Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah Neighborhood Say No to Israeli Supreme Court

Last week, Palestinian families facing the threat of forcible evictions from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem turned down a proposal advanced by the Israeli Supreme Court. The deal allegedly sought a compromise, whereby the Palestinian families in question would pay nominal rent fee of “2,400 shekels ($750) to the Nahalat Shimon nonprofit that controls the Jewish religious trust that owns the property” in return for remaining in their homes as protected tenants for an additional 15 years. The proposal would eventually lead to the Palestinian families’ eviction in favour of Jewish settlers, Middle East Eye reports

Nabil al-Kurd, a long-time resident of Karm al-Jaouni, stands next to a wall graffitied with “We will not leave” in Arabic (MEE/Aseel Jundi)

The families of Sheikh Jarrah rejected the proposal in a joint statement, delivered by Muna Al Kurd, one of the Palestinians residing in the neighbourhood threatened with eviction. The statement read as follows: “We rejected the ‘proposal’ by the Israeli Supreme Court, which would have rendered us ‘protected tenants’ at the mercy of settler organisations…We stand firm in our refusal to compromise on our rights despite the lack of institutional guarantees that would protect our presence as Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem.” The families added that: “The Israeli judiciary is circumventing its obligation to issue a final decision, and is making us choose between dispossession and submitting to an unjust agreement…We won’t allow Israel to market itself as a ‘just occupation’ at our expense. 


The case of Israel forcibly evicting eight Palestinian families garnered much attention earlier this year. The Palestinian families of Sheikh Jarrah have been fighting a legal battle brought forward by the Nahalat Shimon Settler organisation aiming to evict Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah. 


Sheikh Jarrah is located in East Jerusalem, and forms an integral part of the OPT under International jurisprudence, meaning that international humanitarian law applies to that territory. Therefore, Israel, as the occupying power, must respect and cannot confiscate private property in the territories it occupies.  


OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville stated that: “Israel cannot impose its own set of laws in occupied territory, including East Jerusalem, to evict Palestinians from their homes… the evictions, if ordered and implemented, would violate Israel’s obligations under international law… forced evictions could violate the rights to adequate housing and to privacy and other human rights of those who are evicted.” 


According to Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation the OPT, the case of Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, have become: 

“Emblematic of the threats of forced displacement facing many Palestinian families in East Jerusalem with the aim of establishing a Jewish Majority in the city and creating irreversible demographic facts on the ground. It also underlines Israeli attempts to permanently change the Palestinian character of East Jerusalem and pave the way for further settler expansion, further cementing Israeli annexation…The Special Rapporteur stresses that eviction orders if carried out would amount to a violation by Israel, the occupying power, of the prohibition against the forcible transfer of the protected population under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” 

The collective refusal of the families to agree to the settlement set forth by the Israeli Supreme Court, means that the court will need eventually decide on the matter, giving rise to legitimate questions regarding the impartiality and independence of the Israeli judiciary system.  

 The Israeli supreme court, which also operates as the High Court of Justice is the “court of last resort for Israeli actions in both Israel and the OPT and has ruled on major cases that have determined policies in both territories…While at times striking down discriminatory state policies, the Israeli Supreme Court has endorsed demographics-driven decision-making.”  


The High Court of Justice of Israel (HCJ) has maintained a selective position regarding the applicability of international humanitarian law in the OPT, thereby undermining the collective and individual rights of the Palestinian people. It has also avoided rendering decisions by holding that the general question of settlements is political and therefore must be resolved by other branches of government. For example, on the question of a separation fence, the court concluded that: 

“The military commander is authorized to construct a separation fence in the area for the purpose of defending the lives and safety of the Israeli settlers in the area. It is not relevant whatsoever to this conclusion to examine whether this settlement activity conforms to international law or defies it, as determined in the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice at the Hague. For this reason, we shall express no position regarding that question.”  


If Palestinian families are eventually evicted from their homes, the world and Israel need to seriously reconsider the feasibility of a two-state solution. The expectation that the situation as it is can facilitate the existence of two states side by side seems unrealistic, and unachievable specially if Israel keeps furthering the creation of irreversible facts on the ground.