By Stephen Lendman
Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, including Fourth Geneva’s Article 49 stating:
"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of the motive."
In addition, various UN resolutions (including 446, 452 and 465) condemned Israel’s settlement building, declaring they have "no legal validity" to exist. However, they do and regularly expand, endangering all Palestinian communities, Sheikh Jarrah one of many and their longstanding residents.
A predominantly East Jerusalem Arab neighborhood, it’s home to about 2,800 Palestinians as well as diplomatic missions and well-known landmarks. However, because of its strategic location, settlers want it, and have encroached for years. So far, over 60 Palestinian families have been dispossessed. Another 500 are at risk.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published an October report titled, "The Case of Sheikh Jarrah," explaining the growing threat, saying it’s "of serious humanitarian concern." Settlers have used different methods to encroach, including:
(1) taking over land or property confiscated or expropriated by Israeli authorities, one way, among others, under the 1950 Absentee Property Law (ABL) defining absentees as:
"a person who, at any time during the period between (November 29, 1947) and (May 19, 1948) has ceased to exist (and no longer) was a legal owner of any property situated in the area of Israel…."
In other words, Palestinians fleeing for their lives became "absentees" with no legal right to land and property Israel wanted to steal.
(2) giving settlers land designated "public" or "state" for environmental, historic or religious reasons.
(3) using Israeli law (denied Palestinians) to pursue alleged Jewish ownership of land or property prior to 1948.
(4) buying land through intermediaries as well as through a process involving threats, deception, false depositions, or forged documentation, complicit courts cheating Palestinian owners.
What began incrementally has now intensified through forced evictions, at times involving home demolitions and state-sponsored violence. Sheikh Jarrah areas below have been especially affected.
(1) Karm Al Ja’ouni/Tomb Quarter where over 60 Palestinian families have been forced from their homes since late 2008. Evictions followed lost legal disputes over ownership, Jews invariably prevailing over Palestinians. Afterwards, settlers moved in, and according to plans submitted to the Jerusalem Municipality, they’ll demolish the entire area for a new settlement, meaning all Arabs will be illegally dispossessed.
Over 300 are at risk, mostly refugees in UNWRA-sponsored housing since 1956 after fleeing from their homes in 1948. So far, eight extended families got eviction notices. More are coming. As a result, the affected neighborhood has sharply deteriorated, partly from frequent police-backed settler – resident clashes. Since August 2009, Israeli and international activists have participated in demonstrations, supporting Palestinian rights. Many have been injured, harassed, arrested and/or detained.
(2) In Kubaniyat Im Haroun, a protracted legal battle ended in September 2010 after Israel’s High Court ruled for settlers, bogusly claiming pre-1948 ownership of Palestinian land. The decision means more forced evictions are coming because Jews nearly always prevail.
(3) Originally owned by the Husseini family, Israeli authorities expropriated the Shepherd Hotel and adjacent land in 1967, selling it in 1985 to Jews. They now plan a new 90 housing unit settlement. At least 20 so far have been approved, the others a fait accompli.
(4) Named after its former owner, the Mufti of Jerusalem, the Karm el Mufti olive grove was expropriated by Israeli authorities, later transferring it to the Ateret Cohanim settler association. Although zoned a green area, restricting construction, settlers began a process to build 250 housing units most likely to be approved.
(5) In 2009, the Jerusalem Municipality granted the fundamentalist Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) movement a permit to build a three story office/conference center for their planned Amana headquarters. Construction will be on expropriated Palestinian land, adjacent to Sheikh Jarrah’s St. Joseph Hospital, despite objections from area residents.
(6) Additional stolen land next to the Al-Hayat Medical Center will be used for a Jewish religious/educational center, funded by Canadian Jews.
The fate of Sheikh Jarrah’s Hanoun and Al Ghawi families are typical. In August 2009, Israeli police forcibly evicted them. Fifty-three Palestinians, including 20 children were dispossessed, their homes seized, their property loaded on trucks, then dumped on a street near UNWRA’s headquarters. Besides losing everything, they now face high legal bills, fines and other charges, including for their own evictions, a shocking contempt for law and justice. Many others have been similarly affected.
In 2009, at least 380 Palestinians, including over 90 children, were forcibly displaced in East Jerusalem. Another 190, including over 85 children, were also affected. Moreover, other residents face at least 1,500 demolition orders, their lives to be harmed like the Hanoun and Al Ghawi families. As a result, Palestinian neighborhoods are being incrementally destroyed, their residents discarded like yesterday’s garbage.
The humanitarian concerns are overwhelming, dispossession having immediate and longer-term physical, social, economic, and emotional consequences on families, neighborhoods and communities. Moreover, depriving people of their main asset and displacing them disrupts their livelihoods, reduces their standard of living, increases their risk for poverty, and limits their access to basic services like water, education and health care.
Forced evictions combined with expanded settlements also restrict free movement, and increase settler intimidation and harassment, at times causing injuries or deaths. After similar developments in Hebron’s H2 area, over 1,000 Palestinians lost homes and over 1,800 commercial businesses had to close.
Under recognized international law, these are grievous violations. Yet Israel lets Jews claim land and property illegally, by alleging they owned it before 1948. Palestinians, however, have no equivalent right to land and property in Israel, legally theirs before being forcibly expelled during Israel’s War of Independence.
With no enforcement authority, OCHA urges an immediate end to evictions, home demolitions, and dispossessions, as well as returning families to land and property they own, citing international humanitarian law.
Israel, of course, ignores international law, its own as well when it comes to Arabs, remaining defiant because no one intervenes. As a result, Palestinians remain victimized, yet struggle heroically for their rights and dignity, refusing ever to stop until justice they rightfully deserve is achieved.
On October 21, the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement obtained documents on Gaza’s closure and isolation policy, 18 months after their existence was denied. In early 2009, Gisha filed a Freedom of Information Act petition "demand(ing) transparency regarding the Gaza closure policy." Israel still withholds information on its amended guidelines, established after the Flotilla massacre.
It’s now known, however, that Israel imposed "a policy of deliberate reduction" of essential goods to Gaza, including food, medical supplies, fuel for electricity, and much more. In addition, guidelines dictated a "lower warning line" to notify about expected shortages in advance. At the same time, however, it was ignored.
Moreover, an "upper red line" was set above which humanitarian goods could be blocked as part of state policy to suffocate 1.5 Gazans. In early 2006, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert advisor Dov Weisglass explained saying, "The idea is to put (Gazans) on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger." In other words, make them suffer enough to reject Hamas or force its officials to accede to Israeli demands, giving up hope for equity and justice.
After the May Flotilla massacre, Israel eased closure modestly, but hardly enough to matter. According to Gisha Director Sari Bashi:
"Instead of considering (legitimate) security needs, on the one hand, and the rights and needs of civilians living in Gaza, on the other, Israel banned glucose for biscuits and the fuel needed for regular supply of electricity – paralyzing normal life in Gaza and impairing the moral character of the State of Israel. I am sorry to say that major elements of this policy are still place."
Israel is a rogue state, its Gaza closure policy Exhibit A.
– Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org and visit his blog at: sjlendman.blogspot.com.