Tomorrow, a potentially decisive hearing will take place at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on the Salem family's pending eviction from their home in Sheikh Jarrah.
The hearing concerns the family’s appeal against the decision of the Enforcement and Collection Authority’s registrar from late January 2022 authorizing the family’s eviction. There is currently an injunction in place, which has provisionally frozen the eviction order, however, this could be lifted following tomorrow’s hearing, which would place the family at imminent risk of displacement after the end of Ramadan.
The Selam family's legal representation has underscored that the remaining legal remedies are severely limited. Therefore, the only real effective means of preventing the family's impending displacement is through state intervention. Continued public pressure and concerted engagement with the Israeli government on this matter is hence vital.
For further details and background on the case, see below.
On January 30, 2022, the Enforcement and Collection Authority’s registrar issued its decision authorizing the eviction of the Salem family from Sheikh Jarrah. The registrar approved the request submitted by the police and the settler who claims ownership of the home for an eviction order with a flexible implementation date between March 1-April 1, 2022. Such forms of eviction orders are used to retain an element of surprise to reduce anticipated resistance and ensure the eviction is carried out without disruption. On February 17, however, the family’s attorney filed an urgent appeal to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court and requested an injunction to freeze the order. By February 22, the court agreed to issue an injunction on condition the family posted a 25,000 NIS bond, while instructing the plaintiffs (the settlers) to submit a response to the appeal within 15 days. As a result, the family’s eviction was provisionally frozen.
The Salem family, comprised of 11 individuals, including four children have been under imminent threat of eviction from their home in the western section of Sheikh Jarrah (Um Haroun) after unexpectedly receiving an eviction order in early December 2021. While formally issued by the Enforcement and Collection Authority, the eviction notice was delivered to the family by two key settler activists and Jerusalem City Council members, Jonathan Yosef and Deputy Mayor Aryeh King. Yosef claims to have purchased at least part of the home from Jews who allegedly owned the property prior to 1948. That eviction order had since expired, and as mentioned above, in its place, the Enforcement and Collection Authority approved the request for a new eviction order with a flexible implementation date.
The Salem Family's Case
The Salem family's case dates back to a 1988 court ruling which ordered their eviction in favor of the heirs of the property's alleged Jewish owners. For reasons unknown to Ir Amim, the verdict was never enforced, and the family continued to reside on the property. The court file has since been incinerated, and therefore it is difficult to ascertain the details of the ruling in its entirety. In more recent years, however, settlers, including City Councilman Jonathan Yosef, acquired the rights to at least a portion of the Salem family's home and now demanding their eviction based on the 1988 ruling.
In the Um Haroun section of Sheikh Jarrah, there was a small Jewish community, comprised of approximately 40 families, who were instructed to evacuate the neighborhood in the 1948 War. Having been forced to abandon their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, many of the families resettled in West Jerusalem, some of whom were reportedly compensated at the time by the Israeli government with alternative properties (formerly belonging to Palestinian refugees). During the same war, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced and lost their homes on the Israeli side of the Green Line, a very few of whom were resettled by the Jordanian government in East Jerusalem, including in Sheikh Jarrah. After the 1948 War, the Jordanian government assumed management of all abandoned Jewish properties in East Jerusalem and utilized some of them for the rehabilitation and resettlement of Palestinian refugees. Members of the Salem family were displaced from the village of Qalunya, which once stood on the outskirts of West Jerusalem along the Jerusalem-Jaffa highway. According to the Salem family, they took up residence in their home in Sheikh Jarrah in 1951, paying rent to the Jordanian government under a protected tenancy agreement.
One-Way Land Restitution via Discriminatory Laws
Following Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, the aforementioned assets, including the Salem family's home, were transferred into the management of the Israeli General Custodian, a department within the Ministry of Justice, who continued to lease the properties to their Palestinian occupants. However, in 1970, Israel enacted the Legal and Administrative Matters Law, which exclusively affords Israeli Jews the right to reclaim assets once owned by Jews in East Jerusalem prior to 1948 despite many of these properties now being inhabited by Palestinian refugees. No parallel legal mechanism exists for Palestinians to recover lost properties on the Israeli side of the Green Line, which they owned before 1948. On the contrary, the 1950 Absentee Property Law enshrines that Palestinians who lost their homes in Israel due to the 1948 War cannot retrieve them.
Over the years, settler groups working in collusion with state bodies, including the General Custodian, have exploited the discriminatory 1970 law to file eviction lawsuits against Palestinian families to seize their homes for Jewish settlement despite having no connection to the previous Jewish owners or occupants of the properties. These groups act to secure land ownership rights through various means, which provide them with a legal platform to initiate eviction proceedings against Palestinian families who have been residing in the homes for decades. As a result of these eviction claims, more than 150 Palestinian families, numbering over 1000 individuals, in both Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan on the opposite side of the Old City Basin stand to be displaced—many for a second time.
Settlement of Land Title Procedures: A Tool for Jewish Settlement Expansion
The eviction lawsuits are being carried out in lockstep with formal settlement of land title procedures, which the Israeli government has initiated in East Jerusalem for the first time since 1967 and largely spearheaded by the General Custodian. In April 2021, Ir Amim uncovered that the Israeli government had initiated these procedures in Um Haroun, Sheikh Jarrah, formally registering the title of properties to alleged Jewish owners without the Palestinian residents' knowledge, which can further ease settler takeovers of these assets. These processes are being conducted within the framework of 2018 Government Decision No. 3790, a five-year plan, which aims to ostensibly reduce socio-economic disparities and promote economic development in East Jerusalem. Although depicted as a measure to theoretically aid Palestinian residents, the settlement of title procedures rather serves as a tool to further confiscate Palestinian properties, leading to the expansion of Israeli settlement and widespread Palestinian dispossession in the city. Indeed, as recently revealed, the General Custodian appears to not only be facilitating settler takeovers of Palestinian properties, but now in an unprecedented manner also advancing plans for new Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem – i.e. Givat HaShaked.
Beyond further undermining any future resolution on Jerusalem and prospect for peace, these actions constitute a violation of human rights and carry an acute humanitarian impact on the families. Amplified engagement with the Israeli government is therefore necessary to block these processes of forced displacement.
How the Israeli Government Can Intervene