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The Backstory On Sheikh Jarrah and Gaza Bombs


By John Kleinheksel, Kairos West Michigan



On Tuesday, May 11, rockets from Gaza and retaliation from the Israeli military are intensifying.

The May 9 Jerusalem Post explains why the Supreme Court delayed its eviction decision: It would send a signal that it will not shy away from applying its laws all over the city; that Jews will be able to live anywhere in the city; and that property rights will be respected.

 The problem is that in the process it will highlight that while the 1970 Absentee Property Law allows Jews to reclaim lost property in east Jerusalem, no similar law exists allowing Palestinians to do the same in the western part of the city. Have fun explaining that legal lacuna to the world (Jerusalem Post article).


According to ADALAH (Palestinian legal organization), here is the essence of the 1970 Absentee Property Law: Description: Defines persons who were expelled, fled, or who left the country after 29 November 1947, mainly due to the war, as well as their movable and immovable property (mainly land, houses and bank accounts etc.), as “absentee.” 

Because they fled, Israel claimed their property as “State-owned” through legislation.

Property belonging to absentees was placed under the control of the State of Israel with the Custodian for Absentees’ Property. The Absentees’ Property Law was the main legal instrument used by Israel to take possession of the land belonging to the internal and external Palestinian refugees, and Muslim Waqf properties across the state.

Thus, after the 1967 war, Israel declared Jerusalem as the eternal, unified capital of the Jewish State. They enacted this Law to claim ownership of historic Palestinian property. When the Israeli Supreme Court ratifies the lower courts actions, it will assert the “right” of Israelis to claim these four properties as “belonging to Israel.” The intent is clear: Palestinians are no longer welcome in Jerusalem. You left. We’re in control now. And, we have “the Law” on our side (Source here).

Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR), write this: The Absentee Property Law (APL) was enacted following the 1948 war to facilitate transfer of property of Palestinian refugees to Israeli authorities. Following the annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967 all Israeli laws, including APL, were applied to the annexed area.1 This resulted in property of almost all Palestinian residents of the city being regarded as “absentee property”, subject to a 1970 law. . .

And conclude with this: The evictions also raise important questions of international humanitarian law.17 Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits individual or mass forcible transfers, regardless of their motive, while Article 46 of the Hague Convention of 1907 requires respect for private property and prohibits its confiscation. As a result, Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem, as well as the West Bank, should be protected from forced evictions of this nature. Indeed, the extensive destruction and appropriation of property is designated a “grave breach” by Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, such that Israel as an occupying power is specifically required to enact legislation to ensure effective penal sanctions for anyone committing the breach (Source here).

Peace Now (an Israeli human rights organization with a US chapter Says this:

HERE is the statement by ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions)

Perhaps Israelis can take a lesson from US history. Following a war with Mexico, the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was signed in 1848. The US claimed land that was lived in for many generations by Mexicans. The US reluctantly granted US citizenship to the Mexicans who had previously lived on that land.

It was not easy or simple. For decades following, the Mexican citizens were wanted for the land and labor, yet rejected [because of] cultural and ethnic differences. As Robert Chao Romero puts it in his book, Brown Church, “We are wanted and unwanted. Necessary, yet despised. We are Brown” Rebecca Koerselman, The Twelve.

Is it too much to ask for a reversal of historic wrong? That is, to grant full citizenship rights to the Palestinians who stayed in E. Jerusalem following the war of 1947/1948?

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At Kairos West Michigan, we work to unify and mobilize West Michigan Christians to take a stand for peace in Israel/Palestine. We believe that the time is right and that God is preparing the way for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine.

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