The 150-Year Back Story to the Sheikh Jarrah Dispute

In May, Hamas used a pending eviction case in the Jerusalem neighborhood known in Arabic as Sheikh Jarrah as its pretext for launching a war against Israel. The fighting has ended, but the legal case drags on. Contrary to what one might assume from reports in the Western media or from those tweeting #SaveSheikhJarrah, the Israeli government has no plans to expel anyone from his home. Rather, a corporation has brought a few Palestinians families to court over nonpayment of rent. But the case is a complex one, as Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

The Sheikh Jarrah homes at the center of the controversy lie in what were once the Jewish neighborhoods of Shimon ha-Tsadik and Naḥalat Shimon, built on plots of land near the traditional tomb of the 3rd-century-BCE priest Simon the Righteous. The plots, including the tomb, were purchased in 1876 by two Jewish religious organizations representing the Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jewish communities in Jerusalem. In the ensuing years, the two communal trusts built homes at the sites that would come to house some 100 Jewish households.

Seventy-two years after that initial purchase, in the throes of the 1948 war, the Jews at the site were forced to flee their homes out of fear of Jordanian and Palestinian violence. (Sheikh Jarrah was the site of the April 14, 1948 massacre of a convoy of Jewish doctors and nurses headed to Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus.) By war’s end, Sheikh Jarrah, including its Jewish enclaves, was under the control of Jordan’s new military occupation of the West Bank.

In 1950, the Jordanian governor of the West Bank issued Proclamation 55, which declared all Israelis to be “enemies,” allowing the state to confiscate systematically all Jewish-owned sites and properties in the West Bank. . . . In 1970, three years after Israel won control over the area from Jordan in the Six-Day War, Israel’s Knesset passed a law that formally recognized every transfer of ownership from Jew to Palestinian carried out by Jordanian [officials].

But what seems to have been a Jordanian oversight left the status of this particular property in question. It was then bought up by a shell company, which seems to be connected to far-right Israel activists. And here, Gur writes, the situation becomes more complex still:

[T]he fact that homes are being claimed by unknown actors . . . should concern Israeli policymakers more than the Palestinian residents. . . . And the Israeli government’s dogged indifference has granted private and often unknown ideologues the power to determine the timing and scale of any fallout.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Hamas, Jerusalem, Jordan

 

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf