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Palestinian Authority Used Land Dispute to Fuel Jerusalem Violence

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Despite Israel’s massive bombardment of the Gaza Strip, Hamas and other terror groups continue to fire rockets into central and southern Israel. But Israeli leaders are fighting a two-front war, one with terror groups inside Gaza and civil war inside Israel. 

Hamas and other terror groups have fired more than 1,500 rockets at Israeli civilians in just three days.  While Israel’s iron dome anti-missile system has shot down more than ninety percent of those rockets, a number have hit Israeli communities like Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Petah Tikvah killing seven Israelis including this six-year-old boy.

Israel has responded with hundreds of surgical strikes in Gaza to stop the deadly barrages.  Many of Hamas’ rockets are supplied by Iran, leading forty-four Republican senators to call on President Biden to suspend US nuclear talks with the Islamic regime.

Biden spoke at length with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself. 

Israel is also seeing the worst Jewish-Arab violence in at least twenty years.  Arabs have been rioting in several Israeli towns and Jews have been attacking Arabs in one instance on live TV. 

Netanyahu condemned the violence on both sides.

“Nothing justifies the lynching of Arabs by Jews, and nothing justifies the lynching of Jews by Arabs. We will not tolerate this. This violence is not us,” he said.

And as the world watches this escalation involving Israelis, Arabs and Palestinians, there are more questions about what led to the outbreak. 

Some are tracing it to the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where clashes have led to protests and calls for cutting diplomatic ties between Israel and Jordan.

Violent clashes in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah have drawn international condemnation of Israel including protests and calls to cut diplomatic ties between Israel and Jordan.

“The request of the Jordanian people [is] that they want to end any Israeli presence in Jordan, especially the presence of the Israeli ambassador and the Israeli embassy. They want to cut off all ties with the Israeli government,” said Dima Tahboub, former Jordanian Member of Parliament.

In 1948, Jordan took control of eastern Jerusalem, including Sheikh Jarrah. Jews who were living there were expelled or murdered.  Later, Jordan and the United Nations gave the area to Palestinian families. Then, in 1967, Israel reunited the city under its control, including Sheikh Jarrah.

"My father took the house from the Jordanians in 1956. There is an agreement between Jordanians and the UNRWA. Jordan gave the land and the UNRWA built the 28 houses for 28 refugee families,” said Nabil Al Kurd, a Palestinian resident of Sheik Jarrah. “From that year of 1956, we lived here until now.”

Sixty-five years later, four families including more than 70 people could be evicted. But Israel says, the Jewish claim on the land goes back long before 1948 and the uproar was started by the Palestinian Authority for political reasons.

“We have to know the history of this place. We call it Shimon HaTzadik. It’s a Jewish site, the land around the tomb of Shimon was purchased by the Jewish community dated back to 1840,” said Danny Danon, former Israeli Ambassador to the UN.  

Jewish tradition says, Simeon (Shimon) the Righteous or the Just, was a high priest during Second Temple times.

“In 1967 we actually liberated parts of Jerusalem. Jewish people returned and started to come back to this area,” Danon told CBN News.

“Again, this is another provocation because of the political situation. The PA and Hamas are using those disputes in order to incite violence,” Danon said.

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum said this was a dispute over land that turned ugly for a political agenda.

“Ultimately, we’re talking about a property dispute -- one of the parties who can prove ownership and another party who are seen legally as squatters because they moved into this house after 1948,” Hassan-Nahoum told CBN News.

“Now we have a property claim that of course has been conflagrated by everybody in the West to a massive humanitarian crisis,” she said.

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According to Hassan-Nahoum, the two sides had already come to a legal compromise whereby the Palestinian residents would be “protected tenants,” able to pay minimal rent and live out their lives on the properties, without fear of eviction.

“They knew they couldn’t prove ownership. Even their lawyers said legally they’re squatters and this was given to them as an incredibly humanitarian compromise,” Hassan-Nahoum said.

But Hassan-Nahoum said the Palestinian Authority gave orders to the residents to abandon the compromise plan.

“The Palestinian Authority sent their lawyers, the minute they were involved, the minute this became political, they had no interest in helping people stay in their homes. They wanted people to get kicked out, publicly, in order for Israel to get reprimanded by the entire world,” she said.

Hassan-Nahoum’s claim seemed to be supported by David Cohen, who is a member of one of the 12 Jewish families that live among the Arab residents in the neighborhood.

“We are daily friends. We can say everyone visits each other’s houses. I immigrated from Lebanon in 2000 at about the age of four. We know the language. We are fond of them,” Cohen told CBN News.

Four of those Jewish families live right across the street from the four properties that could be evicted.

Cohen says he goes to pray and study at the nearby tomb of Shimon HaTzadik and will often drop by this street.

“I come here from time to time to calm [things down], in order to speak, to build bridges. I can tell you that in the last two weeks, suddenly everything changed,” Cohen said.

“They see me and every person that looks Jewish as an enemy, as someone who is really dangerous in their imagination and to attack him and quarrel with him,” he said.

Cohen said he has proof from one of his friends.

“One time I spoke to him on the telephone and he said, “At this time we’re photographed. They’re watching us and checking us. It’s forbidden for me to show I have a good contact with you,’” Cohen related.

Israel maintains it’s working to calm the situation, such as delaying a supreme court hearing on the issue;  it’s also calling for international pressure on the Palestinian Authority to stop the incitement and publicly call for an end to Palestinian violence and terrorism.

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About The Author

Chris Mitchell

In a time where the world's attention is riveted on events in the Middle East, CBN viewers have come to appreciate Chris Mitchell's timely reports from this explosive region of the world. Chris brings a Biblical and prophetic perspective to these daily news events that shape our world. He first began reporting on the Middle East in the mid-1990s. Chris repeatedly traveled there to report on the religious and political issues facing Israel and the surrounding Arab states. One of his more significant reports focused on the emigration of persecuted Christians from the Middle East. In the past