‘No longer afraid’: Palestinians vow to fight Jerusalem evictions

At least 218 Palestinian households in East Jerusalem have eviction cases filed against them, putting 970 people at risk of forced displacement, UN says.

Israeli security forces arrest a protester outside court in Jerusalem on Wednesday during a demonstration over Israel's planned expulsion of Palestinian families in Silwan district [Ahmad Gharabli/AFP]

Occupied East Jerusalem – Jerusalem’s District Court postponed a ruling this week on an appeal by seven Palestinian families, comprising 44 people, facing expulsion from their homes in the Batan al-Hawa area of Silwan.

Palestinians say, however, what they see as the “Judaisation” of East Jerusalem, incorporating expulsions, will continue – it is just a matter of time.

The court delay on Wednesday followed an earlier ruling by the magistrate’s court that the families, part of 19 families from Batan al-Hawa, be expelled from their homes to make way for Israeli settlers who claim they lived there before 1948 when the state of Israel was established.

“The court will delay the ruling because the situation is very tense in East Jerusalem now due to the Palestinian families also facing expulsion in Sheikh Jarrah and the raids into Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Fakhri Abu Diab, head of the Committee for the Defense of Silwan’s Lands and Real Estate and a researcher on Jerusalem affairs, told Al Jazeera.

“With the American Secretary of State Antony Blinken currently in the region it’s also not a good time to proceed with making Palestinians homeless,” Abu Diab said.

“However, the Israeli courts will eventually side with the settlers in the future and the expulsions will go ahead.”

‘No longer afraid’

Clashes erupted in Shekih Jarrah over several weeks recently as Palestinians protested the pending expulsion of several families from their homes and clashed with Israeli security forces, resulting in many injuries and arrests.

Walid Husseini – nephew of the late Faisal Husseini who was the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) liaison representative to the 1991 Madrid Conference peace talks – told Al Jazeera this time the Palestinians will not give up when the expulsions begin again.

“The situation on the ground is similar to that during the first Intifada as more Palestinians are becoming politicised and are no longer afraid,” said Husseini, a former journalist who took part in the first Palestinian uprising.

“They have given up on the impotent Palestinian Authority just as they previously gave up on the corrupt Palestinian leadership of the PLO.

“They realise they have to take matters into their own hands as the international community will not pressure Israel.”

Walid Husseini says the situation on the ground is similar to the first Palestinian uprising [Al Jazeera]

Palestinian fears of the Judaisation of East Jerusalem appear to be backed by facts on the ground and Israeli assertions that Jerusalem will remain united and the capital of Israel forever.

Israel’s expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem has been an ongoing process over the years followed by periods of quiet and delays as international criticism grew and pressure on Israel increased.

Israeli organisation Peace Now said the planned expulsions were part of wider plans by Israeli settler movements, in coordination with Israeli authorities, to expel about 100 families from Batan al-Hawa, based on ownership claims from before 1948.

A number of settlers who used to live in the area before 1948 were financially compensated by the Israeli government.

However, according to Israeli law, Palestinians displaced from West Jerusalem and other areas within Israel’s internationally recognised Green Line are not eligible for compensation, and neither do they have legal rights to reclaim their land.

‘Cease all settlement’

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said the pending expulsions were part of Israeli legislation, including specific laws that facilitate the takeover of properties for the establishment of Israeli settlements.

A follow-up survey by OCHA in 2020 revealed at least 218 Palestinian households in East Jerusalem had eviction cases filed against them, the majority initiated by settler organisations, placing 970 people, including 424 children, at risk of displacement.

“The majority of new cases were identified in the Batan al-Hawa area of Silwan, which remains the community with the highest number of people at risk of displacement due to ongoing eviction cases,” said OCHA.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in a recent report, said the Israeli authorities “must immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the [occupied Palestinian territories] including East Jerusalem”, review the application of certain Israeli laws “that have been used as a basis to evict Palestinians from their properties in East Jerusalem”, and “halt demolitions and forced evictions”.

The Judaisation of East Jerusalem goes beyond the expulsions that have taken place and those planned.

According to the UN, Palestinians struggle to obtain building permits and can only build in 15 percent of occupied East Jerusalem, although they make up 40 percent of its population, while 30 percent of East Jerusalem is allocated for the building of illegal Israeli settlements.

Jerusalem municipality bureaucracy limits Palestinian building by consistently refusing to draw up detailed urban building plans – a prerequisite for receiving building permits – for Palestinian neighbourhoods, said Israeli rights group B’Tselem.

Declaring parts of East Jerusalem national park land further restricts Palestinian access and so far four national parks have been declared in the occupied part of the city.

Revoking residency

Israeli policy in East Jerusalem was geared towards pressuring Palestinians to leave, thereby shaping a geographical and demographic reality that would thwart any future attempt to challenge Israeli sovereignty there, said B’Tselem.

“Palestinians who do leave East Jerusalem, due to this policy or for other reasons, risk losing their permanent residency and the attendant social benefits,” said the organisation.

“Since 1967, Israel has revoked the permanent residency of some 14,500 Palestinians from East Jerusalem under such circumstances.”

OCHA said Israeli measures have increasingly cut off East Jerusalem, once the focus of political, commercial, religious and cultural life for the Palestinian population of the occupied Palestinian territory, from the rest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Muhammad, a teacher from Silwan who did not want his full name published, told Al Jazeera the Israelis were making life extremely difficult for Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem with mass arrests, indiscriminate nighttime attacks, and checkpoints around the city.

“I am scared for my family and won’t allow my children, especially my sons, to go far on foot so I insist on driving them everywhere,” he said.

“The rest of the time I make sure they stay in the house, and to be honest with you I’m very afraid for the future of my children.”

Source: Al Jazeera