The tragedy of Sheikh Jarrah 

May 8, 2021 - 21:34

In the aftermath of the 1948 expulsion of Palestinians by Zionist gangs to pave the way for the creation of the state of Israel, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to flee their homes in historical Palestine to neighboring countries.

Following these events, which came to be known to the Palestinians as "Nakba", or the Catastrophe, 28 families settled in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem in 1956, hoping that would be the last time they are forced out of their homes.

But these families, whose number has grown to 38 since then, say they are experiencing a renewed Nakba on a daily basis.

The Israeli Central Court in East Jerusalem approved a decision earlier this year to evict four Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in favor of right-wing Israeli settlers.

Israel's Supreme Court was scheduled to issue a ruling on the evictions on Thursday amid heated demonstrations and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers, but the decision was delayed until May 10.

In the event that the court rules in favor of the settlers, the Palestinian families will lose their homes. Other families will face a similar fate.

Beginning of tragedy

In 1956, the 28 refugee families who lost their homes during the Nakba reached an agreement with the Jordanian Ministry of Construction and Development and the UN refugee agency UNRWA to provide housing for them in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

At that time, the West Bank was under Jordanian rule (1951-1967).

According to the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCPRJ), the Jordanian government provided the land while UNRWA covered the cost for constructing 28 homes for these families.

“A contract was concluded between the Ministry of Construction and Reconstruction and Palestinian families in 1956, with one of the main conditions stating that the residents pay a symbolic fee, provided that ownership is transferred to the residents after three years from the completion of construction,” the CCPRJ said in a statement.

This, however, was interrupted by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including Jerusalem, in 1967 which prevented the registration of the houses under the names of families, the statement said.

Expulsion of Palestinian families

The Sheikh Jarrah cause has escalated over the past week despite the issue running for decades.

Jewish settler organizations filed a lawsuit in the 1970s claiming the area belonged to Jews originally, and seeking the expulsion of Palestinian families living there since 1956.

These families, refugees from the 1948 Nakba, eventually settled in Sheikh Jarrah under an agreement between Jordan and the UN refugee agency.

The Israeli district court ruled that four families – al-Kurd, Iskafi, Qassim, and Jaouni – must leave their homes for settlers to take over, or reach an agreement with these settler organizations by paying rent and recognizing them as landlords.

The families refused and the court postponed their final verdict to May 10.

Several U.S. lawmakers, including Rashida Tlaib, Cori Bush, and Marie Newman have spoken out against the attacks and imminent forced displacement in Sheikh Jarrah.

Palestine asks ICC to probe Israeli violations in Sheikh Jarrah

Meanwhile, The Palestinian Foreign Ministry has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the forced relocation of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem al-Quds.

The ministry sent a letter pertaining to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah to the ICC on Tuesday.

Ibrahim Melhem, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, said in a post on Facebook that the threat from the Israeli regime to seize Palestinian homes in the neighborhood violates international law.

In a letter sent to the chief prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, the ministry urged the prominent lawyer to include the issue at hand in the court’s investigation into Israeli war crimes against Palestinians.
The ICC opened the formal investigation in March.

On Wednesday, the Wafa news agency cited Omar Awadallah, an official within the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, as saying that the letter had been sent “under the directive of President Mahmoud Abbas.”

“The forcible transfer of population and associated war crimes and crimes against humanity fall within the Rome Statute [of the International Criminal Court],” the official was quoted by the agency.

Some 28 Palestinian families face the threat of forceful eviction from the neighborhood.

The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has already warned Israel against the move.

In a statement on Sunday, Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, held the Israeli regime responsible for harming the inhabitants of Sheikh Jarrah.

Palestinian homes and structures in the area are being demolished for the construction of a new Israeli settlement outpost.

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