Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sheikh Jarrah was a Jewish Neighbourhood

The recent protests in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem against the eviction of two Palestinian families from a house has brought international condemnation of Israel has come from a variety of sources, including the UN. But the events in Sheikh Jarrah are part of a larger history that the international community never seems to take into account. So reports Seth Frantzman, see link at the end of the blog

What is today called Sheikh Jarrah in the 19th century included two Jewish neighborhoods known as Nahalat Shimon and Shimon HaTzadiq. Sheikh Jarrah was primarily a Jewish neighborhood from 1876 onwards and remained so up until 1948.

ACCORDING TO research carried out by Prof. Ruth Kark of the Hebrew University the Jewish housing developments were bordered by villas constructed by Jerusalem's leading Arab families that began building in Sheikh Jarrah in the 1870s. By 1918 the total number of Muslim houses in the neighborhood had grown to thirty.

In December of 1947 fighting broke out between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem. Initially the leading Muslim families asked Arab fighters from outside the city to leave their neighborhood, and the Jews there, in peace. By March 1948, however, Arabs from a unit called "al Shabab" [The Youth] invaded the neighborhood and set the Jewish synagogues and houses on fire, causing the residents to flee.

Sheikh Jarrah was not the only Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem destroyed in the war. Silwan, where Yemenite Jews had settled in 1882 was also taken over along with the Old city's Jewish quarter which was razed.

After 1948 East Jerusalem passed into Jordanian control and in this period the city's Christian population declined from around 30,000 before 1948 to some 11,000 in 1967.

THE UN was involved in settling Palestinian refugees in East Jerusalem. The disputed houses in Sheikh Jarrah were actually handed over to the Hannoun and Gawi families in 1956 under the auspices of UNWRA. The Jewish community which actually owned the properties was not consulted. Neither was the Jewish community consulted when graves on the Mount of Olives were destroyed beginning in 1956.

Many of the disputes about East Jerusalem have their origins in what happened between 1948 and 1967, a period so often ignored by historians, governments and activists. The UN was NEVER given authority to resettle Palestinians in Jewish property, yet this is what they did. Before condemning Israel, the UN should first apologize for their theft of Jewish property without compensation. The Jewish properties in question might well have been left in ruins, like part of Nahalat Shimon and the grave of Simon the Just was. In fact none of the rampant destruction of Jewish sites in Jerusalem was condemned by the UN during the period of Jordanian rule.

Had the international community cared then as much as it does now perhaps the disputes would not have come about. If people understood more about the period of Jordanian rule one might better understand the actual history of the city, rather than focusing merely on Israeli actions and Palestinian victimization.

For more on this read http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1251145166123&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

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