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Monday, September 20, 2021

#SaveSheikhJarrah: Global community calls for halt to forced expulsions

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The neighbourhood is home to generations of Palestinians who were dispossessed from their lands during the 1948 Nakba.

Pro-Palestine supporters in Qatar and across the world took to social media to call for the halt of forced dispossession of Palestinian homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

The #SaveSheikhJarrah hashtag trended from Monday night through to Tuesday morning following calls from the people of the neighbourhood to amplify their voices.

“Don’t they [Palestinian families] deserve to live in their homes in comfort without the constant threat of displacement and the heavy presence of violent settlers?,” tweeted one user.

#SaveSheikhJarrah We demand the return of homes stolen from Sheikh Jarrah over the years, beginning with the house of the Al-Shanti family which was seized by settler organisations without a trial after the illegal occupation & annexation of Jerusalem in 67,” tweeted another.

Last-minute decision

The latest spark in activism came after Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit told the Supreme Court on Monday that he will not intervene in the legal proceedings of the case.

Mendelblit was initially given a June 8 deadline last month to submit his legal opinion on the case, but later stepped down saying there “is no place for him” to be involved in the legal proceedings.

His decision came a day ahead of the hearing on Tuesday, which will determine the fate of some 500 Palestinians from four families that are at risk of illegally being forced out of their homes to make way for Israeli settlements.

According to a report by Israeli newspaper Haaretz, a source close to Mendelblit said Tel Aviv’s political leadership supports his decision, with officials from his office saying the case was “weak” and “his legal opinion would not be able to prevent their pending eviction”.

However, stepping out of the case gives the Israeli court the freedom to decide whether or not to hear the Palestinian families’ appeal.

Read also: Sheikh Tamim meets Palestinian PM Shtayyeh in Qatar

“Attorney General’s refusal to comment on Sheikh Jarrah is yet another void attempt to frame our expulsions as a “property dispute.” Facts say otherwise: displacement is a war crime & the Israeli Occupation has no legitimate jurisdiction over us under Int’l law,” tweeted Palestinian Sheikh Jarrah resident, activist and writer Mohammed El Kurd.

Along with his sister Muna, El Kurd was arrested on Sunday over allegations of “disturbing public security” and “taking part in riots”. They were both released on the same night following global outrage with many criticising the allegations as yet another attempt by Israel to silence Palestinian activists.

“The Israeli propaganda machine is failing. If this weren’t political, the Occupation wouldn’t be assaulting journalists, arresting activists, setting up Israeli politicians’ offices on our street, illegally blockading Sheikh Jarrah & terrorising its residents with US-made weapons,” he added.

Palestinian lawyer Sami Irsheid who is defending Sheikh Jarrah residents told Al Jazeera that Mendelblit’s decision does not dismiss the political background of the case.

“The attorney general’s response was brief, where he said he feels there is no need for his intervention since this is a legal issue,” Irsheid said.

“But we will not back down from arguing the case from the international law aspect either.”

Irsheid also believes that the decision “is a continuation of the same political approach that the Israeli state has adopted over the past 20 years” by minimising the case to a two-sided legal dispute.

In May, Israeli courts postponed the hearing following demonstrations that broke out across Palestine. Peaceful protesters were met with violence and aggression by Israeli forces and settlers.

This later prompted an 11-day offensive on Gaza that killed hundreds of Palestinians including at least 66 children. The death toll has since continued to rise despite an Egypt and Qatar-brokered ceasefire, with many succumbing to injuries they sustained during the Israeli bombardment.

Sheikh Jarrah is home to 28 Palestinian families who have lived in the neighbourhood since 1956, all which were part of a bigger population of 750,000 Palestinians who were forcibly expelled by Israeli militias during the 1948 Nakba [catastrophe].

The Sheikh Jarrah homes were built in accordance with the UN refugee agency and Jordan. Settler organisations later filed a lawsuit in 1972 alleging that the land on which Sheikh Jarrah stands belongs to them.

Silwan dispossession

Meanwhile in Silwan, another area facing the threat of mass expulsion, dozens of Palestinians were given demolition orders by Israel on Monday.

The orders gave them 21 days to demolish their own homes or else face demolition by Israeli authorities.

According to the Institute for Middle East Understanding [IMEU], Silwan is home to at least 33,000 Palestinians from 230 families. As of now, 13 families in the neighbourhood of Batn Al-Hawa have been displaced.

Palestinian families face the daily risk of being forced out of their homes as part of Israel’s ethnic cleansing campaign which gives away the home of Palestinians to anyone with a Jewish identity.

This was also seen in the case of the El Kurd siblings who have for years lived with a Jewish American from Long Island who has occupied half of their home.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA], settler forces have demolished 97 structures per month on average, a 37% increase in comparison to 2020 numbers.


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