Palestinians Fight for Sheikh Jarrah Neighborhood

Published May 7, 2021

Palestinians Fight for Sheikh Jarrah Neighborhood

Palestinians have been protesting against the forced displacement of people in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood following an Israeli court order. The Israeli district court in East Jerusalem approved a decision to vacate six Palestinian families from their homes in May in favour of Israeli settlers. The same court ruled that another seven families in Sheikh Jarrah are to leave their homes by August 1.

Israeli forces raided the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem for the second night on Tuesday, spraying skunk water, a chemically enhanced type of sewage water, and physically assaulting residents and solidarity protesters.

Several Palestinians were arrested, including Tala Obeid, Omar al-Khatib and Mahmoud Nabil al-Kurd, whose families face displacement from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem. Al-Kurd along with another Palestinian was released on Wednesday morning, but the detention of al-Khatib, a local activist, has been extended.

It is part of an ongoing effort by Israeli settlers to take control of Palestinian homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

A video showing a settler attempting to take over a Palestinian home in Sheikh Jarrah on Saturday has further caused outrage.

On Monday, at least 20 Palestinians were injured in a brawl after Israeli police stormed a solidarity demonstration with the residents of Sheikh Jarrah.

Sheikh Jarrah, the Palestinian neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem facing imminent Israeli eviction, was once a breezy orchard lying less than a kilometre north of the ancient walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.

In the early 20th century, wealthy Palestinian families moved to build modern houses in the area, escaping the narrow streets and the hustle and bustle of their air-tight homes in the Old City.

The neighborhood’s name refers to the personal doctor of the Syrian conqueror Saladin, who is believed to have settled there when Muslim armies captured the city from Christian crusaders in 1187.

In 1956, 28 Palestinian families settled in the neighborhood. Those families were part of a wider population of 750,000 forcibly expelled by Zionist militias during the 1948 war - known to Palestinians as the Nakba, or “catastrophe” - from the Arab towns and cities that became Israel.

East Jerusalem was administered by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which governed the West Bank. Jordan had built houses for the 28 Palestinian families in 1956.

In the 1960s, the families agreed a deal with the Jordanian government that would make them the owners of the land and houses, receiving official land deeds signed in their names after three years. In return, they would renounce their refugee status.

However, the deal was cut short as Israel captured and illegally occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and Jordan lost control of the territories.

Currently, there are 38 Palestinian families living in Sheikh Jarrah, four of them facing imminent eviction, while three are expected to be removed on 1 August.

The rest are in different stages of court cases, going head-to-head with powerful Israeli colonial groups in Israeli courts.

Israel has a grand colonizing strategy called the “Holy Basin,” which is a set of settler units and a string of parks themed after biblical places and figures around the Old City of Jerusalem. The plan requires the removal of Palestinian houses in the area.

On Sunday, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered that the Iskafi, Kurd, Jaanoi and Qassem families - consisting of 30 adults and 10 children - evacuate their homes by 6 May. These families have been shunted around the courts for almost four years.

The court gave the Hammad, Dagani and Daoudi families living in the same area until 1 August to evacuate.

In 1982, Israeli settler groups asked the court to evict 24 Palestinian families living in Sheikh Jarrah. In 1991, the families faced another twist when they accused their Israeli lawyer and legal representative of forging their signatures on documents in 1991 stating that the ownership of the lands belonged to the settlers.

Since then, Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah had been treated as tenants in front of the Israel courts, facing removal orders to allow the way for settlers to take over their houses.