Israel tightens noose around East Jerusalem

The Israeli settlement of Pisgat Zeev in front of the Palestinian Shuafat refugee camp on 27 April 2018. Israel is pressing on with land confiscations and house demolitions in a bid to bring more Jewish settlers into East Jerusalem and environs. 

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Israel took various steps this month to entrench its occupation of East Jerusalem.

From demolishing Palestinian structures to approving further expansion of settlements, Israel continues to threaten Palestinian existence in the heart of the city.

On 21 November, Israel’s high court gave the green light to evict 700 Palestinian residents of the Silwan neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem from land they’ve lived on for decades.

The court denied an appeal filed by 104 Silwan residents in the Batan al-Hawa area against a 2002 government decision to transfer ownership of the homes of some 70 Palestinian families to three individuals closely associated with Ateret Cohanim, a right-wing Israeli settler organization focused on taking Palestinian land in Jerusalem.

The transfer of ownership is made possible by the 1950 Absentee Property Law, which allows Israel to seize land owned by displaced Palestinian refugees, who fled or were expelled from their homes during and after the Nakba, the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestinians carried out by Zionist forces to make room for an Israeli state.

Government collusion

Israel’s high court judges rejected the appeal despite knowing “that the procedure concerning the Silwan village homes was flawed and raised questions about land transfers to [Ateret Cohanim],” Israel’s i24 News reported.

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem condemned the court’s decision, stating that it “gives its seal of approval to almost any infringement of Palestinians’ rights by the Israeli authorities,” adding that various government ministries have assisted Ateret Cohanim in encroaching on Palestinian land in Batan al-Hawa and handing over their homes to Jewish settlers.

Apart from the blatant theft of Palestinian land, the increased presence of illegal settlers also necessitates a greater “security” presence for them, creating an even more violent atmosphere for Palestinian residents.

“The stronger the hold settlers have in the neighborhood of Batan al-Hawa, the greater the number of Palestinians directly impacted by the settler security apparatus, even without being expelled from their homes,” B’Tselem added.

Demolishing storefronts

On 21 November, Israeli occupation forces demolished some 20 commercial buildings on a busy street in Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp.

The Israeli press called it the “most significant” demolition since the construction of Israel’s apartheid wall in the occupied West Bank during the second intifada.

The demolition order came from the Jerusalem municipality, which rarely grants Palestinians building licenses, forcing them to build “illegally” and live in constant fear of demolition.

Local media circulated pictures of the operation on social media, dubbing it the “demolition massacre.”

This video shows Israeli forces conducting the demolition:

Israeli forces also detained Palestinians during the operation, including three children:

Demolition warnings were given 12 hours prior to the act. Israeli forces blocked off entrances into the camp and restricted movement in the area on 21 November, and arrived again the day after to continue the demolition.

EU concern

Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, condemned Israel’s actions as jeopardizing a two-state solution.

“The European Union is strongly opposed to Israel’s settlement policy, illegal under international law, and actions taken in that context, such as forced transfers, evictions and demolitions,” she said in a statement on 24 November.

“The EU expects the Israeli authorities to reconsider and reverse these decisions.”

She did not spell out clear consequences for Israel if it defies these calls. In the past, the EU has done nothing to hold Israel accountable for demolishing structures, including ones funded from EU coffers.

Twice displaced

Meanwhile, Israel’s high court has denied the appeal of a Palestinian family who is being evicted from their East Jerusalem home.

The court refused to hear the Sabbagh family’s case on the building’s ownership in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

The family of 40 – 30 of which are children – will be thrown out within months and has nowhere else to live.

The Sabbagh family is originally from Jaffa and owns two homes there. They fled following the Nakba and settled in Sheikh Jarrah in 1956.

After the Nakba, Israel took over the homes and properties Palestinians fled under its Absentee Property Law, including those of the Sabbagh family.

“Their two former houses in Jaffa still exist, and they keep pictures of them in their living room,” according to Israeli daily Haaretz.

The house that the Sabbagh family lives on in Sheikh Jarrah was owned by Jewish individuals before the Nakba, but was abandoned during it.

The Jordanian government and the United Nations built housing on the land for Palestinian refugees six years after the Nakba, and the Sabbagh family moved into one of those buildings.

“We have two houses in Jaffa, on Hasneh Street and Hagidam Street, and we have 250 dunams [62.5 acres] in Yavneh and also in Ashdod,” Muhammad Sabbagh, 71, told Haaretz.

“Why can’t I ask for my property from before 1948?”

In 2003, a company registered in the United States, called Nahalat Shimon International, bought the land from the Jewish groups that claim to have owned it before 1948, and has been fighting to forcibly displace Palestinians from there since then.

“The ruling will also make it very difficult for dozens of other Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah to avoid eviction,” Haaretz reported.

Settlement ring

Meanwhile, Israel’s parliament passed a law last week permitting the building of residential settlements atop public parks, according to Haaretz. This would enable the construction of housing units in the City of David archeological site near the al-Aqsa mosque in occupied Jerusalem.

The law’s bill was backed by Elad, a private organization that settles Jews in occupied East Jerusalem in violation of international law.

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s National Bureau for Defending Land said the new law was part of an Israeli plan to establish a settlement ring around the city of Jerusalem, in order to increase the number of settlers there at the expense of Palestinian residents.

Earlier this month, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee approved the building of 640 new Israeli settlement homes in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish-only colony in East Jerusalem.

Some of the new homes will be built on privately owned Palestinian land, according to Haaretz.

Some 3,000 Israeli settlers live in Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem’s Old City and the surrounding area, amid some 100,000 Palestinians, according to B’Tselem.

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The Electronic Intifada is doing yeoman's work, but until the mainstream media in the U.S. ceases to be nothing more than a propaganda outlet for Israel, nothing will change. As it stands now, all U.S. publications suffer from a rigid, iron-clad prohibition from criticizing Israel for any reason, including
international war crimes and crimes against humanity.
No? Want to challenge this statement?
Then try to publish an article, a just, fair, and accurate article, criticizing Israel's theft of Palestinian
land, or try to send reporters into Gaza to report actual conditions there. Try to publish an article pointing out the hypocrisy of wailing and gnashing of teeth at the murder of Kashogii while not mentioning a word about Israels deliberate attack of a U.S. ship, "The Liberty," which killed some thirty-seven American crewmen and wounded dozens of others. Why doesn't the great American press give as much time to this attack on our navy as they do to the murder of Mr. Kashogii by Saudis in Turkey?
And just try to start publishing a series of articles on the murder of a young American girl, Rachel Corrie, run over by
an Israeli bulldozer. A murder that the U.S. said nothing about. A murder which had American diplomats running for cover, whining and whimpering, cringing and cowering before the mighty hand
of the Israeli lobby in this country. Just try it. See how long it takes for your publication to fire
your ignorant ass. Go ahead! Try criticizing Israel! I dare you. I double dog dare you.
I, of course, expect to hear nothing from any U.S. main stream outlet because it is forbidden.

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Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.