Israel’s Attorney General has informed the Supreme Court that he will not intervene in the trials of a well-known case of Sheikh Jarrah in which four Palestinian families from occupied East Jerusalem face imminent forced expulsion in favor of organizations of Israeli settlement.
In a statement issued Monday, Avichai Mendelblit said there was “no room” for him to intervene in the proceedings.
Last month, the Supreme Court granted the Attorney General until June 8 to present his legal opinion on the case.
In a letter sent to the court, Mendelblit wrote that, in light of the numerous legal proceedings that had been conducted in relation to the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood over the years, he concluded that he did not need to appear in court.
The Attorney General’s decision leaves the Supreme Court free to decide whether to listen to the appeal of the four Palestinian families of two lower court verdicts to leave their homes.
The four families are part of a group of more than 500 Palestinians – comprising 28 families – who are facing forced evictions from the neighborhood.
Sami Irsheid, a lawyer who is part of the defense team of Sheikh Jarrah’s neighbors threatened with forced eviction, told Al Jazeera that Mendelblit’s decision does not mean the case is no longer political.
“The attorney general’s response was brief, where he said he feels his intervention is not necessary, as this is a legal issue,” Irsheid said. “But we will not back down from arguing the case from the perspective of international law.”
In accordance with The Israeli newspaper Haaretz, a source close to Mendelblit said the Israeli political leadership supports its decision to refrain from arguing in court on behalf of the state.
Haaretz also reported that Mendelblit office officials said the case of Sheikh Jarrah’s families is weak and that “his legal opinion would not be able to prevent his pending eviction.”
Displacement of the families of Sheikh Jarrah
A statement from Sheikh Jarrah’s families rejected Mendelbit’s explanation of his non-intervention, saying his case is not a legal issue, but a forced expulsion.
“We claim that the Israeli occupation government (across its spectrum, from the prime minister to all Israeli institutions and activities) is trying to displace residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, thus perpetuating the crime of Israeli settlement in Jerusalem. This, “the statement said. on social media he said.
“In turn, we affirm that this crime violates all international conventions and human rights, and we also affirm that these attempts will not weaken our will to persevere in our lands.”
The Attorney General’s refusal to comment on Sheikh Jarrah is another null attempt to frame our evictions as a “property dispute.”
The facts say otherwise: Displacement is a war crime and the Israeli occupation has no legitimate jurisdiction over us under international law. #SaveSheikhJarrah
– Mohammed El-Kurd (@ m7mdkurd) June 7, 2021
Irsheid said the ball is now in the corner.
“It is up to the Supreme Court to decide whether it wants to hear the attorney general or be satisfied with the arguments in the case,” he told Al Jazeera.
The court is expected to rule widely in favor of Israeli settler organizations, but Irsheid said he disagrees that Mendelblit’s decision will affect the speed of the court’s ruling.
“In the end, their decision is the continuation of the same political approach that the Israeli state has taken over the past 20 years, where they have tried to reduce Sheikh Jarrah’s cause to a legal dispute between two parties,” he said. dit.
According to Al Jazeera correspondent Mohammed Watad, Mendelblit’s stance is also seen as a way to relieve Israel of any judicial liability in case the Sheikh Jarrah case is referred to the International Criminal Court.
“It is also a lifeline for the Israeli government in the face of any international pressure, to present the case as a conflict between a group of settlers and a group of Palestinians, and that the court ruling was adopted after the judicial track was exhausted. in accordance with the so-called democratic procedures, ”he said.
Israeli defense groups have condemned the attorney general’s decision, and Peace Now describes it as “a cynical attempt to evade responsibility.”
The organization called on Israel “to present its position to the public and the court, as families are expelled from the streets through a set of laws that discriminate between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Ir Amim, another Israeli human rights group, said the attorney general’s decision “paves the way for evictions to take place” and could affect the cases of more than 80 families most at risk of forced displacement.
“There is still room for political intervention,” spokeswoman Amy Cohen said.
The cause of Sheikh Jarrah has attracted international attention and provoked the indignation of everyone. The 28 Palestinian families have lived in their homes in the neighborhood since 1956, which were built in accordance with the UN and Jordanian refugee agency that ruled East Jerusalem until 1967.
Settlers’ organizations filed a lawsuit in 1972 alleging that Sheikh Jarrah’s lands belonged to them, after invoking an Israeli law that allowed Jews to recover Jewish property lost during the creation of Israel in 1948, a right denied to them. Palestinians.
An Israeli court ruling on the imminent forced expulsion of four Palestinian families was postponed in May, following daily protests and settlements that Israeli forces violently dispersed using tear gas, sound bombs and rubber bullets.
The escalation escalated further after Israeli forces stormed the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site for Muslims, several times during the holy month of Ramadan, injuring hundreds of Palestinians.
The incursions caused armed groups in the Gaza Strip to fire rockets, to which Israel responded with a devastating 11-day offensive that killed at least 260 Palestinians, 66 of them children. On the Israeli side, 12 people also died, including two children.