In addition to the fierce Israeli attack on Humsa, Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah and Al-Bustan neighborhoods in East Jerusalem face imminent Israeli ethnic cleansing actions. The looming expulsion of Palestinians from there is part of the Israeli coercive measures to empty Jerusalem from its Palestinian inhabitants and replace them with illegal Jewish settlers.
According to UN OCHA, so far in 2021, the Israeli occupation authorities have demolished 53 structures belonging to Palestinians in Jerusalem. These demolitions have resulted in the displacement of 69 people. Some of the demolitions were carried out in the village of Silwan, where Al-Bustan neighborhood is located.
The demolition of individual structures is but the beginning of mass demolition of the entire neighborhood of Al-Bustan.
Commenting on the imminent ethnic cleansing of thousands of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah and Al-Bustan, Jamal Juma’, the general coordinator of Stop the Wall Campaign stated:
By destroying these two neighborhoods, the Israeli occupation authorities seek to expel Palestinians from the area surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem.
This will serve Israel’s aims to Judaize Jerusalem in the area they call ‘sacred basin.’ By sacred, the Israelis mean that the area should be inhabited only by Jews.
By removing Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah and establishing an illegal settlement there, the Israeli government can tighten its control over the Old City of Jerusalem through the settlements punctuating the area. Without Palestinian presence in Sheikh Jarrah, they can connect the illegal settlement of Rafat Ashkoul, the French Hill and the Hotel of the Shepherd, which the settlers took over from Palestinians a few years ago, with each other.
This scheme is part of the bigger plan to Judaize the entire city of Jerusalem and reduce Palestinians there to a small minority group.
Sheik Jarrah: To be Swallowed up by greedy settlers
Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood is located on the mountain of Al-Masharef to the north of the city of Jerusalem, outside the old city. Most of its inhabitants are Palestinians who were expelled from their homes, which are part of present-day Israel, by the Zionist gangs when Israel came into being in 1948.
In the 1950s, the Jordanian government, which was ruling the West Bank, including East Jerusalem at that time, granted parts of the lands of Sheikh Jarrah to Palestinian refugees. Before that, these refugees were for years homeless living in garages for buses in Jerusalem.
Through the financial support of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNTRWA), the Jordanian government constructed houses for these refugees. Few years later, Jordan recognized the Palestinian refugees’ ownership of their houses there.
In 1972, the Sephardic Community Committee and the Knesset Yisrael Committee, two bigoted settler organizations, started waging a war against Palestinians living in Sheikh Jarrah. The two organizations, fully backed by the Israeli government, fabricated documents claiming that the 28 Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah live there illegally. They have underpinned their lies by claiming that the Jewish settlers’ ownership right to Sheikh Jarrah dates back to 1885. This contradicts the Ottoman archives, in which proofs of Palestinian ownership of the land in Sheikh Jarrah are preserved. In fact, the land of Sheikh Jarrah belongs to Palestinians long before 1885.
Since then, Palestinians there have been battling with the racist Israeli legal system to thwart the settlers’ attempts to take over their homes. Israeli Magistrates’ Court in Jerusalem has ignored Palestinians’ documented ownership of their homes. Instead, the court has relied on the fake documents provided to the court by settler organizations to reject the appeals by the Palestinian owners.
The racist Israeli legal system facilitates the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the courts have rejected the well-documented cases brought by Palestinians. For decades, the court has been issuing orders to expel Palestinians from their homes. So far, the two settler organizations have stolen the homes of twelve Palestinian families by force.
The remaining families now face imminent expulsion after Israeli courts rejected their appeals. On top of this, the Israeli court has issued orders forcing these Palestinian families to pay about 70, 000 ILS (20, 000 $). The money will go to the lawyers of the settlers who filed cases against Palestinians to ethnically cleanse them.
Al-Bustan: Under the mercy of the merciless colonizers
Al-Bustan neighborhood is located 300 meters away from the southern part of the wall surrounding Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is inhabited by about 1550 Palestinians, 63% of them are children under the age of 18.
Similar to Sheikh Jarrah, the Israeli occupation authorities seek to ethnically cleanse the 1550 Palestinian inhabitants of Al-Bustan. The 90 houses that have withstood so far, the Israeli demolition policy there face a looming mass demolition.
The Municipality of Jerusalem has recently rejected all the urban master plans that it had asked the residents of Al-Bustan to provide as part of the process to give them construction permits. The Israeli court rejected the appeals made by the Palestinian owners, which are now facing direct threat of demolition of their homes.
On top of the ruins of the Palestinian homes, the occupation authorities plan to build a biblical garden called ‘the Garden of King David.’
Since 2004, Palestinians in Al-Bustan neighborhood have been facing brutal Israeli ethnic cleansing practices. The Israeli occupation authorities have been trying to demolish the 100 homes in the neighborhood since then. Initially, the Israeli occupation authorities reduced to rubble ten houses in 2005. The demolition of the 90 other houses in the neighborhood was thwarted thanks to popular resistance and pressure on the Israeli government to stop this massive ethnic cleansing campaign.
Yet, the Israeli occupation has never given up on its plans to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their homes. One tool Israel uses to force Palestinians out of the area is to reject any request for construction permits that Palestinian make. This allows them to demolish then their buildings under the pretext of “lacking building permit”.
The Municipality of Jerusalem also tried to relocate the residents of Al-Bustan to Beit Hanina, another area in Jerusalem inhabited mainly by Palestinians. However, the residents rejected the proposal and continued to live steadfast in their homes.
Don’t remain passive in the face of Israeli war crimes!
Every day, the inhabitants of Al-Bustan and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoods face a battle with a fierce and inhumane Israeli apartheid and settler colonial system to continue existing in their homes.
They share this battle with the Palestinian Bedouin communities in the Jordan Valley, like Humsa, and Bedouin communities in the vicinity of Jerusalem.
We call on the international community, its governments and civil society, to ensure justice and accountability.
We reiterate our call to the international community to:
- recognize and denounce Israel’s policies against the entire Palestinian people, including the imminent ethnic cleansing of Sheikh Jarrah, Al-Bustan and Bedouin communities and the actual demolitions of Humsa al Fawqa, as war crimes of an Occupying Power, violation of the Palestinian right to self-determination and constituting the crime of apartheid.
- establish an independent Human Rights Council fact-finding mission into Israel’s apartheid regime and associated obligations of states, international organizations and business enterprises.
- further develop in a transparent manner the UN database on business enterprises involved in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
- Endorse the online campaign to save Sheikh Jarrah, Al-Bustan and Humsa by sharing daily news and updates about these areas using the hashtags: #SaveSheikhJarrah #SaveAlBustan and #SaveHumsa.
We urge the international community to impose targeted economic and military sanctions on Israel, to publicly support and fully cooperate with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and to hold individuals including corporate actors complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank criminally accountable.