In response to the ongoing clashes in Jerusalem, Democratic Majority for Israel Co-Chairs Ann Lewis and Todd Richman released the following statement:
“Democratic Majority for Israel urges the Government of Israel to use its legal powers to stop the eviction of Palestinian residents from Sheikh Jarrah. We also urge Palestinian terror groups to cease the violence they are in some cases organizing, and in others inciting.
“As with other aspects of the broader conflict, the issues in Sheikh Jarrah are complicated. Either willfully, or out of ignorance, some polemicists and politicians are oversimplifying the facts, telling an unfair and one-sided story with dangerous consequences.
“The conflict over Sheikh Jarrah has been protracted, involving claims by multiple parties, most of which have been adjudicated in the courts.
“We recognize Israel has the right to build legally in its capital. We also know that not everything one has the right to do, is the right thing to do. So, on balance, we urge the government to use its legal powers to halt these evictions.”
“The land at issue is adjacent to the traditional grave of an ancient rabbi who is reported to have greeted Alexander the Great when he arrived in Jerusalem. It was already a well-known Jewish holy site a thousand years ago.
“In an 1876 transaction, registered and recognized by the Ottoman Empire, which then ruled the region, two Jewish Trusts purchased the land as housing for the poor and several dozen Jewish families lived there.
“In 1948, the British, who had controlled the area, asked the Jews to evacuate in the face of an invasion by the Jordanian armed forces whose goal was the destruction of the newly created State of Israel.
“The land was then taken over by the Kingdom of Jordan and managed by the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property which, through UNRWA, in 1956, leased (but did not sell) it to Palestinian Arabs. Indeed, the Jordanian agreement specifically acknowledged that the homes for the Palestinians were to be constructed on “formerly Jewish property.”
“Eleven years later, Israel retook the area, and the two Jewish Trusts, which had purchased the property nearly a century earlier, went to court to reestablish their ownership, prevailing in a 1972 decision.
“The Trusts then filed a series of lawsuits making various demands of the Palestinians living in the buildings, including payments for rent.
“The Trusts won the court cases, but to little avail.
“In the 1980s, the Trusts sold the property to an ideologically motivated settler organization which either purchased, or illegally took over, other Palestinian residences in the neighborhood.
“In 2010, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled the settler organization was the legal owner of the property and had the right to use it for their own housing if they saw fit. The Supreme Court is now scheduled to hear a case on the eviction of the Palestinians.”