The residents of Sheikh Jarrah, the densely populated Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem occupied by the Israel Defense Forces, are facing the threat of forced displacement under proposed changes to municipal zoning laws. The residents, who have battled Israeli authorities for over a decade in a series of legal battles over their living conditions and property rights, rejected a proposed compromise solution presented by Israel’s high court. The proposed change would have banned the estate of former president Shimon Peres from building in Sheikh Jarrah.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the proposal stemmed from a report commissioned by the Israel Defense Forces Interior Ministry in response to an advisory council who asked the government to reconsider the illegal zoning laws that currently allow Jews to purchase property in Sheikh Jarrah and Jewish settlers to purchase property in other Palestinian neighborhoods. Those laws in question in Sheikh Jarrah are from 1961, which are essentially written into law and do not require new zoning approvals from the Israeli government.
“The future government of Israel needs to come up with a solid solution for Jewish residents,” Zvi Kedem, a lawyer for Sheikh Jarrah landowners, told Israeli media outlet Ynet. “Jewish residents are an integral part of Jerusalem. Their legal status is like that of another state and there is no solution for it.”
In January, the land in Sheikh Jarrah was declared off limits to Jewish residential development, but the Sheikh Jarrah landowners refused to vacate their homes, remaining in their homes with Israeli soldiers and police on guard.
“You cannot evict from our homes,” said Mohammed al-Roshal, a Sheikh Jarrah resident who served as a police spokesman for the Palestinian Authority.
According to The Jerusalem Post, two families were slated to be evicted, at a cost of $60,000, each. One family lives on Mount Scopus. Others, like Mounir Abdel Razzaq, have two young children. Abdul Razzaq’s family hasn’t had electricity for seven years, and would likely be without water as well if his building is seized by the Israeli government.
“Whoever thinks this is an opportunity for Israel — there is no other country that is satisfied with such a situation,” he said.
Israel’s proposed solution came under fire from Jewish settlers and radical nationalist circles. Fox News quoted James Green, the executive director of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network in the U.S., saying, “After decades of affirming that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal, Israel’s government is reversing course and now claims that Jewish ownership is the only legitimate claim in Sheikh Jarrah.”
No Jews can actually buy property in Sheikh Jarrah in either 1952 or 1961 because the Israeli authorities said they did not possess sufficient proof of ownership. This has created a situation where the Israeli government can enter Muslim neighborhoods, bulldoze Jewish structures, and replace them with Jewish structures. It is a situation that was never intended by the Israeli government at the start of the occupation, and one that is at the center of a legal battle that has been going on for years now. The final word on the value of property in Sheikh Jarrah remains in the hands of the Israeli courts, and the Sheikh Jarrah property owners remain in a position of legal war with the government.
Read the full story at The Jerusalem Post.
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Photo gallery: Sheikh Jarrah