Supreme Court postpones hearing on eviction of Arabs from Jerusalem neighborhood

The postponement is likely intended to cool down rising tensions in Jerusalem.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The Supreme Court has indefinitely postponed a hearing scheduled for Monday which could have resulted in an eviction order for four Arab families from Sheikh Jarrah, after a request by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

While Mandelblit said he asked for the delay because he may participate in the proceedings on behalf of the state and needed time to review the materials involved, it’s widely believed that the move was intended to cool down rising tensions in Jerusalem.

This past weekend saw the worst violence in Jerusalem in years, with some 300 Palestinian rioters wounded and 17 Israeli police officers injured, one seriously.

Some of the violence took place in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben-Gvir had set up a field office.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz had also been exploring ways to postpone the hearing, according to Hebrew-language media reports.

The cancelled hearing was the culmination of a nearly 40-year legal battle between Israeli organizations representing Jews who owned property in Sheikh Jarrah before 1948 and Arab families who have been living in the neighborhood for decades.

Known as Shimon HaTzadik in Hebrew, the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood was originally home to a sizable Jewish population. Much of its land was owned by Ashkenazi and Sephardic religious cooperatives.

During the 1948 War of Independence, Jewish families were forced out and Arabs from other neighborhoods in Jerusalem, alongside a number of Jordanians, moved into the homes.

Some built new houses on the land in Sheikh Jarrah. The Jordanian Ministry of Housing also appropriated land to build houses for Arabs in the neighborhood.

Citing a 1970 Israeli law that permits Jews to reclaim property in eastern Jerusalem purchased before 1948, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Sephardic Community Committee of Sheikh Jarrah landowners.

The 1982 decision stipulated that the Arab families could stay in their homes as long as they paid rent to the rightful landowners.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that Arab families living in the Shimon HaTzadik compound in Sheikh Jarrah would need to pay rent, as the property belonged to a Jewish cooperative that had legally purchased it in the 1930s.

Some Arab families challenged the authenticity of the deeds in court, stating that the Jewish families were presenting forgeries, and then that the land was simply rented to the organization and not actually owned by them.

The Court again ruled in the Jewish families’ favor. When one Arab family, the Al-Kurds, refused to pay rent, they were evicted.

Since 2008, a total of three Arab families have been evicted from Sheikh Jarrah.

Monday’s cancelled court hearing would have possibly seen another four families evicted – the first eviction of Arab residents of the neighborhood since 2009.

Although the Foreign Ministry has said in statements that the conflict is a “real estate dispute between private parties,” critics of Israel have used the potential evictions as an opportunity to accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and “Judaizing” Jerusalem.