Geneva, May 11, 2021.- UN human rights experts* today expressed grave concerns about Israel’s aggressive response to protests in East Jerusalem, and called on Israel, as the occupying power, to immediately lift its threat to evict hundreds of Palestinian households from their legally-protected homes.
“Re-establishing calm in Jerusalem is important, but creating the conditions for justice and equality in the City are even more important,” the experts said. “Neither short-term calm nor long-term peace will be accomplished as long as the national and individual rights of the City’s Palestinian population are routinely abrogated.”
Hundreds of Palestinians, as well as some Israeli police officers, have been injured in clashes over recent days. The experts called on Israel to exercise full restraint in its policing of the demonstrations by Palestinians in Jerusalem, and to respect the freedoms of assembly, expression and religious worship.
“The recent scenes of Israeli police and security forces attacking large crowds of Palestinian residents and worshipers is only intensifying a deeply inflammatory atmosphere in the City. A militarized response to civilian protests against discriminatory practices only deepens social divisions. Respecting rights is the only path forward,”
The ongoing and threatened evictions of Palestinian families from their homes, primarily in the East Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, are based on two Israeli laws: the Absentee Property Law of 1950 and the Legal and Administrative Matters Law of 1970. The 1950 law prohibits Palestinians from reclaiming their properties lost in the 1947-49 war, while the 1970 law allows Israeli Jews to re-claim properties lost during the same war. Evictions of Palestinian families under these laws have recurred many times over the years, raising deep concerns about impunity and lack of accountability.
“These laws are inherently discriminatory, both in intent and in application, and they violate fundamental principles of both international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” said the experts. “An occupying power is prohibited from confiscating private property belonging to the protected population, and it must respect the body of existing laws which had governed the territory, unless it is absolutely necessary to alter them.
“The forced transfer of the population under occupation is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which contribute to the coercive environment now prevailing in East Jerusalem. As well, these evictions breach the right to adequate housing – a core human right in international law.”
“The proper step for Israel to take is to remove the threat of eviction, have the property rights of these Palestinian families respected and legal regularized, and annul all discriminatory legislation from its laws.”
Israel occupied East Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza, in 1967. Within weeks of the June 1967 war, it annexed East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank. Over the past five decades, it has built 13 settlements, housing more than 220,000 Jewish settlers, in East Jerusalem.
The United Nations Security Council has repeatedly condemned both the annexation and the settlements as null and void under international law, and has demanded that Israel rescind its illegal acts. UN human rights experts have demanded repeatedly over the years that Israel comply with its international obligations and stop evictions, demolitions and forced removal of Palestinians from their lands. Israel has regularly stated that it has no intention of complying with the direction of the international community.
“The immediate source of the current tensions in East Jerusalem are the actions of Israeli settler organizations, whose stated aim is to turn Palestinian neighbourhoods into Jewish neighbourhoods. This demographic engineering has been abetted by the Jerusalem municipality, whose urban master plans have explicitly set a goal of limiting the City’s Palestinian population at 30 percent. Establishing official population targets such as this reinforce entrenched patterns of ethnic domination, which have no place in the modern world.”