In the Sheikh Jarrah Affair, Palestinians Decided Getting Nothing Is Better Than Accepting Three-Quarters of a Loaf

November 5, 2021 | Jonathan Tobin
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In May, the case of Jerusalem property owners seeking to evict four Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood—or at the very least use the courts to force them to pay rent—became an international cause célèbre. Hamas even cited it as a pretext for its war with Israel. Since then, the case has continued to wend its way through the Israeli judicial system, until the Supreme Court this week proposed a compromise. Jonathan Tobin explains what happened:

Rather than uphold the property rights of the Jewish owners, the Israeli Supreme Court made the Arab families an offer that they shouldn’t have refused. It would allow them to stay in place by paying minimal rents and a fraction of the legal costs of their opponents while still giving them the right to have the case reopened by Israel’s Ministry of Justice, and also providing them extra legal protections that would guarantee that they couldn’t be evicted.

Pressured by the terrorist groups and corrupt officials that control Palestinian political life, the families turned down the deal with a statement that claimed that any effort to restore the property rights of the actual owners was a “crime” that was a matter of “ethnic cleansing perpetrated by a settler-colonial judiciary and its settlers.”

The language used here matters. It’s not just that their claim of “ethnic cleansing” is ironic because the only reason Arabs are living in these homes is due to the fact that Jews themselves were ethnically cleansed from parts of their ancient capital in 1948. It’s that they regard the state of Israel and its liberal Supreme Court as “settlers” who are no different from the most extreme Jewish residents of the most remote hilltop settlement deep in the West Bank.

Instead of accepting an extraordinary offer from Israel’s Supreme Court, which would have protected them from eviction from homes they do not own and for which they have refused to pay rent, [the Arab litigants, pressured by the Palestinian Authority], preferred to continue a fight in which they don’t have a legal leg to stand on.

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