The struggle to save the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah from ethnic cleansing by state-backed Israeli settler organisations continued this week in the Israeli Supreme Court.
During the court hearing, the judges proposed, what they framed as a “compromise”: the Palestinian residents would be granted a form of protected tenancy, but would have to pay a small rent to Nahalat Shimon – the international settler organisation behind the aggressive ethnic cleansing campaign. This would mean formally relinquishing any claims of ownership over the homes and land in the neighbourhood. Unsurprisingly, the residents have not accepted the compromise. They will now have to return to the court in less than a week for what is expected to be the conclusion of the legal battle.
While the media primarily focussed on popular protests on the streets and the accompanying international social media campaign in their coverage of the struggle to Save Sheikh Jarrah, Palestinian residents of the neighbourhood have also been fighting against attempts to expel them from their homes in Israeli courts, for decades.
In the early 1970s, Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah began receiving threats of expulsion from Israeli settler organisations that erroneously claimed they were squatting on Jewish property. The settlers filed claims with the Israeli Land Registry which unsurprisingly ruled in their favour. The Israeli regime has since framed the issue of Sheikh Jarrah as a “real estate dispute”.
The fact that international law does not recognise Israeli courts’ jurisdiction in Sheikh Jarrah, because it is a Palestinian neighbourhood in occupied territory, did not come into the equation. Neither did the fact that the Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah were granted ownership of the land by the Jordanian government in the 1950s. Since then, settler organisations have filed dozens of cases to expel Palestinians from the neighbourhood.
The Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah consistently responded to these court cases with legal appeals. The legal battle reached its climax in April this year, when the Jerusalem District Court rejected the appeals of eight Sheikh Jarrah families and ordered that they vacate their homes no later than May 2. The families rejected the order and took the case to the Supreme Court. The case has yet to conclude.