Israeli Justice’s ruling reflects the structural discrimination against Palestinians – East Jerusalem

The East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, March 2021

The lead Haaretz editorial on 16 April 2024:

High Court Justice Noam Sohlberg denied an appeal by the Shehadeh family of Silwan and ordered them to vacate the home they have been living in since 1967 to activists belonging to the Ateret Cohanim organization. His decision illustrates the structural discrimination that exists with regard to Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem.

The Shehadeh family lives in the Batan al-Hawa neighborhood in Silwan. At the end of the 19th century, a Jewish endowment established by residents of the pre-state Jewish community in Jerusalem purchased land in Silwan to settle Yemenite Jews there. In 1938, the British evacuated the tiny neighborhood.

A decade later, when Jerusalem was divided, the Jordanian custodian of enemy property kept the land registered in the name of the Jewish endowment while its Israeli counterpart – the Custodian of Absentee Property – confiscated the considerable assets owned by Palestinian refugees in West Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel.

In a brief technical decision taken in 2001, the Jerusalem District Court granted a petition by Ateret Cohanim to become the endowment’s trustees. In doing so, the government put in the hands of an extremist organization a large parcel of land in the heart of Silwan where hundreds of Palestinians currently live. The Palestinians who innocently bought their homes there decades earlier were not notified that the court’s decision had turned them into squatters.

Since then, Ateret Cohanim has been working to evict these Palestinians from their homes and turn the houses over to Jewish settlers. In 2018, High Court Justice Daphne Barak-Erez raised some difficult issues concerning the affair – for example, the legal status of the land under Ottoman law and the rights of the Palestinians home owners. But Barak-Erez was not courageous enough to order the eviction process to be halted, instead making do with the observation that “evicting people who have been living on the land for decades … causes human hardship.”

Since then, a ceaseless legal effort has been underway to force the residents from their homes. A year and a half ago, another High Court justice, Uzi Vogelman, sought advice from the attorney general, but Gali Baharav-Miara did not hurry to give it. To this day, she has not issued an opinion.

In the meantime, Sohlberg decided that he would no longer wait for her opinion and ordered 15 families to vacate their homes within a month and a half and to pay the settlers’ legal costs.

This chain of events is so tainted by failures, injustices, discriminatory laws, violations of international law and basic moral principles that it is difficult to name them all. The entire Israeli system, from the Knesset, through the Finance Ministry’s Custodian of Absentee Property, from the attorney general to the Supreme Court, operates as a well-oiled machine with one goal: Forcing families from their homes in the heart of a Palestinian area in Jerusalem for the benefit of extremist Jews, whose presence there will lead to more violence and more misery. Every decent citizen should be outraged by this verdict.

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