Sheikh Jarrah: Let the Israeli law inspire us

Nabeel Abu Ata
Nabeel Abu Ata (Photo: Jordan News)
The social media outrage regarding the situation in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah isn’t about a real-estate dispute under review by the occupation’s courts of law, and certainly isn’t about the embarrassing silence of the international community at the land-extorting and annexation policies of the right-wing occupation government.اضافة اعلان

Now, it is about the humanitarian plea of Palestinian Jerusalemite families who are facing forced eviction from their homes in which they lived for 65 years.

As a Jordanian, my bending out of shape regarding this issue is not an act of compassion; it is rather a feeling of ownership and responsibility to call for action.

This vital 80-hectare Palestinian residential neighborhood was a Jordanian territory in 1956. That year, the government of Jordan agreed with UNRWA to build homes in Sheikh Jarrah to reinstate displaced Palestinians after 1948 in their own homeland, leasing those homes for three years before handing them to the residents. The 1967 occupation of Jerusalem denied the official ownership registration of the properties and went beyond that to accept falsified legal documents forged by settlers’ associations in the 1970s and 1980s to annex the property. Since then, the theatrical court hearings and their endless postponements have kept the Palestinian residents in a precarious and uncertain condition, forcing them to relive the horror of the Nakbeh on a daily basis, terrorized by the raids of radical settlers into their family homes.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s government has handed the official documents proving the ownership of property by the Palestinian residents, but the central court in Jerusalem rejected all appeals ruling to vacate the homes this May. To add insult to injury, the Palestinian families ordered to evict: Al-Kurd, Skafi, Jaouni, and Al-Qasim are ironically left with one last stab at this, which is to appeal to the supreme court of their oppressors; a tribunal where “Palestinian rights” is an argument to brush off.

In rare international attention, the UK consul general in Jerusalem visited the families in Sheikh Jarrah at the end of April, restating the UK’s opposition to the evictions of Palestinians from their homes and ridiculing the guileful law by which these evictions were plotted.

This law is exclusively applied in East Jerusalem to give the right to settlers and newcomers to displace thousands of Palestinians in the name of “the right of return” to properties before 1948; while denying the Palestinians the same exact right in claiming their illegally-confiscated and occupied property by millions of Israelis since 1948.

To be more specific, the law specifically targets all property in East Jerusalem, which were under the Jordanian control in 1967, to transfer them to the Israeli general custodian. The latter will use this law to release, in a certificate signed by him, the land to new settlers with fraudulent pre-1948 claim to the property.

Politics and property-rights aside; what a shame it is on all of us humans to allow this daily scene of radical settlers intimidating peaceful families, invading their homes with loud speakers and throwing away their belongings while their armed forces are either looking the other way or partaking in this systematic dispossession.

Indeed, this dispossession policy brings to mind the policy of “resettlement” in apartheid South Africa, which was devised to evict the inhabitants of the so-called “black spots” surrounded by white newcomers.

Despite the world governments’ eyes-wide-shut to the ongoing property theft clearly manifested by the video of the invading settler Yaaqov who carelessly confessed his thievery, on video, to the Palestinian owner of the house, by saying: “If I don’t steal it, someone else is gonna steal it.”

Israelis know it so well, that the painful feeling of humiliation and distress of Sheikh Jarrah’s families is felt in every house around the globe. All humans cleaving to their children and beloved ones in their warm living rooms in their safe homes do empathize and can identify with the misery of these residents. The Palestinians have the world’s moral compass pointing to their just cause.

This takes me back to the outrage hashtag: #SaveSheikhJarrah. The hashtag’s interpretation in Arabic is more explicit in petitioning an anonymous third party to save the neighborhood! Who is this hashtag addressing? Who will save Sheikh Jarrah and how?

It may be calling on the youth of Jerusalem — the real super heroes watching over of the holy city to come and disrupt the eviction orders, which they did with their bare chests. But more persuasively, and — not in so many words — it is a gritty call to turn “Sheikh Jarrah” into an inflecting point in the West to shake off the apathy about the Palestinian struggle and realign global humanitarian support behind their plea to end the occupation.

Legal activists should be inspired by the infamous East Jerusalem pro-settler law and leverage on the engrained international resolutions undertaking the right of return of Palestinians; to endeavor to establish an international unbiased tribunal to specifically appraise the legitimate cases of the “right of return” of millions of Palestinians to their pre-1948 homes and lands.

Palestinian families appealing to the court can get an internationally recognized ruling to restore their robbed properties and return to them with their offspring, or charge the dispossessors a substantial rent compensation.

No one is best suited to draft the bylaws of this long-awaited international tribunal than Jordanians. Who will take the lead?

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