Palestine Update 456
An Urgent Call to His Holiness Pope Francis, the global ecumenical movement and World Council of Churches Join the Palestinian Christians: Resist the Ethnic Cleansing of East Jerusalem
Thus says the LORD: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed. Isaiah 56:1
Your sisters and brothers in Palestine implore you to resist the State of Israel’s impending eviction of 15 families from their homes in the Israeli occupied territory of East Jerusalem. Israeli courts have ruled in favor of lawsuits undertaken by settler organizations to remove these families—yet another instance of Israel’s illegal policy of forced transfer. Evictions are scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 2, which happens to coincide with the Greek Orthodox celebration of Easter. Most of these families, totaling 37 households of around 195 Palestinians, are refugees who in 1948 were forcibly transferred from their homes during the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe). They reside now in the Karm AlJa’ouni area of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and the Batn Al-Hawa neighborhood in Silwan. We don’t understand the reluctance of many leaders in the global church to use the words apartheid and ethnic cleansing to describe the laws and practices of the State of Israel in relation to its Palestinians citizens and the nearly 5.2 million Muslims and Christians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. We reject their hesitancy to condemn the political program of Zionism, fearing the charge of antisemitism. Many Jews and Jewish organizations—both in Israel and around the world—have led in exposing the reality of Israel’s apartheid regime and decried its impunity on the international stage.1 Daily we experience the restrictions, the dehumanization, the brutality and loss of life resulting from these apartheid laws and policies. Daily we suffer the abuses of Zionism, which as practiced in Israel and Palestine clearly favors the rights of one people, one ethnicity, over another. On one hand, Israel supports its settler groups taking back their alleged properties by force, while refusing any Palestinian lawful claims to their original properties in West Jerusalem where they were forced out during the 1948. Kairos Palestine, the most extensive Palestinian Christian ecumenical non- violent movement, is based on Kairos Palestine document: A Moment of Truth, launched in 2009, affirming that the Palestinian Christians are part and parcel of the Palestinian nation, calling for peace to end all suffering in the Holy Land by laboring for justice, hope and love, embraced by the Christian community, signed by all historically recognized Palestinian Christian organizations, and endorsed by the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem.
Surely you understand our disappointment – bordering on despair- that the global church has not more fully embraced our many urgent calls for concrete and practical acts to end the occupation, the latest being our 2020 Cry for Hope: A Call to Decisive Action. Still, we place our hope in your solidarity. What are we imploring you to do?
Regarding the impending May 2 evictions—and the hundreds more expected in the neighborhood of Batan al-Hawa in East Jerusalem’s Silwan – Kairos calls on its networks to write to their governments, insisting that they intervene to stop this action on the basis of human dignity and international law.
The Nakba of Sheikh Jarrah: How Israel Uses ‘the Law’ to Ethnically Cleanse East Jerusalem (Excerpts from an article by Ramzy Baroud*)
A Palestinian man, Atef Yousef Hanaysha, was killed by Israeli occupation forces on March 19 during a weekly protest against illegal Israeli settlement expansion in Beit Dajan, near Nablus, in the northern West Bank. Although tragic, the above news reads like a routine item from occupied Palestine, where shooting and killing unarmed protesters is part of the daily reality. However, this is not true. Since right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced, in September 2019, his intentions to formally and illegally annex nearly a third of the occupied Palestinian West Bank, tensions have remained high….
In occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, a massive battle is already underway. On one side, Israeli soldiers, army bulldozers and illegal armed Jewish settlers are carrying out daily missions of evicting Palestinian families, displacing farmers, burning orchards, demolishing homes and confiscating land. On the other side, Palestinian civilians, often disorganized, unprotected and leaderless, are fighting back… On March 10, fourteen Palestinian and Arab organizations issued a ‘joint urgent appeal to the United Nations Special Procedures on forced evictions in East Jerusalem’ to stop the Israeli evictions in the area. Successive decisions by Israeli courts have paved the way for the Israeli army and police to evict 15 Palestinian families – 37 households of around 195 people – in the Karm Al-Ja’ouni area in Sheikh Jarrah and Batn Al-Hawa neighborhood in the town of Silwan.
These imminent evictions are not the first, nor will they be the last. Israel occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem in June 1967 and formally, though illegally, annexed it in 1980. Since then, the Israeli government has vehemently rejected international criticism of the Israeli occupation, dubbing, instead, Jerusalem as the “eternal and undivided capital of Israel”. To ensure its annexation of the city is irreversible, the Israeli government approved the Master Plan 2000, a massive scheme that was undertaken by Israel to rearrange the boundaries of the city in such a way that it would ensure permanent demographic majority for Israeli Jews at the expense of the city’s native inhabitants…
While news headlines occasionally present the habitual evictions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and other parts of East Jerusalem as if a matter that involves counterclaims by Palestinian residents and Jewish settlers, the story is, in fact, a wider representation of Palestine’s modern history. Indeed, the innocent families which are now facing “the imminent risk of forced eviction” are re-living their ancestral nightmare of the Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine in 1948.
Two years after the native inhabitants of historic Palestine were dispossessed of their homes and lands and ethnically cleansed altogether, Israel enacted the so-called Absentees’ Property Law of 1950. The law, which, of course, has no legal or moral validity, simply granted the properties of Palestinians who were evicted or fled the war to the State, to do with it as it pleases. Since those ‘absentee’ Palestinians were not allowed to exercise their right of return, as stipulated by international law, the Israeli law was a state-sanctioned wholesale theft. It ultimately aimed at achieving two objectives: one, to ensure Palestinian refugees do not return or attempt to claim their stolen properties in Palestine and, two, to give Israel a legal cover for permanently confiscating Palestinian lands and homes.
The Israeli military occupation of the remainder of historic Palestine in 1967 necessitated, from an Israeli colonial perspective, the creation of fresh laws that would allow the State and the illegal settlement enterprise to claim yet more Palestinian properties. This took place in 1970 in the form of the Legal and Administrative Matters Law. According to the new legal framework, only Israeli Jews were allowed to claim lost land and property in Palestinian areas. Much of the evictions in East Jerusalem take place within the context of these three interconnected and strange legal arguments: the Absentees’ Law, the Legal and Administrative Matters Law and the Master Plan 2000. Understood together, one is easily able to decipher the nature of the Israeli colonial scheme in East Jerusalem, where Israeli individuals, in coordination with settler organizations, work together to fulfill the vision of the State.
Palestinian human rights organizations describe the flow of how eviction orders, issued by Israeli courts, culminate into the construction of illegal Jewish settlements. Confiscated Palestinian properties are usually transferred to a branch within the Israeli Ministry of Justice called the Israeli Custodian General. The latter holds on to these properties until they are claimed by Israeli Jews, in accordance with the 1970 Law. The Israeli State claims to play an impartial role in this scheme, it is actually the facilitator of the entire process. While the above picture can be dismissed by some as another routine, common occurrence, the situation in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem has become extremely volatile. Palestinians feel that they have nothing more to lose and Netanyahu’s government is more emboldened than ever. The killing of Atef Hanaysha, and others like him, is only the beginning of that imminent, widespread confrontation.