This past Sunday, August 2, 2009, Israeli security forces evicted two families from their homes in East Jerusalem after a court rejected their appeal against the eviction [NOTE: For those who are unaware, Jerusalem is split between East and West. Israeli Jews live in the West, while Palestinian Arabs live in the East, however, Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 Six Day War, even though this annexation is seen as illegitimate in the eyes of the international community.]. The al-Ghawi and al-Hanoun families have been living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood since 1956. Even though Israel has no legal ownership over the land, it plans on using the land the houses were built on to build a new hotel project. And the al-Ghawi and al-Hanoun families aren’t the only ones who are suffering from this. According to al-Jazeera,
“Despite pending appeals and the lack of legal ownership of land in the neighbourhood, the settler organisations sold their property claim in 2008 to an investment company that plans to demolish the 28 Palestinian homes and build 200 settlement units for new Jewish immigrants. Further reports state that two additional construction plans being currently reviewed by the Jerusalem municipality would create an additional 150 housing units, for a total of 350 new housing units for Israelis, as well as a synagogue in Sheikh Jarrah.”
Israeli settlement expansion onto Palestinian land has been going on for over 30 years. According to the Foundation for Middle East Peace, the total number of settlements has increased from 10,608 in 1972 to 484,862 in 2007. In East Jerusalem, those numbers are 8,649 in 1972 to 189,708 in 2007. These settlements are a clear violation of international law, particularly Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states:
“Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”
It is also important to note that the right to housing is an established human right in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a treaty that Israel has signed and ratified. Article 11(1) says:
“The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international co-operation based on free consent.”
The actions of the Israeli government in evicting these two families from their homes and building more illegal settlements is a violation of the fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people. It is up to citizens across the world to build a movement that advances the human rights of the Palestinians and pressures governments such as the United States to stop providing $3 billion of aid every year to governments like Israel that violate fundamental human rights.
Here are some articles and sources:
1. “Israel evicts Palestinians families” (Al-Jazeera, August 3, 2009).
2. “US criticises Israeli eviction move” (Al-Jazeera, August 4, 2009).
3. “Comprehensive Settlement Population 1972-2007” (Foundation for Middle East Peace)
4. Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention.
5. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.