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24 March 2021

Dear Friends, 

This week has been busy in Jerusalem. Just yesterday, Israel held its fourth election within less than two years – the final outcome of which will not be known until a coalition of at least 61 seats can be formed. At the same time, West Jerusalem is consumed with final preparations for the Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins Saturday evening.

Passover is a holiday that celebrates freedom from oppression and the promise of new beginnings. With Passover approaching, here in Jerusalem, we cannot overlook those within our own city whose freedoms are curtailed and whose communities are under threat of being uprooted. As the number four makes many appearances (the four cups of wine, the four children, the four questions, etc.) throughout the Seder meal, we take this time to recall four Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem whose rights are severely impinged upon and currently under threat of displacement: Batan al-Hawa, Al-Bustan, Sheikh Jarrah, and Al-Walajeh (see below).

Beyond the immense humanitarian toll and violation of human rights, these efforts serve to further embed Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem and foil the prospects of a future political resolution on the city.

Ir Amim is actively engaged in ongoing legal and public advocacy on behalf of these communities with the goal of supporting the families, safeguarding their rights to the city, and ultimately putting an end to these measures of forced displacement.

For those celebrating Passover here and around the globe, may we use this opportunity to remember these communities as we retell an ancient story of liberation and emancipation. 

May this year be dedicated to increased freedom for all peoples,

Ir Amim staff

Batan al-Hawa, Silwan

A neighborhood within Silwan, located on the southern slopes of the Old City, Batan al-Hawa is home to approximately 10,000 Palestinians who have resided there for decades. The area is under massive threat by a state-sponsored settler organization working to forcibly evict Palestinian families and seize their homes for Jewish settlement. Over the course of the past year, Israeli courts have thus far ruled in favor of the eviction of 24 Palestinian families from Batan al-Hawa. To date, 14 families have already been evicted with over 80 other households facing eviction claims. If these evictions are not halted, Batan al-Hawa is anticipated to become one of the largest settler enclaves in a Palestinian neighborhood in the Old City Basin, while displacing over 700 individuals from one community. Once evicted, these families are left homeless with no compensation nor alternative housing and an obligation to cover exorbitant legal fees.

Qotaibah Odeh, a member of one family facing eviction stated: 

It feels as if we are under attack on all fronts: from the eviction and demolition threats on the ground to the tunnels being excavated [by a settler organization] below us to the cable car now planned over our heads.

Al-Bustan, Silwan

Some 70 homes in the Al-Bustan area of Silwan, located in the valley below Batan al-Hawa, are under imminent threat of demolition, placing over 1000 individuals from this community at risk of mass displacement. 

In 2010, the Jerusalem Municipality advanced a plan to designate a significant portion of the neighborhood for a large touristic venture, identifying dozens of homes for demolition under the pretense of lacking building permits. Although the houses were built by residents on land they privately own, they were unable to secure building permits due to the absence of proper urban planning--a common Israeli practice in Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. 

Over the past decade, the residents struck an agreement with the Jerusalem municipality which would allow for the creation of a zoning plan that would meet the needs of the residents while deferring demolitions within the neighborhood. This all changed last month when the Municipality, in a major shift in conduct, objected to the residents' request to extend the demolition freeze, currently protecting some 70 homes from demolition.

Last week, the residents filed a response to the Municipality's objection and are currently awaiting a court decision on the matter. If the court rules in favor of the Municipality, the demolition freeze would be lifted, ushering in a devastating wave of demolitions and causing the mass dispossession of over 1000 Palestinians from Al Bustan.

Sheikh Jarrah

Similar measures playing out on the ground in Silwan are reflected symmetrically on the Northern edge of the Old City Basin in Sheikh Jarrah. Over the past year, the courts ruled to evict 12 families from the Kerem Al'ajoni section (eastern part) of Sheikh Jarrah in favor of settler groups. Approximately 35 families from this area and an estimated 40 more families in the adjacent Um Haroun section of the neighborhood are at risk of eviction. The eviction demands in the Kerem Al'ajoni section are being filed by Nahalat Shimon, a US-registered company, working on behalf of settlers to establish a major settler enclave in the area.

Through invoking a discriminatory law from 1970, the Nahalat Shimon Company has been advancing dozens of eviction claims against Palestinians, who were legally resettled under Jordanian law in this area of Sheikh Jarrah and now stand to be made refugees for a second time. 

Al Walajeh

The residents of the Jerusalem section of al-Walajeh, located on the southern perimeter of East Jerusalem, are under acute threat of being forcibly uprooted from their village, where they have lived and cultivated the land for decades. A court injunction, currently preventing the demolition of 38 homes, could be lifted by the end of April after the District Planning Committee recently rejected an outline plan initiated by the residents more than a decade ago in an attempt to legalize their homes. If wide-scale demolitions are ultimately carried out, it will lead to the complete destruction of this part of al-Walajeh, causing mass dispossession and amounting to a form of forcible transfer. 
This al-Walajeh community of East Jerusalem has for years been at risk of expulsion as a result of combined Israeli pressures over the past decade. Israel has been gradually confiscating al-Walajeh lands and detaching it from the Palestinian space around it. It has become a nearly isolated enclave encircled by the Separation Barrier and Israeli settlement projects, which serve to create Israeli territorial contiguity between Jerusalem and the Gush Etzion settlement bloc in service to Israel's "Greater Jerusalem" visionIn this way, Israel furthers its consolidation of control along the southern perimeter, while carrying out grave human rights violations and sabotaging any prospect of a negotiated agreement in Jerusalem. 

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