967, Jews have been undermining the Palestinian presence.
We’ll have to wait and see what responses take place. These events are bad optics for Israel, but they know that less Palestinians in East Jerusalem is good for them, so the slow-moving genocide continues. We can only hope that Israel’s deteriorating image gives the Palestinians more opportunities to organize.
Death to Israel.