Sheikh Jarrah is a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, part of the territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. It was illegally annexed to Israel after the end of the war.
The neighborhood, founded in the 1920s, was home to an affluent Palestinian community. Adjacent to it, in an area now called “Shimon HaTsadik Compound”, was a tiny Jewish community, founded in the late 19th century and gradually dispersed during the Arab uprisings of the 1920s and 1930s, prior to the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.
Between 1948 and 1967 Sheikh Jarrah was under Jordanian sovereignty. In 1956 the Jordanian government and the UN refugee agency UNRWA built homes for 28 Palestinian refugee families who had been expelled from their homes in 1948, on the land of the former Jewish neighborhood.
Since the annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Jewish settlement organizations have claimed ownership of or bought different parts of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood with an eye to settling Jewish families there. They have used the Israeli legal system extensively to support their claims.
In 2009, after a protracted legal process, the Israeli government and court approved the eviction of some of the refugee families from their homes and demolition of their houses, in order to enable the building of a Jewish settlement comprising 200 housing units.
The US and the EU have both protested against the eviction of Palestinian families from this neighborhood and others, and against the destruction of their homes.
Public protest broke out in relation to one of the houses in the neighborhood, the home of the Al-Kurd family, half of which had been defined as “illegally built”. The Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that half of the house be sealed and that the family be prevented from living there. In November 2008 the Al-Kurds were evicted by force from their home. On November 3rd, 2009, settlers escorted by police entered the Al Kurd family home.
Since then, protest marches and vigils have been held by Israeli and Palestinian activists in the neighborhood each Friday.
The vigils, although defined by the courts as legal, are violently suppressed by police and border guards. Protestors are regularly arrested and usually detained for at least 24 hours.
The story of Sheikh Jarrah is part of a broader attempt by settlers and by the Israeli government to surround the Old City of Jerusalem with Jewish neighborhoods and projects, disconnecting it from Palestinian neighborhoods.
In East Jerusalem as a whole, the Israeli planning regime almost completely denies Palestinians the right to build new housing units in their neighborhoods, leading to a severe housing shortage and an inability to build legally, and subsequently to multiple house demolitions.
Further reading: Ir Amim, June 2009: Evictions and Settlement Plans in Sheikh Jarrah, http://www.ir-amim.org.il/Eng/_Uploads/dbsAttachedFile…
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