by Ayman Ahmed (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 10, Rabi' al-Thani, 1442)
Even as the eviction of five Sabagh families from Sheikh Jarrah (East Jerusalem) was put on hold—temporarily—three families from Batan al-Hawa in Silwan area were issued eviction orders by the Magistrates Court. Altogether, some 700 Palestinians are at risk of being forcibly evicted from their homes in Silwan, East Jerusalem.
It is all done in a very ‘civilized’ manner. The occupiers’ court issues orders based on ‘laws’ crafted by the occupiers’ parliament, the Knesset. What could be more legal than that? There is a determined push by Zionist settlers to push the Palestinians out of their homes in East Jerusalem and move in there as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem so that Palestinians would not “contaminate” Jews.
The push into East Jerusalem is spearheaded by the Zionist settler group Ateret Cohanim. Some 84 Palestinian families (altogether 700 people) living in Batan al-Hawa (Silwan area), are threatened with eviction. The court cases are part of a series of eviction lawsuits filed by members of Ateret Cohanim settler group.
The Zionist settlers claim that in the late 19th century, the land was allocated by its Jewish owners to a Jewish trust (The Benvenisti Trust) for the benefit of poor Yemeni Jews of Jerusalem. Today, in the name of the same trust, these settlers seek to evict the Palestinian families who built their homes lawfully on that land after 1948.
Some context is necessary. The Benvenisti trust established in 1899 at the Sharia Court in Jerusalem was abandoned when Yemeni Jews left Jerusalem in 1938. Ten years later (1948), Zionist terrorist gangs attacked and forcibly occupied the Western part of Jerusalem. East Jerusalem with the Haram al-Sharif that houses the Masjid al Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock went under Jordanian control. In June 1967, when Israeli forces attacked Jordan, Egypt and Syria, the Zionists also occupied East Jerusalem. Under an agreement with Jordan, the administration of al-Haram al Sharif was left with Jordanian authorities. A Waqf (Islamic Trust) was established to administer the affairs of al-Haram al-Sharif and take care of its maintenance. Theoretically, that is still the case although Zionist settlers are pushing their way onto the sacred sanctuary, aided and abetted by the heavily-armed police.
While the Jewish trust was voluntarily abandoned decades ago, in 2001 the Ateret Cohanim settlers laid claim to it and appealed to the Jerusalem District Court to be allowed to administer it. In characteristic colonial style, the court accepted the settlers’ claim even though these settlers are not the original inhabitants of Palestine or of Jerusalem. They are alien invaders from Europe, Russia or North America but peddle the fiction that this land belongs to them. It is the occupiers’ logic: they have the guns and the power, so they impose their will on the indigenous Palestinian population.
Since 2015, 14 families have been evicted from Batan al-Hawa. Three judgments by Israeli courts last June ordered the eviction of another 11 families comprising 67 persons, and cases of some 80 other families are in court challenging their eviction. With limited financial resources, the Palestinian families run the risk of bankruptcy that would plunge them into absolute poverty. That is the intent of the illegal settlers: to force the Palestinians to “sell” them the houses to provide a thin veneer of legitimacy for their land grab campaign.
Palestinian families have faced eviction orders for decades. On November 20, the Israeli occupation authorities issued an order to forcibly evict 400 Palestinians, including women and children, from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem.
Jerusalem affairs specialist, Fakhri Abu Diyab, told Al-Mugtama news site that occupation authorities have issued a decision to evacuate 28 buildings, housing 80 Palestinian families to hand them over to Jewish settlers who in turn will convert them into military barracks.
“The Israeli claims that the ownership of the properties belongs to Jewish settlers are unfounded,” Abu Diyab said, explaining that the Palestinian families have been living in these homes since 1956, as quoted by the Middle East Monitor.
“The Israeli occupation’s decision is a crime and an aggression which aims to empty the city of its Palestinian residents and create a demographic imbalance that favours the settlers,” he added.
Since the beginning of 2020, Israeli forces have demolished 176 Palestinian homes in occupied Jerusalem. The Zionist regime has also approved the establishment of 17,000 new settlement units in the holy City.
The Zionists use multiple pressure tactics as the case of Abdullah Abu Nab and his family showed. They were forced to flee West Jerusalem as armed Zionist gangs terrorized them in 1948. The family settled in Batan al-Hawa but their troubles did not end. Abdullah Abu Nab was one of the first to be sued by the Ateret Cohanim people in the name of the Jewish trust. He knew that if he lost in court he would not only lose his house but would have to pay huge sums as “rent”, yet he refused to surrender or “sell” the house to the Zionist marauders.
The court ruled against Abdullah and his family and ordered their eviction from the house as he had feared. He was also ordered to pay the settlers a sum of about NIS 500,000. In 2015, police evicted the Abu Nab family from their home and the settlers took it over. The settlers, however, were not done yet. To punish the Abu Nab family and to make an example of them to other Palestinian families reluctant to “sell”, the settlers opened proceedings against him to pay the NIS 500,000 “back rent”. Adding insult to injury, the court sided with the illegal Zionist settlers!
In a piece jointly authored for Al Jazeera, Alaa Tartir, programme director of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, and Dr Jeremy Wildeman, Research Associate at the Department for Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath, highlight the logic of Zionist colonialism. “Theodor Herzl, the father of Israel’s foundational Zionist ideology, once said, ‘If I wish to substitute a new building for an old one, I must demolish before I construct’.
“Recent examples of Herzl’s colonial paradigm of displacement and replacement include continuing large-scale home demolitions in Wadi Hummus, a neighbourhood in southeast Jerusalem that is supposed to be under the Palestinian Authority’s control (PA), and threats to demolish 52 West Bank schools, such as the Ras al-Tin primary school near Ramallah. Most recently, the bulldozers and diggers of the Israeli army demolished the Palestinian village of Khirbet Humsa, leaving 74 people, including 41 minors, homeless.”
There is no other way to describe Israeli conduct but to call it war crimes and crimes against humanity. Not surprisingly, Israeli apologists want the world not to mention these uncomfortable facts, hence their desperate attempts to declare all criticism of Israel as “antisemitism”.