Dozens of Palestinians face eviction from their homes in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, which they say is part of a plan to drive them out and replace it entirely with a Jewish settlement.
The Jerusalem District Court ruled on Sunday that at least six families would leave their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, despite having lived there for decades.
The same court ordered seven more families to vacate their homes by August 1. To make way for Jewish settlers, 58 people, including 17 children, are set to be forcefully relocated.
The court decisions are the result of a decades-long fight to keep these Palestinians in their homes. Several Jewish settler organizations filed a lawsuit against the Palestinian families residing in Sheikh Jarrah in 1972, claiming that the property was originally Jewish.
These organizations, mainly supported by US donors, have fought a never-ending struggle that has culminated in the displacement of 43 Palestinians in 2002, as well as the Hanoun and Ghawi families in 2008 and the Shamasneh family in 2017.
What is the story of Karm al-Jaouni in Sheikh Jarrah?
In 1956, 28 Palestinian refugee families who had been displaced from their homes in the coastal cities of Yafa and Haifa eight years before settled in Sheikh Jarrah’s Karm al-Jaouni district.
The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, was under Jordan’s control at the time, and Jordan reached an agreement with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to build housing units for these families. The agreement called for the families to give up their refugee status in exchange for land deeds signed in their names after three years of living in the region.
However, this did not occur, and Jordan lost its mandate in 1967 when Israel invaded East Jerusalem.
Khalil Toufakji, a Palestinian cartographer and Jerusalem expert, said he went to Ankara in 2010 to look for a document that proves Jewish ownership of Karm al-Jaouni in Ottoman archives.
“I found the deed and presented it to the Israeli district court, which promptly rejected it,” Toufakji told Al Jazeera.
Toufakji dug deeper and discovered that in 1968, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, issued a decree – signed by the finance minister at the time – stating that Israel was bound by the Jordan-UNRWA agreement.
“This fact is what has been raised to the Jerusalem High Court on behalf of the Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah,” he said, but added there is little reason to believe the court will rule in favour of them.
“Israeli courts – judge, jury and legislation – are all in the service of the Jewish settlers,” he said.