Good News from Sheikh Jarrah

For years, we have been sharing disheartening news about Sheikh Jarrah, the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhood that right-wing Israeli zealots have been trying to take over. But today, for the first time, we are happy to share some good news about the neighborhood.

First, a little history: In 2010, then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered 22 Palestinian homes in Sheikh Jarrah razed, to be replaced with 20 new Jewish homes. Three years later, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the Shamasne family to remain in their homes. They were evicted in 2017. You may remember our campaign to raise funds to help the Shamasnes. In the meantime, in 2016, Amana, a private company which seeks to expand West Bank settlement, was granted three dunams of land by the Israeli government to build an office in the neighborhood. In 2019, the 40-person Sabbagh family too faced eviction to make room for settlers. The efforts to remove Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah have continued ceaselessly.

But, on Tuesday, Israel’s Supreme Court resolved that four families who were slated for eviction can remain in their homes for now. Not only that, but the rent they pay will be held in escrow until the ownership of the assets is settled.

As our colleagues at Peace Now explained in a tweet, this decision “shows that the Israeli Supreme Court understands that the eviction lawsuits are a political move towards dispossession, not a real-estate dispute.” The court’s decision to hold the rent payments in escrow shows that they are committing to determining the rightful ownership, not capitulating to right-wing settlers.

This victory is not limited to the four families in the case but will likely also prevent the eviction of approximately 20 additional families in Sheikh Jarrah.

We commend the Supreme Court – especially Justices Daphne Barak-Erez and Isaac Amit, who went farther than any of their peers have in defending Palestinians’ rights – for this decision. And we urge the government of Israel to find a political solution to Sheikh Jarrah. This will relieve the Courts of what is essentially a political question, bring peace of mind to this neighborhood’s residents, and a modicum of much needed peace for Jerusalem.