GENEVA (11 January 2021) – A UN expert called today on Israel to reverse its eviction orders for Palestinian families living in Occupied East Jerusalem, calling them part of an alarming pattern to change the demography of the city.
Israeli courts have, over the last few months, upheld eviction orders to force 16 Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods. They include several extended families and two women raising children alone. In most cases, the Palestinian families have lived in their homes for decades as owners or long-term tenants.
“These evictions are extremely alarming, and appear to be part of a broader pattern of forcing Jerusalemite Palestinian families from their homes to clear the way for more illegal Israeli settlements,” said Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967. “Time is running short for these orders to be reversed.
“The eviction orders are not random but appear to be strategically focused on an area in East Jerusalem known as the Historic Basin,” he said. “They seem to be aimed at clearing the way for the establishment of more illegal Israeli settlements in the area and physically segregating and fragmenting East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.”
With the increase in evictions, home demolitions and settlement expansion, historic Palestinian neighbourhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan are either gradually disappearing or are becoming completely surrounded and isolated by Israeli settlements, Lynk said.
Applications by settler organisations for evictions have intensified, he said, citing reports by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that 877 people, including 391 children, are presently at risk of forced evictions because of such lawsuits. Evictions in East Jerusalem have already affected hundreds of Palestinian families especially in the areas of the Old City, Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.
The most recent litigation has been initiated by settler organisations seeking to enforce provisions of an Israeli law which allows Israeli Jews to initiate claims in East Jerusalem for properties that may have been owned by Jewish families prior to 1948. Israeli law does not allow Palestinians to make similar claims for appropriated family-owned property in Israel.
The two Israeli organisations that have brought many of the eviction lawsuits, Nahalat Shimon and Ateret Cohanim, function as both land ownership companies and settler associations.
“We believe that one of their purposes is the creation of a Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem, in order to establish demographic facts on the ground that would confirm the illegal Israeli annexation over that part of the city.
“The latest eviction orders, if carried out, would amount to a violation by Israel, the occupying power, of the prohibition against the forcible transfer of the protected population under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” Lynk added.
The UN expert reminded the international community that it also has an important responsibility under the Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure that Israel abides fully by its obligations under international law, including in East Jerusalem.
Mr. Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.