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What is Sheikh Jarrah?

Updated: Feb 22, 2022

I knew that I couldn't truly understand the Israel Palestinian conflict by sitting in an office or on a couch 7,000 miles away. I also knew that looking mostly at the macro and not understanding the micro would be disastrous. So I decided to go hyperlocal and talk to a family who is being evicted from their homes and the owner who is evicting them on the Eastern side of Route 1 aka the Green Line.

What is most alarming to me about this story is the media's negligent role in stoking the flames of war and profiting the entire way to the bank. The economics of junk food media today and the laziness of reporters strikes again. After this film the family was evicted. According to our sources, on Feb. 12, 2022 a Jewish neighbor's house nearly burned down starting in the children's room. Fortunately, the family was away during the Jewish Sabbath and didn't return until later that evening. The fire is currently under investigation. However, Sat. night there was fighting in the streets and today the media was their in full effect capturing images of the family who was evicted weeks ago in front of the home. This film interviewed both parties involved with this tragic story, the evicted and the owner. Now, if only we could interview the media to get their thoughts on the role that they play stoking the fires of war by showing up way too late and telling too little of the story far too often.

This is a tragic story about a real estate dispute between two individuals, a widow who may have been paying rent to the wrong owner for more than seventy years and a terrorist regime using her as an excuse for another war against Israel. This is a story of the economics of change from the eye of the storm, in Nachalat Shimon aka Sheikh Jarrah.

On Fri. Jan 21, 2022 all hell broke loose again when the Jewish owners of a parcel of land put up a fence around their property. They claimed that the car of a Jewish resident had been lit on fire repeatedly by the Arab residents in an effort to prevent more Jews from moving into the neighborhood in Eastern Jerusalem.

In the may of 2021, these real estate disputes were used by the Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to spark a war against the Jewish state that left hundreds of human beings dead and collect more than $1 billion in international aid.

I had seen Sheikh Jarrah in the news and all over social media. There was clearly a narrative that formed around this story. For example, there were claims of an unjustified Israeli court eviction notice given to Palestinians living in East Jerusalem had been the pretext for Palestinian unrest and war in Gaza in May 202. There were claims of apartheid, ethnic cleansing, systematic injustice and claims that the Israeli government was violating the human rights of the rightful owners and taking their propert deep in Palestinian east Jerusalem. I wanted to go see for myself and meet with the people on the ground.

To put this story into context, this street, Route 1…is all that separates the Eastern and Western sides of town. According to the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, the population in Eastern Jerusalem comprised of about 215K jews and 328K arabs, most who identify as muslim but includes some Christians, other religions and non-religious people as well. To help us relate to the diversity of East Jerusalem, lets look at politics in the United States. If you are a democrat or a republican, your group is between 40% - 50% of the registered voters. The Jewish population in Eastern Jerusalem in 2016 was approximately 42%.

The property we looked at was about a 5 minute drive and only a few hundred yards from Route 1 which is where densely populated Jewish communities have existed prior to the State of Israel's formation such Me'ah She'arim, Yeshivat Mir, etc. Even though there was a flare up just a few days prior to my visit, after a little warming up the Arab residents agreed to share their perspective on camera.

The Arab residents I spoke with confirmed the following important points:

  • There was an ethnic migration after the war of 1948.

  • The family being evicted has lived there for the past 74 years (1948).

  • The family being evicted does not own the property.

  • The family recognizes two other arab families as the owners.

  • The courts do not recognize the two arab families whom they say are the real owners.

  • The mother was born there and the son was born there as well.

  • I met another son who was living there as well and I think there are about 7 siblings, some are married.

  • The courts have rejected their claims.

  • They refuse to allow anyone to kick them out primarily because they've been there their entire lives.

  • Even if you'd offer a very nice house they'd rather live where they've lived their entire lives.

  • Wars have been started in the past because of these evictions and they will likely happen again if Israel tries to evict.

  • Anyone, Arab or Jew, who tries to evict is considered one's enemy.

Someone who viewed the documentary was surprised how much camera time I gave the residents facing eviction. Another person felt that I hadn't given them a fair representation of their perspective. I found both of these comments to be intersting because I do believe that this is in fact the perspective of the residents. They are very open about this and do not see this as a bad characterization of their viewpoint. They feel violated. They don't agree with the courts. They are willing to fight to stay.

During my investigation, I also heard from a number of people who characterized the conflict as another occurrence where the rule of law is being ignored and the arabs are responding violently to the rule fo law. Some pointed out that the courts sometimes take local arab and international pressure into account when issuing court orders and that this approach essentially kicks the can down the road and encourages more terror, violence and war against Israel. They criticized the courts for not doing the job of the courts which is to decide the application of the law independent from outside pressure or politics.

On Jan. 30, 2022, the court in Jerusalem considered Fahtema’s claims and in over 100 clauses and articles rejected each one out of hand and ruled again for her family's eviction and that they're illegal tenants on somebody else's property. This story is ongoing.

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