Palestinians are to be evicted from their property after the Israeli High Court of Justice yesterday ruled to expropriate land for what it calls public needs. The judgement authorised the takeover of a parking lot and car wash belonging to Palestinians in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem in order to clear the area for a garden and a path next to a planned hotel.
The case is not said to be connected to the Palestinian families who are facing eviction from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, which was the spark for protests against mass evictions in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood and Israel’s 11-day bombardment of Gaza in May, which killed 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.
According to Israeli law, private land can be expropriated if it is needed for public use, such as for a park, infrastructure or public buildings. Under international law, however, Sheikh Jarrah is occupied territory and therefore cannot be subject to the decision of the Israeli High Court.
Nevertheless, the occupation state makes no such distinction and conceals the racist nature of its rule through a maze of legal mechanisms, which is one of the reasons why critics have said that Israel practices apartheid for extending sovereignty to all the territory in historic Palestine without giving the same rights to half of the population in the territory that are non-Jewish.
Commenting on this very issue acclaimed Israeli philosopher Yuval Noah Harari, who in September predicted Israel’s future as an apartheid, argued that as far as the Israelis are concerned there is no Palestine and no Palestinian Authority (PA).
Harari argued that Israel has full sovereignty over historic Palestine and the PA exists merely to absolve Israel of any blame when for example it wants to shirk responsibility and to avoid the accusation that it is practicing apartheid by pointing to the PA as a self-governing authority.
Yesterday’s ruling is also further indication of the use of a tactic as old as the Israeli state that has been used to expropriate Palestinian land. A report by Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem on land grab highlighted how the occupation state uses a complex legal and bureaucratic mechanism to take control of the territory owned by Palestinians.
The principal tool used to take control of land is to declare it “state land”. Other methods employed by Israel to take control of land include seizure for military needs, declaration of land as “abandoned assets”, and the expropriation of land for public needs. Israel often uses the seized lands to benefit illegal settlements, while prohibiting the Palestinian public from using them in any way.