By Karen Rodman
Canadian parliamentarian Nathaniel Erskine Smith has sponsored a petition that calls on Israel to stop eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem.
The Liberal member for Beaches-East York (in Toronto), has sponsored a timely parliamentary petition launched by Just Peace Advocates, a Canadian human rights organization, that urges the Canadian government to call on Israel to stop these evictions, and to take steps to stop Israel’s violation of international law.
So far, over 1200 people have signed the petition calling on the Government of Canada to stop Israeli evictions of the Palestinian families in Sheik Jarrah.
The Zionist regime is also carrying out the announced land settlement of title and registration policy in occupied East Jerusalem which will result in the permanent appropriation of Palestinian land by the State of Israel in flagrant violation of international law.
On February 15, the Israeli district court rejected an appeal and ordered four families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem to vacate their homes by May 2, 2021.
Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighbourhood, is situated in Al-Quds between the Old City and Mount Scopus.
Jerusalem/Al-Quds houses the noble sanctuary (Al-Haram al-Sharif) where Masjid al Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock are located.
Masjid al Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam. It was from this location that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) ascended to Heaven in what is referred to as the miracle of al-Isra wal Miraj in Islamic history and tradition.
The significance of Masjid al Aqsa is etched in the collective memory of all Muslims.
The miracle of Isra wal Miraj occurred in the month of Rajab of the Islamic lunar calendar, that Muslims are currently observing. It is one of the sacred months in the Islamic calendar.
Thus, Israeli actions in East Jerusalem are a double insult to Palestinians as well as Muslims worldwide.
The original court decision of October 20, 2020 ordered the eviction of Palestinians and demanded the families pay 70,000 NIS (over US$20,000), along with court costs including the settlers’ lawyer expenses.
This decision impacts seven households, 30 people in all, of which 10 are children.
Israeli Policy of Forced Population Transfer
To get a clearer picture, it is important to understand the background.
In 1956, the Jordanian government provided this land to families selected by UNRWA. They built their homes there.
In 1967, Israel illegally occupied and annexed East Jerusalem.
Since then, the occupying regime has attempted to alter the geographic and demographic composition of the city.
The aim is to create a Jewish majority by implementing discriminatory policies in favor of the city’s Jewish population.
Such actions are in violation of several UN Security Council Resolutions, the UN Charter and international humanitarian law.
Following its illegal annexation in 1967, East Jerusalem was subjected to Israeli laws, including the Absentee Property Law.
In 1972 two Israeli settlers’ associations made claim to the land of the Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah.
In 2003, the Israeli settlers then sold their supposed titles to another settler entity, the Nahlat Shamon Settler Company.
This company has since launched a campaign to evict these families. Their tactics include harassment of Palestinians as well as involving them in expensive court cases.
In 2008 and 2009 Israeli authorities evicted 13 Palestinian families that lived in Sheikh Jarrah.
These families had moved to Sheikh Jarrah as internally displaced people, exiled in 1948 from their respective villages by Zionist invaders.
This precedent paved the way to evict and displace other Palestinian residents, as the case of these four families shows.
The lawyers for the families will submit an appeal to the Israeli high court against the decision of the district court.
The various development initiatives in Sheikh Jarrah are clearly intended to advance Israeli strongholds of the historic “Holy Basin” surrounding the Old City with Sheikh Jarrah to the north, Silwan to the south, and the Mount of Olives to the east.
During 2020, over 27 families from Sheikh Jarrah, including 85 people received eviction orders and are currently at risk of forced displacement.
The Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalemindicates that home demolitions and the policy of removal of Palestinians in Jerusalem greatly escalated in 2020.
Last year, Israeli authorities demolished 170 structures in East Jerusalem, including 102 residences, of which 68 were self-demolitions meaning the families had to demolish their own homes to avoid being charged by Israel for the demolition.
This resulted in displacing 391 Palestinians, including 194 children.
Based on United Nations Security Council resolution 2242, the acquisition of a territory by use of force does not confer a valid title to that territory.
Therefore, Israel’s unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem through the Basic law (1980) that defines Jerusalem as the “complete and united” capital of Israel, does not confer any title of sovereignty to Israel over East Jerusalem.
In 2018, the Israeli Parliament passed an amendment to the “Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel.”
As a result, the Israeli military announced it will take “security control” over the Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem situated beyond the Wall in the West Bank.
This includes around 140,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites who now live with the constant fear that Israel will redraw the municipal borders and revoke their residency.
In 2019, the mayor of Jerusalem announced the implementation of a Master Plan called “East Jerusalem City Centre.”
It includes the ‘Maar Mizrah City Center’ which would make East Jerusalem a marginalized and secondary business center.
Already 40 Palestinian business owners of the area have received evacuation orders following announcement of the construction of a US Silicon Valley-inspired technology park called “Silicon Wadi”.
During 2020, there has been an escalation of Israeli settlement expansion with the establishment of 17,000 approved settler units in occupied Jerusalem—projects which will fragment and separate the city neighborhoods from each other.
Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) are unlawful under international law, as recognized by the Security Council, including UN Security Council Resolution 2334 which reaffirmed that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.
Under Article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, all high signatories, of which Canada is a party, are required to take action to ensure that violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention do not occur under any circumstances.
The petition sponsored by MP Nathaniel Erskine Smith is a principled approach urging Canada to fulfill its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The petition is open to all residents of Canada.
It calls on the Canadian government to take steps required to stop Israel’s violations of international law, including its continued building of settlements and forced displacement in the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, and to end Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
The petition is open for signature until Tuesday March 9, 2021, at 5:19 p.m. (EDT) and can be signed HERE
If you wish to learn more about the threat to Al-Quds, please view the webinar hosted by Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem, Just Peace Advocates, Canadian Council for Justice and Peace and the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute on December 6, 2020.
Karen Rodman is director with Just Peace Advocates, and a retired senior manager with 30+ years with the Ontario Public Service.