GSC Stands in Solidarity with Families in East Jerusalem

Yesterday, Good Shepherd Collective headed to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian residents who are living with the increasing threat of eviction from their homes. 

In the early years after the Nakba (catastrophe) in 1948, during which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced and expelled from their homes and communities, a small number of Palestinian refugees were offered what seemed like a good opportunity by UNRWA: homes in East Jerusalem, under Jordanian control at the time, in exchange for their refugee status. These families accepted a place to live in exchange for the loss of any privileges afforded to them as refugees. 

This was no small decision. For these people who had already been displaced from across Historical Palestine and had lost so much of their generational wealth and property, the choice to hand over their UNRWA cards meant that they were placing trust in the idea of a secure future in their new homes.

Now living under Israeli control, the community lives under threat of a second Nakba and with settler violence continuously lurking. Already, several families have been evicted in the last decade. 

Under Israeli law, any property belonging to a Jewish person before 1948 should return to that family, even if a Palestinian currently resides there; of course, the same does not apply in reverse, leaving endless Palestinians without access to their historical property and family wealth. It is through this law that claims have been made to the homes these Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah now reside in—though in reality, the properties often end up in the hands of shady settler organizations like Nahalat Shimon, which focus on settlement expansion in the area.

(UN OCHA)

This is the point for settler organizations. Settlement expansion and land control is the goal, as it is across Historical Palestine, and as it is with all settler-colonial projects. Despite several homes in Sheikh Jarrah having already been removed of their Palestinian residents and taken over by settlers, few settlers seem to remain once the property has been secured. Just like in Silwan, another East Jerusalem neighborhood just south of Sheikh Jarrah, Israeli settlers use loose religious affiliations and legal mechanisms to expand their control throughout Jerusalem and further displace Palestinians.

These land takeovers are strategic in their targets, as well. It is not only that settlers wish to expand their control of Jerusalem, but that this expanded control changes the character of these areas and pushes more and more Palestinians out of the city. With ever-decreasing access to residential spaces in East Jerusalem, and residency statuses that rely upon an ability to illustrate that the center of their lives are in the city, more and more displaced Palestinians are pushed to the fringes of East Jerusalem, living in unsafe spaces in order to balance their finances and keep their marginal rights. 

This is settler-colonialism: harmony between the organizations, judiciary, legislation, and state bodies that allow for the expansion of one group’s rights and privileges over the indigenous community. While the decade-long protests and protective presence organized in Sheikh Jarrah help, they are not a substitute for a new system that treats all people as equals. It is one thing for a Jewish family to have their property rightfully returned—it is another to leave the Palestinian refugees who live their without their old homes in Jaffa or any compensation for them.

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