The Israeli High Court upheld Wednesday its decision to remove 700 Palestinians from the historic neighborhood of Silwan, in occupied East Jerusalem. A total of 104 Palestinian families petitioned the high court to avoid their uprooting but their request was rejected.
The High Court allowed Ateret Cohanim, a Jewish group based in the Muslim quarter of the Old City that works to secure a Jewish majority in the Old City of Jerusalem and predominantly Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, to continue legal proceedings to evict Palestinian families from the area.
Ateret Cohanim's claim is that the buildings where Palestinians currently reside were built on land owned by a Jewish Trust before the 1948 war for the creation of the state of Israel. It is not the first time the Israeli High Court rules in this manner, recognizing Jewish property pre-1948.
According to the United Nations "Israeli law acknowledges such claims while denying equivalent rights to Palestinian refugees owning land or property in areas that are now in Israel." Israel does not recognize the rights of Palestinians in Israel, the occupied West Bank, or abroad to claim the property stolen from them when they fled Jaffa, Haifa, Nazareth, and other currently Israeli cities.
The Silwan residents, who have been fighting a legal battle to remain in their homes since 2002, denounced the claims by the settler organization as false. According to the Ottoman Law which was in force in the time mentioned by the settler group (1899), land can only be disposed of by a special order from the Sultan.
The buildings owned by the Jewish Trust were destroyed in the late 19th century. Jewish settlers do not have the right to the land, according to Silwan residents, who argue that if the court could not have ruled they have the right to the buildings because they were destroyed in the 1800s.
The court argued that part of one of the buildings survived destruction, hence the land transfer to the group is justified. It also mentioned that it is the right of the Jewish people to build a synagogue on the ruins of demolished buildings.
Silwan, a part of the so-called Holy Basin around the Old City of Jerusalem, where biblical kings David and Solomon apparently resided in ancient times, has been witnessing a regular violation Palestinians' human rights at the hand of Israeli settlers, occupation forces, and the Jerusalem municipality.
In 2012, an Israeli planning commission approved the construction of a controversial biblical park in Silwan. According to the Israeli human rights group Ir Amim, for years Silwan has been targeted through the transfer of land that has been designated as “public” or “state” due to its environmental, historical or religious significance to exclusive control of settler groups.
The High Court's ruling came after news that Israeli occupation forces are destroying Palestinian-owned shops in Shu'fat refugee camp in East Jerusalem. A move strongly condemned by the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC).
Abu Holy, the head of PLC said in a statement, “the Israeli municipality of West Jerusalem intended to change the character of the camp as part of former West Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat’s plan to end the status of the camp as a refugee camp as part of a bigger plan to end the presence of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Jerusalem and to shut down all its services.”
The U.N. has warned that "forced evictions, together with house demolitions ordered or carried out by the Jerusalem Municipality, are the most common cause of forced displacement in East Jerusalem."