The Sabbagh Family: A Case Study in Palestinian Displacement from the Old City Basin

The ring of Palestinian neighborhoods wrapping around the Old City, known as the Old City Basin, represents the most contested land in Jerusalem owing to the density of holy sites within its confines – most prominently, the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. The population density in the built-up areas of the Old City Basin limits Israel’s ability to advance plans for residential settlements as a means of altering its demographic character. After more than 50 years of Israeli control over East Jerusalem, nearly 100,000 Palestinians live in the Old City and the surrounding neighborhoods, alongside 6,000 Israelis at most, 3,000 of whom live in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. In grappling with this demographic reality and with the symbolic value of a space holy to three religions, non-residential projects – especially those targeting tourism and archeology – assume a central role in Israeli settlement policy.
Increasingly, settler initiated, state-backed evictions of Palestinian families are being used as a strategy to help cement Israeli control over the area. Given their strategic location as gateways to the Old City, Sheikh Jarrah to the north of the Old City and Silwan to the south are the two neighborhoods under greatest pressure from Israeli settler groups. Some 150 families in these two areas alone are under threat of eviction.
Having exhausted all legal remedies, the Sabbagh family of Sheikh Jarrah – an extended family of 32 members – is the latest to find itself at imminent risk of eviction. Ir Amim and Peace Now, along with multiple Israeli and international NGOs, have issued an urgent call for intervention to halt the family’s displacement and put a stop to the accelerating creation of new facts on the ground being used to deepen Israeli control of the Old City Basin.
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