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Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian man during May 7, 2021 demonstrations against the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. (Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian man during May 7, 2021 demonstrations against the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. (Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

'It Is Inhumane': Ocasio-Cortez Slams Israeli Eviction Effort in Sheikh Jarrah

The U.S. government, she said, "must show more leadership in safeguarding Palestinian rights."

Brett Wilkins

As Palestinians on Friday continued to resist attempts by Israeli settlers and state security forces to drive them out of the Al-Bustan and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined other Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives who have expressed outrage over the expulsion effort and solidarity with those fighting for their homes. 

 "The Israeli military is forcing families from their homes during the holy month of Ramadan and inflicting violence. It is inhumane and the U.S. must show more leadership in safeguarding Palestinian rights."
—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Israelis and Palestinians clashed again Thursday evening in Sheikh Jarrah before Israeli police intervened to separate them. The Times of Israel reports 15 people were arrested, all of them Palestinians.

With state support, Israeli settler colonists have been seizing homes and property in the neighborhood, which was conquered by Israeli troops during the 1967 Six Day War and has been unlawfully occupied ever since. Earlier this week, video footage of Israeli settlers attempting to steal a Palestinian family's home went viral, drawing worldwide attention and sparking condemnation by human rights advocates. 

Rep. Marie Newman (D-Ill.) tweeted a portion of the video on Wednesday while calling on the U.S. State Department "to immediately condemn these violations of international law."

Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Friday added her voice to the chorus of condemnation of the Sheikh Jarrah evictions. 

"We stand in solidarity with the Palestinian residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem," she said in a statement. "The Israeli military is forcing families from their homes during the holy month of Ramadan and inflicting violence. It is inhumane and the U.S. must show more leadership in safeguarding Palestinian rights."

Other progressive lawmakers including Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), José "Chuy" García (Ill.), Cori Bush (Mo.), André Carson (Ind.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Debbie Dingell (Mich.), Betty McCollum (Minn.), and Mark Pocan (Wis.) have also weighed in on the issue on social media this week.

Newman and Pocan are leading a letter (pdf) to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing "deep concern about Israel's imminent plan to forcibly displace nearly 2,000 Palestinians in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Al-Bustan and Sheikh Jarrah," and calling upon the department "to exert diplomatic pressure to prevent these acts from taking place." 

The letter continues: 

According to media reports, the Jerusalem municipality is planning to build a biblical theme park—Gan Hamelech—in Al-Bustan neighborhood near the walls of the Old City after it demolishes 100 properties, which are home to almost 1,550 Palestinians, 63% of whom are children.

In the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, 169 residents, including 46 children, from 12 different families have received eviction notices so their homes can be occupied illegally by Israeli settlers.

From 1967 to 2017, Israel demolished an estimated 5,000 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, according to a report by the Land Research Center. According to B'Tselem... from 2018 to 2020, Israel demolished another 349 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. 

The letter notes that "East Jerusalem is part of the West Bank, and under international law, Israel is in military occupation of this territory, notwithstanding its illegal incorporation of East Jerusalem within the Jerusalem municipality and its subsequent illegal de jure annexation of East Jerusalem." 

It then points out Israel's obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention to refrain from destroying Palestinian property, while citing Article 8 of the International Criminal Court's Rome Statute, which states that "extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly," is a war crime. 

"Police violence against Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah who only want to remain in the homes they've lived in for generations is state-sponsored persecution. NO U.S. taxpayer dollars should support the annexation of Palestinian land or destruction of Palestinian homes."
—Rep. Betty McCollum

President Joe Biden has not released a public statement on the situation in East Jerusalem, reflecting a campaign promise by Blinken—then a top adviser—to keep differences between the U.S. and Israel "behind closed doors." 

However, in a statement to Middle East Eye, a State Department spokesperson said that "we are deeply concerned about the potential eviction of Palestinian families in the Silwan neighborhood and in Sheikh Jarrah, many of whom have lived in those homes for generations."

"As we have consistently said, it is critical to avoid unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions or take us further away from peace, this includes evictions, settlement activity, and home demolitions," the spokesperson added.


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