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Evictions and excavations: Israel accused of ‘Judaizing’ East Jerusalem

29th Jan 2021
Evictions and excavations: Israel accused of ‘Judaizing’  East Jerusalem

Israeli forces take a Palestinian kid, the son of Hatem Abu Assab, in front of a house after Israeli security forces evicted the owners Palestinian Abu Assab family in Old City quarter of East Jerusalem on February 17, 2019.

(Credit: Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Anadolu Agency)


Harun Nasrullah

Palestine has called on the UN Security Council to “assume its responsibilities” to stop Israel’s excavations in the complex of Al-Aqsa Mosque. The demand was made on the same day UN special rapporteur said Israel’s evictions of Palestinians from East Jerusalem was a means to change the city’s demography.

In the statement issued on January 11, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates condemned the excavations in Al-Buraq (Western) Wall near the Mughrabi Bridge that leads to the Al-Aqsa Mosque branding them “an extension of the Israeli plans to Judaize the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and its surroundings” as well as “a flagrant violation of the relevant UN resolutions.”

The Higher Presidential Committee of Churches Affairs in Palestine warned against the dangers of implementing a Judaization project targeting the identity, history, and features of the Old City in East Jerusalem.

Jordan, which oversees Muslim and Christian holy sites in the city of Jerusalem, also demanded Israel “immediately” halt its excavations. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Daifallah Al-Fayez said in a statement that the Israeli authorities must immediately stop the ongoing work in Al-Buraq Wall.

The warnings over the excavations come as Michael Lynk, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territory, called on Israel to reverse eviction orders for Palestinian families living in occupied East Jerusalem, saying they are part of an “alarming pattern” to change the city’s demography.

“These evictions are extremely alarming and appear part of a broader pattern of forcing Jerusalemite Palestinian families from their homes to clear the way for more illegal Israeli settlements,” said Lynk. “Time is running short for these orders to be reversed.”

The UN rapporteur’s office noted that Israeli courts had upheld eviction orders forcing 16 Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods over the last few months.

They include several extended families and two women raising children alone. In most cases, the Palestinian families have lived in their homes for decades as owners or long-term tenants. “The eviction orders are not random but appear to be strategically focused on an area in East Jerusalem known as the Historic Basin,” Lynk said.

“They seem to be aimed at clearing the way for the establishment of more illegal Israeli settlements in the area and physically segregating and fragmenting East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.”

With the increase in evictions, home demolitions, and settlement expansion, historic Palestinian neighbourhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan are either gradually disappearing or are becoming surrounded and isolated by Israeli settlements, said the UN expert.

Applications by settler organizations for evictions have intensified, he said, citing reports by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that 877 people, including 391 children, are presently at risk of forced evictions because of such lawsuits.

Evictions in East Jerusalem have already affected hundreds of Palestinian families, especially in the Old City areas, Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan stated the report. The most recent litigation has been initiated by settler organizations seeking to enforce provisions of an Israeli law, which allows Israeli Jews to start claims in East Jerusalem for properties that may have been owned by Jewish families before 1948.

Israeli law does not allow Palestinians to make similar claims for appropriated family-owned property in Israel. The two Israeli organizations that have brought many of the eviction lawsuits, Nahalat Shimon and Ateret Cohanim, function as land ownership companies and settler associations.

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