Nearly one hundred homes in the Palestinian community Al-Bustan, next to Silwan are slated for demolition that will displace 1550 Palestinians while in the community of Sheikh Jarrah, 28 Palestinian households are threatened with eviction to be replaced by settlers. These Palestinians are fighting the entire Israeli system — the Supreme Court, the police, the municipality, settlers, and the government — all of whom have one goal: the Judaization of Jerusalem.
For many years ICAHD has spoken about Israel’s plans to change the demography of Jerusalem, changing the current ratio of 60:40 Jews to Palestinians to 70:30 (or less) Jews to Palestinians. Israel uses a Kafkaesque system of zoning and planning to accomplish this goal, along with other tactics such as the withdrawal of residency permits required to live in East Jerusalem. This was explained in our February 2021 webinar where Meir Margalit, one of ICAHD’s Co-founders, and former member of the Jerusalem municipality laid out the municipality’s institutional discriminatory policies where power structures exist and human needs are not met due to its system of domination and oppression of the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem - Webinar recording here.
Al-Bustan is located just below the Old City’s Western Wall and Al Aqsa Mosque. For years, the Jerusalem Municipality has sought to clear this privately-owned Palestinian land to construct a “biblical” tourism park to be named “The King’s Garden” that will connect it to what Israelis say is the original City of David (not all archaeologists verify this). Ten years ago, the demolitions in Al-Bustan were stopped because of pressure from the international diplomatic community which led to the Municipality agreeing to negotiate a housing solution with the Palestinian residents. Since 2011 Palestinians in Al-Bustan have spent $500,000 on legal fees and the creation of a new masterplan for the area that was drawn up by Knesset Member Yousef Jabreen. But now the Jerusalem Municipality has said that it is not sticking to its commitment, points out that these homes never had planning permission (but Israel rarely grants planning permission to Palestinians) and it has asked the Local Affairs Court to reactivate demolition orders.
Community leader Fakhri Abu Diab explains the situation here.
Sheikh Jarrah is a Palestinian neighbourhood that overlooks the Al Aqsa Mosque from the north. In 1956 an agreement was signed between the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and Jordan which governed it at the time. A housing scheme was provided for 28 Palestinian families who had been made refugees in 1948, enabling them to move to Sheikh Jarrah where they would join dozens of other Palestinian families already living there. An agreement between the United Nations and Jordan stipulated that the families would receive the houses in return for renouncing their refugee status with the UN refugee agency. The Israeli government doesn’t recognize the agreement nor any of the documents which are held by the Palestinians and prefers to accept forged documents presented by religious Jewish settlers who claim that Jews lived there in the early 20th century. Four Palestinian families lost their homes in Sheikh Jarrah (in 2008 and 2009) and the settler’s goal is to remove the remaining families that will displace several hundred individuals.
During our February 2021 webinar about East Jerusalem, Palestinian lawyer and academic Munir Nuseibah also spoke, and he explained that Israeli law is deemed above international law. Palestinians who appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court concerning demolitions and evictions have never won. At best some delays or other small wins have been achieved. Only international pressure on Israel will be able to stop it from continuing with these violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention which are embedded in its settler colonial policies as it displaces the indigenous Palestinian population with Jewish settlers.
August 2021 updates on Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan
On 2nd August 2021, during a hearing at the Israeli Supreme Court, the court offered the Al-Askafi, Al-Ja’ouni, Al-Qasem and Al-Kurd families from Sheikh Jarrah an agreement with the settlement company claiming ownership of the land on which their houses are built whereby the families become protected tenants, but the land belongs to the company. The Palestinian families rejected this offer.
On 15th August, the Israeli Supreme Court temporarily suspended the eviction of the Hamad, Dajani and Daoudi families from Sheikh Jarrah. The Palestinians see this as the result of international political pressure placed upon the Israeli government therefore the court is playing for time to wait out the international uproar and media attention before it issues its ruling. In the meantime, Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah families live in a state of constant fear and anxiety.
Demolition orders were put on 97 homes in the Al-Bustan area of Silwan and from 15th August, the demolition of 49 of them was to begin. Due to international pressure on the Israeli government, it is delaying the demolition of most of the homes until February 2022 – except for 16 of them which the government says are still slated for demolition from 15th August onwards. Residents see this as a delaying tactic rather than full cancellation of the demolition orders.
Actions You Can Take
- Please keep writing to your political representatives. Update them on Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem. General guidance is provided here and a sample letter here.
- ICAHD UK was amongst the more than 500 organisations that signed a letter to the UN Human Rights Council stating that condemnation is not enough. The root cause must be addressed with Israel’s impunity brought to an end with justice achieved. See the letter here.