4 Palestinian Families From Sheikh Jarrah Reject Deal With Israeli Settlers

Palestinians facing forced displacement from Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem have rejected a deal that would force them to accept the temporary ownership of their homes by an Israeli settler organisation.

Israel’s Supreme Court proposed a deal that would allow the Palestinian families to stay in their homes for 15 years as “protected tenants”, namely, paying rent to settlers who have claimed the land.

The Palestinian families in this neighbourhood near Jerusalem’s Old City said their rejection comes from “our belief in the justice of our cause and our right to our homes and our homeland”. In a statement on Tuesday 2, they voiced that they would rely on the “Palestinian street” to raise international awareness of their plight rather than submit to an “unjust agreement.”

Muna El-Kurd, one of the Palestinians facing eviction and worldwide known Palestinian activist and journalist, said at a news conference that “we unanimously rejected the settlement offered by the occupation (Israeli) court.” She added, “this refusal comes from our faith in the justice of our case and our rights to our homes and homeland.”

Although some people are stating that the deal will give them relative security, it would have required the Palestinians to recognise the settlers’ ownership claims on land their families have lived on for generations.

A long history of unjust settlements

These four families are among dozens in Jerusalem who are threatened with forced displacement by Jewish settler organisations in several cases that have been working their way through the Israeli court system for decades.

The settler movement has long been happening and is an Illegal practice. On June, the U.N. accused Israel of violating international law by expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The U.N said the settlements are illegal and urged the country’s new government to halt their expansion immediately.

The core premise of the settler movement is to build on confiscated or stolen Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem where some 650,000 Israelis now live. The Israeli government supports the settlers. They are protected by an Israeli law that allows them to claim properties that were owned by Jews prior to the 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation. Palestinians who lost homes, properties and lands in the same conflict do not have the right to recover them.

There has not been an immediate comment from the settlers, but the Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Arieh King, a supporter of the settlers, announced that they had accepted the offer. The Palestinian families say the Jordanian government granted them the land in the 1950s on which their homes were later built-in exchange for their refugee status after Jordan assumed control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1948. They have been living there ever since.

On the other side, settlers claim the land is theirs and presented 19th-century documents as evidence in Israeli courts. However, Palestinians have argued that the documents are fabricated.

In the 1967 war, Israel captured East Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It is well known that the Palestinian leadership wants all three territories to form their future state, with East Jerusalem as its capital. At the moment, Israel considers the entire city of Jerusalem to be its capital, a claim that is not recognised by most of the international community.

The displacement from Sheikh Jarrah has been a high profile and long-running case that has caused tensions across the occupied territories of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. As a matter of fact, these protests in early 2021 helped trigger an 11-day war between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza and the current protests that have erupted across Palestine since April.

Israel portrays the settlements as a matter of private real estate dispute, but Palestinians and human rights groups view it as a coordinated attempt to push Palestinian residents out of Jerusalem, erase their presence, and change the city’s identity.

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