Sheikh Jarrah, Occupied East Jerusalem – Huddled around an electric heater on a chilly winter day, four Palestinian women sit nervously, making calls to acquaintances to ask about homes for rent in the city.
“We can’t leave it to the last minute. We have to figure it out – the Israelis can come at any time to evict us from our homes,” says 31-year-old Ramziyeh Sabbagh. She is due to give birth to a baby girl in five days.
“My husband is in denial that we may be evicted,” says Khadija Sabbagh, Ramziyeh’s aunt. “I don’t know what we’re going to do. We only have God at this point.”
Umm Alaa Skafi, who lives next door and whose family is also facing eviction, came over to check on her dear neighbour.
“Keep praying. Don’t let your mind wonder. Keep yourself busy. I am here for you. I’ll make a dish and bring it over for you and your family,” Umm Alaa tells Khadija.
On January 12, Israeli authorities handed an eviction order to the Sabbagh family – numbering about 45 people – so Israeli settlers could move into their homes.
The five Sabbagh brothers, their wives, children and grandchildren were given until January 23 to leave their homes. The families have lived there since 1956.
They were forcibly displaced from their hometown of Jaffa during the 1948 Palestinian Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Zionist militias to create the state of Israel. Having had relatives in the nearby neighbourhood of Wadi al-Joz, they settled in Jerusalem.
Along with the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNRWA), Jordan, which assumed control of the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, provided apartments for 28 Palestinian refugee families, including the Sabbagh family, in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
Battle to evict Palestinians
Not long after the 1967 War, in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, settler groups began claiming ownership of the property. In 2003, the groups, which claimed they had registered the lands in their names in 1972, sold the property to Nahalat Shimon, a settler company that is registered overseas.
Nahalat Shimon then launched a lengthy legal battle to evict several Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah. In 2009, the company evicted three families. In 2017, another family was told to leave.
In November 2018, after more than a decade of legal proceedings, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the appeal made by the lawyers representing the Sabbagh family, in which they sought to challenge the settler group’s ownership of the land.
The Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling in which it refused to open the question over who owned the land, or to examine the documents put forth by the families and their lawyers, on the basis the statute of limitations had expired.
‘Israel wants to throw us out on the streets, but we’re going to keep fighting until the end,’ says Mohammad Sabbagh [Zena Tahhan/Al Jazeera]
“We’ve been here for 62 years. Even if we are not the owners of the land, or the building, how are there laws that allow for the eviction of people after 62 years?” says 70-year-old Mohammad Sabbagh, the eldest brother who fled with his parents to Jerusalem before the rest of his siblings were born.
“We had one apartment in 1956. When the family grew, we built homes next door for my brothers and their families. Every stone, tile and wall in these homes is telling of the fact that we have been here for 62 years,” he tells Al Jazeera.
“The situation we’re in breaks my heart. It’s very, very hard,” he says, his voice trembling.
The Sabbagh family home in Jaffa still stands. But under discriminatory Israeli law, Palestinians, unlike Jews, cannot claim homes they fled during 1948, meaning they are barred from returning.
“We’ll wait until January 23, and after that, may God protect us. They’ll either give us some time to leave or evict us by force,” says Mohammad.
Zakaria Odeh, director of the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem – the association providing the lawyers – explains there is little hope for the families.
“The courts have refused to even examine the files. We know that we are under Israeli occupation, dealing with the occupation’s courts, but we’re trying to postpone the eviction as much as possible,” Odeh tells Al Jazeera.
“The general political atmosphere has encouraged the Israeli government and the settler groups to intensify their efforts – particularly with this unrestricted support from the United States government under Trump,” he continued.
While the eviction of the Sabbagh family is the most imminent, there are at least nine other families from Sheikh Jarrah whose legal proceedings are ongoing.
And the case of Sheikh Jarrah is not unique. Israeli settler groups, many of which are supported by the government, have long targeted – and managed to move into – a number of Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem. In Silwan, south of the Old City, some 700 Palestinians are currently facing eviction and displacement.
Since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967, the Israeli population living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank has risen to between 600,000 and 750,000. The figure means roughly 11 percent of Israel’s 6.6 million Jewish population now lives on occupied land, outside the internationally recognised borders of their state, in contravention of international law.
Ignoring the law
Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which defines humanitarian protections for civilians caught in a war zone, an occupying power is forbidden from transferring parts of its civilian population into the territory it occupies.
This rationale aims to ensure that occupation is temporary, to protect civilians from the theft of resources, to prohibit a de facto situation in which two groups living on the same land are subject to two different legal systems, and to prevent changes in the demographic makeup of the occupied territory.
Ramziyeh Sabbagh, who is nine months pregnant, lives with her ill mother, brother and his two children in their Sheikh Jarrah home [Zena Tahhan/Al Jazeera]
Back in Sheikh Jarrah, the Sabbagh families are frantic with worry and fear. They have less than 10 days before Israeli authorities displace them.
“I watched them evict our neighbours,” says 55-year-old Khadija, the wife of Mohammad’s brother. “It was horrific. They raided their homes while they were sleeping and kicked them out.”
“I prefer death to this kind of life; this slow torture that eats away at your nerves,” Khadija continues with tears streaming down her cheeks.
“If they’re going to evict us from here, then let them give us our homes in Jaffa back. We still have the key to our home in Jaffa. I know we will return someday.”
Khadija’s 15-year-old daughter chuckles at her mother’s remarks.
“Keep dreaming,” she says.
Israel urges hard line against Iran at nuclear talks
SULAIMANIYA: An attack by Daesh militants on a village in northern Iraq on Friday killed three villagers and 10 Kurdish soldiers, officials in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region said. Daesh claimed responsibility for the deadly attack in a statement posted on an affiliated Telegram account.The attack took place in the Makhmour region, a hotbed for Daesh…
SULAIMANIYA: An attack by Daesh militants on a village in northern Iraq on Friday killed three villagers and 10 Kurdish soldiers, officials in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region said.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the deadly attack in a statement posted on an affiliated Telegram account.The attack took place in the Makhmour region, a hotbed for Daesh activity that sees regular attacks against Kurdish forces, Iraqi forces and often civilians.Makhmour is a mountainous area about 70 km southeast of Mosul and 60 km southwest of the Kurdish capital of Irbil.Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Masrour Barzani called for greater security cooperation between Iraqi Kurdish and Iraqi security forces to stop Daesh’s insurgent activities.Iraqi officials and analysts have long blamed a lack of coordination along a stretch of territory claimed by both Baghdad and Irbil for Daesh’s continued ability to wage deadly attacks.Daesh controlled roughly a third of Iraq between 2014 and 2017, including the remote Makhmour region but also major cities including Mosul.A loose coalition of US-led forces, Iraqi and Kurdish troops and Iran-backed Shiite militias defeated the extremist group in 2017, but its members still roam areas of northern Iraq and northeastern Syria.Western military officials say at least 10,000 Daesh fighters remain in Iraq and Syria.A statement from the Kurdistan region’s armed forces, the peshmerga, said Daesh militants attacked the village in the early hours of Friday killing three residents.It said peshmerga forces intervened, resulting in clashes that killed at least seven of their soldiers.Kurdish security and hospital officials said the final death toll was at least 10 peshmerga soldiers and three villagers.In a separate development, Kurdish demonstrators in The Hague stormed the headquarters of the global chemical weapons body on Friday, sparking clashes in which six people were hurt and 50 arrested, Dutch police said.
A loose coalition of US-led forces, Iraqi and Kurdish troops and Iran-backed Shiite militias defeated the Daesh extremist group in 2017, but its members still roam areas of northern Iraq and northeastern Syria.
Dozens of protesters alleging that Turkey is using toxic arms in northern Iraq broke through security to enter the grounds of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.A number of them managed to get inside the lobby of the building before police removed them, diplomatic sources said, while the rest staged a noisy protest outside the front doors.Police dragged the demonstrators off one by one, put them on the ground and handcuffed them, journalists saw. Some were bundled into waiting vans, but the large number meant many were taken away in a hired bus.At least a dozen police vehicles sealed off the road outside the OPCW, which is opposite Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s official residence. Several ambulances and a medical helicopter were also at the scene.Two police officers and four protesters were wounded when the demonstrators “stormed the building,” The Hague police said.Turkish jets regularly attack the separatists’ bases in northern Iraq and autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, with several villages having emptied of their inhabitants since a new Turkish army offensive in April.The PKK and Kurdish organizations in Europe have in recent months accused Turkey of using chemical weapons, including a nerve agent and sulfur mustard gas, in dozens of attacks in northern Iraq.“We have called on OPCW and all international bodies to come and independently investigate the use of chemical weapons,” Zagros Hiwa, a spokesperson for the Kurdistan Democratic Communities Union, the PKK’s political branch, told AFP.
Clashes rock Arab town in Israel, alleged car-rammer killed
Yemeni military commander hopeful of Marib advance after army cuts Houthi supply lines LONDON: Yemen’s military commander heading army troops in Marib Maj. Gen. Mansour Thawaba said he was hopeful of advancements in the strategic province after Houthi supply lines were cut. There have been “great advances” in the past two days in Bayhan, Usaylan…
Yemeni military commander hopeful of Marib advance after army cuts Houthi supply lines
LONDON: Yemen’s military commander heading army troops in Marib Maj. Gen. Mansour Thawaba said he was hopeful of advancements in the strategic province after Houthi supply lines were cut.
There have been “great advances” in the past two days in Bayhan, Usaylan and Harib, the major general told Al-Arabiya, noting that army forces cut the Houthis’ supply line between Bayhan and Harib.
He explained that military operations continued on all fronts, with the southern front seeing most of the action. He also noted the Saudi-led Arab coalition’s support with airstrikes.
“Marib is not besieged, and the Houthis are far from achieving this,” he said.
He added that most of those fighting for the Houthis were children and young men.
“They do not care about the children of Yemenis who are killed by the dozens every day,” he said, referring to the Houthi militia.
The coalition announced on Friday night that it had destroyed a ballistic missile launcher south of Sanaa.
The coalition added that it also destroyed a “mine-making workshop” in the capital, stressing that it had taken “preventive measures to spare civilians and civilian structures from collateral damage” during the airstrikes.
US critics of Israel face challenges in redrawn Congress districts
CHICAGO: Nine members of Congress who have been vocal critics of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians could face tougher re-election campaigns as a result of their districts being redrawn, an analysis by Arab News shows. Every 10 years, the dominant political parties in many states re-draw district boundaries based on demographic data provided by the…
CHICAGO: Nine members of Congress who have been vocal critics of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians could face tougher re-election campaigns as a result of their districts being redrawn, an analysis by Arab News shows.
Every 10 years, the dominant political parties in many states re-draw district boundaries based on demographic data provided by the US Census, which does not count Arab and Muslim Americans as a separate category.
Where population shifts have led to proposed boundary changes, incumbents may be forced to stand in new districts. That’s the challenge facing Illinois representative Marie Newman, who won election in 2020 in the 3rd Congressional District, which has the largest concentration of Palestinian American voters.
Newman has chosen to face-off with Sean Casten, who is very strong on climate change, in the new 6th District rather than stand against Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who is one of only two Hispanic congress members in Illinois, in the 4th District. Casten is a strong supporter of Israel and silent on Israeli violence against Palestinians, while Garcia has often joined Newman to support pro-Palestinian legislation, including voting against a bill giving Israel $1 billion for its Iron Dome defense system last September.
“Rep. Newman was supportive of the push to create a second congressional district of Latino influence and understood that doing so would mean the need to shift boundary lines of existing CDs in the Chicagoland area,” Newman campaign spokesperson Ben Hardin said.
Describing the challenges as “inevitable,” Hardin said: “Representative Newman is grateful … to have the support of so many people here in Chicago’s southwest side and in the south and west suburbs, including a strong coalition of supporters from the Arab and Muslim American community.”
The new Illinois district map was approved by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, one of Israel’s strongest advocates, in November. Pritzker aroused anger among Arab Americans after refusing to apologize for disparaging remarks he made in a 1998 congressional race in which he accused a rival of accepting money from a Muslim group that Pritzker asserted supported terrorists.
“There is no doubt that the Illinois Democrats are seeking to undermine Newman, who has been a vocal supporter of Palestinian, Arab and Muslim rights,” said Hassan Nijem, the president of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce.
“She and Chuy Garcia are the only Illinois Democrats to defend Palestinian rights and recognize our growing community.”
The Illinois primary has been delayed from March until June 28, 2022, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to Newman and Garcia, seven other members of Congress who voted against the Iron Dome money could be affected by district changes.
They include Cori Bush of Missouri; André Carson of Indiana; Raúl Grijalva of Arizona; Ilhan Omar of Minnesota; Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts; Rashida Tlaib of Michigan; and Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a Republican Congressman who consistently votes against all foreign aid regardless of the recipient.
Tlaib, Pressley and Omar are members of the “Squad,” a group of progressive Democrats that includes New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Instead of voting against the Iron Dome funding, however, AOC voted “present” not taking a position.
In Michigan, which is holding its primary on Aug. 2 next year, mapmakers are proposing to re-draw Tlaib’s 13th district, increasing the number of African American voters. That could be important even though Tlaib defeated several African American candidates when she first ran and won office in the predominantly African American district in 2018.
Tlaib may be forced into a new district against pro-Arab Democrat Debbie Dingell. However, she could survive as the Michigan process puts remapping in the hands of an independent commission rather than partisan politicians. The final Michigan remap might not be completed until late January.
Also in Michigan, proposed changes would pit Jewish Democratic Congressman Andy Levin, who has been an outspoken supporter of the two-state solution for Palestine and Israel, against Brenda Lawrence.
Minnesota congressional remapping plans have targeted Omar and another pro-Palestinian Congresswoman, Betty McCollum, although maps in those districts have not been finalized.