[News] The Nakba of Sheikh Jarrah: How Israel Uses ‘the Law’ to Ethnically Cleanse East Jerusalem

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Mar 24 13:57:35 EDT 2021

Nakba of Sheikh Jarrah: How Israel Uses ‘the Law’ to Ethnically Cleanse
East Jerusalem
March 24, 2021
Israeli bulldozers demolish Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. (Photo:
Tali Mayer, via Activestills.org)

*By Ramzy Baroud <https://www.palestinechronicle.com/writers/ramzy-baroud>*

A Palestinian man, Atef Yousef Hanaysha, was killed
<https://english.wafa.ps/Pages/Details/123729> by Israeli occupation forces
on March 19 during a weekly protest against illegal Israeli settlement
expansion in Beit Dajan, near Nablus, in the northern West Bank.

Although tragic, the above news reads like a routine item from occupied
Palestine, where shooting and killing unarmed protesters is part of the
daily reality. However, this is not true. Since right-wing Israeli Prime
Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced
in September 2019, his intentions to formally and illegally annex nearly a
third of the occupied Palestinian West Bank, tensions have remained high.

The killing of Hanaysha is only the tip of the iceberg. In occupied East
Jerusalem and the West Bank, a massive battle is already underway. On one
side, Israeli soldiers, army bulldozers and illegal armed Jewish settlers
are carrying out daily missions of evicting Palestinian families,
displacing farmers, burning orchards, demolishing homes and confiscating
land. On the other side, Palestinian civilians, often disorganized,
unprotected and leaderless, are fighting back.

The territorial boundaries of this battle are largely located in occupied
East Jerusalem and in the so-called ‘Area C’ of the West Bank – nearly 60%
of the total size of the occupied West Bank – which is under complete and
direct Israeli military control. No other place represents the perfect
microcosm of this uneven war like that of the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah
in occupied East Jerusalem.

On March 10, fourteen Palestinian and Arab organizations issued
<http://addameer.org/sites/default/files/Full%20Urgent%20Appeal.pdf> a
‘joint urgent appeal to the United Nations Special Procedures on forced
evictions in East Jerusalem’ to stop the Israeli evictions in the area.
Successive decisions by Israeli courts have paved the way for the Israeli
army and police to evict 15 Palestinian families – 37 households of around
195 people – in the Karm Al-Ja’ouni area in Sheikh Jarrah and Batn Al-Hawa
neighborhood in the town of Silwan.

These imminent evictions are not the first, nor will they be the last.
Israel occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem in June 1967 and formally,
though illegally, annexed
it in 1980. Since then, the Israeli government has vehemently rejected
international criticism of the Israeli occupation, dubbing, instead,
Jerusalem as the “eternal and undivided capital of Israel”.

To ensure its annexation of the city is irreversible, the Israeli
government approved the Master Plan 2000
a massive scheme that was undertaken by Israel to rearrange the boundaries
of the city in such a way that it would ensure permanent demographic
majority for Israeli Jews at the expense of the city’s native inhabitants.
The Master Plan was no more than a blueprint for a state-sponsored ethnic
cleansing campaign, which saw the destruction of thousands of Palestinian
homes and the subsequent eviction of numerous families.

While news headlines occasionally present the habitual evictions of
Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and other parts of East
Jerusalem as if a matter that involves counterclaims by Palestinian
residents and Jewish settlers, the story is, in fact, a wider
representation of Palestine’s modern history.

Indeed, the innocent families which are now facing
<http://addameer.org/sites/default/files/Full%20Urgent%20Appeal.pdf> “the
imminent risk of forced eviction” are re-living their ancestral nightmare
of the Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine in 1948.

Two years after the native inhabitants of historic Palestine were
dispossessed of their homes and lands and ethnically cleansed altogether,
Israel enacted the so-called Absentees’ Property Law
of 1950.

The law, which, of course, has no legal or moral validity, simply granted
the properties of Palestinians who were evicted or fled the war to the
State, to do with it as it pleases. Since those ‘absentee’ Palestinians
were not allowed to exercise their right of return, as stipulated
<https://www.afsc.org/resource/palestinian-refugees-and-right-return> by
international law, the Israeli law was a state-sanctioned wholesale theft.
It ultimately aimed at achieving two objectives: one, to ensure Palestinian
refugees do not return or attempt to claim their stolen properties in
Palestine and, two, to give Israel a legal cover for permanently
confiscating Palestinian lands and homes.

The Israeli military occupation
of the remainder of historic Palestine in 1967 necessitated, from an
Israeli colonial perspective, the creation of fresh laws that would allow
the State and the illegal settlement enterprise to claim yet more
Palestinian properties. This took place in 1970 in the form of the Legal
and Administrative Matters Law
According to the new legal framework, only Israeli Jews were allowed to
claim lost land and property in Palestinian areas.

Much of the evictions in East Jerusalem take place within the context of
these three interconnected and strange legal arguments: the Absentees’ Law,
the Legal and Administrative Matters Law and the Master Plan 2000.
Understood together, one is easily able to decipher the nature of the
Israeli colonial scheme in East Jerusalem, where Israeli individuals, in
coordination with settler organizations, work together to fulfill the
vision of the State.

In their joint appeal
Palestinian human rights organizations describe the flow of how eviction
orders, issued by Israeli courts, culminate into the construction of
illegal Jewish settlements. Confiscated Palestinian properties are usually
transferred to a branch within the Israeli Ministry of Justice called the
Israeli Custodian General
The latter holds on to these properties until they are claimed by Israeli
Jews, in accordance with the 1970 Law. Once Israeli courts honor Israeli
Jewish individuals’ legal claims to the confiscated Palestinian lands,
these individuals often transfer their ownership rights or management to
settler organizations. In no time, the latter organizations utilize the
newly-acquired property to expand existing settlements or to start new ones.

While the Israeli State claims to play an impartial role in this scheme, it
is actually the facilitator of the entire process. The final outcome
manifests in the ever-predictable scene, where an Israeli flag is
triumphantly hoisted over a Palestinian home and a Palestinian family is
assigned an UN-supplied tent and a few blankets.

While the above picture can be dismissed by some as another routine, common
occurrence, the situation in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem has
become extremely volatile. Palestinians feel that they have nothing more to
lose and Netanyahu’s government is more emboldened than ever. The killing
of Atef Hanaysha, and others like him, is only the beginning of that
imminent, widespread confrontation.

*– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle.
He is the author of five books. His latest is “**These Chains Will Be
Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity
Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center
for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center
(AMEC). His website is* *www.ramzybaroud.net* <http://www.ramzybaroud.net/>
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