Palestinian Eviction Crisis in Israel
The violence in Sheikh Jarrah started on Jerusalem Day, during which Israelis celebrate the capture of the eastern part of the city during the 1967 Six-Day War. In the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, four Palestinian households have been fighting with Israeli settlers in their attempts to evict Arab families from their homes, and Israel’s Supreme Court has postponed a hearing on the potential eviction of several Palestinian families from their homes. Protests have occurred as a result of Palestinians being evicted from their homes by Israeli Jewish police forces for allegedly building homes without legal permits. These dispossessions of Arab Palestinians from their homes have occurred in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood inhabited by mostly Palestinians families. The Israeli government has tried to remove the Arab population of Sheikh Jarrah in order to replace them with an entirely Jewish settlement, which echoes Israel’s main goal of ethnic cleansing and removal of Palestinians from Jerusalem and Israel as a whole. Palestinians have been living in this historic neighborhood for many generations, and the anger from the Palestinians has led to a full on retaliation against the Israeli government and police. Tensions peaked on the night of May 8, where police officers targeted Muslim Palestinians at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during Ramadan prayer. Since then, Palestinians have become increasingly retaliatory against the Israeli Jewish police forces through protesting and attacks via the Palestinian Hamas military forces. The fighting has spread across the West Bank and Gaza regions populated by Palestinians, where civilians are being targeted by the police, who are also being funded by the United States. According to the latest report, 232 Palestinians and at least 12 Israelis have died from the violence in Gaza. Yet, the collateral damage that has been imposed to the already underserved community is irreversible.
The territorial and ethnic tensions between Israel and Palestine is rooted in the Jewish migration into Palestine to escape anti-Semitism and the extreme Zionist movement during the early 20th century. In 1947, the British government handed the conflict to the United Nations, where the institution created the Resolution 181, an unfair partition of Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. Although the Jewish population represented one third of Palestine and only owned six percent of the total land area, they were given fifty five percent of the land, which included important economic sectors. This led to escalated conflicts between these two groups, leading to the ethical cleansing of 15,000 Palestinians and destruction of their homes by radical Zionists, especially in 1948. This historical travesty is called the Nakba. At least 750,000 Palestinian refugees have fled their homes between 1947 to 1949, including the refugee families who were housed in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood supported by the UNRWA. The refuge was originally under Jordan until 1967, when Israel occupied the territory until its annexation in 1980, which most countries do not recognize. However, Israeli settlements have been evicting and harassing Palestinians who have been living in Sheikh Jarrah for generations, while developing and expanding these territories claiming that they had properties prior 1948, which is illegal under international humanitarian law according to the UN. These acts are also supported by the Israel government, discriminating and promoting hypocrisy, as Palestinians are unfairly banned from reclaiming their land lost in West Jerusalem in 1948. Both sides also claim Sheikh Jarrah and Jerusalem in general is a sacred land in respect to their religion, which also amplifies the division.
Especially due to the COVID-19, the Palestinian economy had a large decline of around 10%, the largest decline since 1994, when the Palestinian Authority was established. In 2019, the unemployment rate in Gaza was above 50%. Another reason for the weakened economy of Palestine is due to Israeli control and its ban on certain imports. Occupation has prevented the Palestinian people from developing their oil and natural gas resources in Gaza and the West Bank. Israel has also deducted about $138 million from Palestine’s clearance revenues. Another issue that disrupts Palestinian refugees is pollution that creates a public health issue. In Gaza, the destruction and demolition of the sanitation infrastructure has resulted in environmental breakdown. Israel also transfers hazardous waste produced inside Israel to the West Bank, thus threatening the health of the Palestinian people, the environment and natural resources. Currently, as Israel is Palestine’s closest trading partner, Palestinian workers have lost their jobs during the pandemic due to the Israel economy being shut down for the majority of 2020. Between the pandemic and recent conflict between Israel, socioeconomic conditions in Palestine have declined. However, the US did transfer $1 billion in aid, allowing for some economic relief.
Geography is arguably the main point of contention between Israel and Palestine, so it is important to understand where exactly this conflict is occurring. Jerusalem is at the heart of this region, as both Israel and Palestine claim Jerusalem as their capitals. Jerusalem is in Western Asia, located to the west of Jordan and is to the east of Egypt, sandwiched between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea. By land, it connects Egypt to the Middle East region.
At this current moment in time, Palestine is internationally recognized as a region of the West Bank, which includes East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Israel is internationally recognized as its own country that borders Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. However, Israel claims that the West Bank– and the entirety of Jerusalem– belongs to them, a statement largely seen as unsanctioned by the international community. While Israel has disengaged from the Gaza Strip, the international community still recognizes this region as Israeli-occupied Palestinian land, an assessment which Israel disagrees with despite the fact they control the airspace in Gaza.
In terms of climate, the region is classified as adhering to a “Hot-summer Mediterranean climate” which is characterized as highs in summers at the 75° Fahrenheit (24° Celsius) range and lows in the 50° Fahrenheit (10° Celsius) range.
The US federal government has planned to assist in restoring the “economic, development, and humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people”, which is represented by “$75 million in economic and development assistance in West Bank and Gaza, $10 million for peacebuilding programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and $150 million in humanitarian assistance for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)”
Egypt and Qatar have been heavily involved in the diplomacy between these two countries, playing the role of mediator leading to the recent ceasefire.
Potential US Bill: DEFENDING THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF PALESTINIAN CHILDREN AND FAMILIES LIVING UNDER ISRAELI MILITARY OCCUPATION ACT
Created by Representative Betty McCollum, the bill uses “U.S. taxpayer dollars in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem for: the military detention, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention; to support the seizure and destruction of Palestinian property and homes in violation of international humanitarian law; or, to extend any assistance or support for Israel’s unilateral annexation of Palestinian territory in violation of international humanitarian law”
Long after Gaza leaves the headlines, Palestine refugees will still be picking up the pieces of their shattered homes, livelihoods and families. Already high levels of psychosocial stress, especially among children, have been further exacerbated.
UNRWA is there, providing:
-Critical health care, including psychosocial support
-Food and cash assistance to the poorest of the poor
-Construction of desperately needed infrastructure, including schools and shelters
-Education for over 250,000 Palestine refugee students.
For 30 years, PCRF has been on the ground providing direct humanitarian aid and caring for tens of thousands of Gaza’s children. We do that by:
-Sending injured kids abroad for free medical care they cannot get locally;
-Sponsoring orphans and disabled youths to meet their basic humanitarian needs;
-Running several humanitarian program and projects, including our Gaza amputee project and providing thousands of children food and medicine;
-Sending hundreds of volunteer doctors on medical missions to provide free care for injured children and training for local doctors;
-Large infrastructure projects, like building Gaza’s first and only pediatric cancer department, where hundreds of children get free care.
Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) is a grassroots community-based Palestinian health organization. PMRS was founded in 1979 by a group of Palestinian doctors and health professionals seeking to supplement the decayed and inadequate health infrastructure caused by years of Israeli military occupation. It is non-profit, voluntary, and one of the largest health NGOs in Palestine. PMRS is national health programs emphasize prevention, education, community participation, and the empowerment of people. PMRS seeks to improve the overall physical, mental, and social well being of all Palestinians, regardless of racial, political, social, economic status, religion or gender. Our quality health services focus on the needs of the most vulnerable members of Palestinian society: women, children, disabled and the poor in rural villages, refugee camps, and urban centers
Such organizations include the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), Medical Aid for Palestinians, and Human Appeal among many others.
*Important note on Sheikh Jarrah: residents of Sheikh Jarrah (Sheikh Jarrah Units) have explicitly stated that they are not asking for any sort of financial aid or donations at the moment. They call upon supporters and allies to instead be physically present at Sheikh Jarrah, to share the current expulsions and ethnic cleansing in the Jerusalem neighborhood, and to call Israel out on its actions.