What is justice?

‘The Israeli police evacuates Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah’, I wrote on the website yesterday. It is a long complicated story. Imaan, a colleague, is willing to explain it to me. Last week she visited the families when they were still living in their homes.

A Jewish settler group filed a case again them in 1972. They claimed that they owned the land on which the houses are built. However, the Palestinian families had been living in these houses since 1953. They obtained these through the United Nations (UNWRA) and the Jordanian authorities, as they are refugees. The families have grown and all of them stayed in these houses until yesterday. They consider themselves the owners and say that they do have papers, which show this.

The families used to pay rent to the Jordanian authorities until the war of 1967, but they never registered the houses officially on their name. In 1972, the case about ownership of the land was settled by a lawyer, who signed a contract in their name. This contract said that the families should pay rent to the settler group, but could stay in these houses under this condition.

‘Why did they sign this contract,’ I ask. ‘They did not know about the contract’, says Imaan. ‘Without their knowledge, the lawyer signed this contract. However, the court considers this contract as lawful and therefore, recognizes the land ownership of this settler group,’ she added.

Yesterday night, after almost 52 years, the Israeli police evacuated the families from their houses. Again, for the second time in 50 years, they find themselves without a home. No Palestinian has succeeded in reclaiming his or her property in Israel, which they were forced to leave in 1948.

I think many Palestinians here in East Jerusalem never believed in the Israeli legal system although they are forced to make use of it at least to be able to stay in the city. They are discriminated and slowly lose more and more of their rights. This can be seen in the office. The files pile up on the desks of the lawyers.

Ashraf, a colleague, asks himself ‘why was it again that I wanted to become a lawyer? What happened with the ideals and theories about justice, which I studied in university?’

‘In practice, these turn out to be interpretated very different than in the way I was taught.’ he says.