Families and business owners in the Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem, a territory belonging to Palestine but occupied by Israeli settlers, are facing 21-day eviction and demolition notices. On June 29th, Israeli forces accompanied by bulldozers entered Silwan and began demolition. The Israeli forces demolished a butcher shop in the neighborhood, utilizing tear gas and batons to attack residents defending it. They were also seen firing rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians after mosque loudspeakers called for residents to gather and protect their homes.
The Palestine Red Crescent reports at least four Palestinians were injured in this confrontation, while Reuters reports Palestinian medics counted as many as 13 injured. Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett reported that the Israeli forces utilized “tear gas and other means” to attack the family that owned the butchery and noted there are 20 other units that are facing demolition as well.
The notices these families received were marked with a 21-day deadline for the family to demolish their house or business. Failure to do so within this time frame would result in the Israeli state demolishing the property instead and charging hefty fines to cover the costs. Nidal Al-Rajabi, the owner of the demolished shop, refused to destroy his own shop. He said to Middle East Eye “I don’t regret not demolishing the shop myself. On the contrary, I’m glad. I brought my children to see the army and told them this is for your memories so you know who destroyed your property.”
The demolition notices are given under the pretext of building without a permit, but the permits in question are considered nearly impossible to obtain for Palestinians. Since 2005, nearly 90 homes have been given demolition orders as a settler organization seeks to turn the land into a national park. According to Palestinian rights organization Al-Haq, though East Jerusalem is inhabited by a majority of Palestinians, the Israeli government has zoned the land so 35% is “for the construction of illegal settlements by Israeli settlers,” and that another 52% has been designated “green areas” and “unplanned areas” where construction is outright prohibited.
Israeli law heavily favours Jewish Israeli citizens over Palestinians. If a Jewish Israeli can prove their family lived in East Jerusalem before the establishment of Israel, then they can request the land back through legal channels. The law specifically applies to Israelis and not to Palestinians. Further, even if Palestinians have been living there for decades, the land can still be taken. Al Jazeera spoke to a lawyer, Mohammed Dahleh, who represents some of the Silwan families.
Dahleh explains that there is clear discrimination in the law where Jewish people can claim back any property they owned before 1948, but Palestinians whose homelands inside Israel were taken from them have no claim to their property. Dahleh states, “Those families cannot claim back their properties, although they hold Israeli identity cards and are considered as residents of the state of Israel.”
Israeli courts have recently postponed the hearing of two cases brought by Palestinian families facing forced displacement from their homes in Silwan. On the day of the postponement, supporters gathered outside the central Israeli court to demonstrate against the forced expulsions. Israeli forces attacked the group of protestors and made three arrests of Palestinians. The court hearing is delayed until August 7th. An Israeli court already delayed its ruling on the expulsion of families from Silwan back in May of this year.
The intrusion of Israeli settlers into the homes and businesses of Palestinians is a violent attempt to expel a population of people from their homes. The Palestinian people have faced decades of violence and expulsion at the hands of the state of Israel and the continuation of that violence in the neighborhood of Silwan and others such as Sheikh Jarrah is a display of new age colonization and imperialism. The Israeli state and its military continue to be a plague of violence and oppression for about 2 million Palestinians in occupied territories. The rest of the world must begin to stand with Palestine and protect Palestinians from continued violence, occupation, and expulsion.
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