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The Palestinian Authority’s Silent Complicity Over the Colonisation of Sheikh Jarrah

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While Sheikh Jarrah attracted international attention, the international community has once again failed Palestinians.

It was only after a lengthy silence, after Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah faced Israel’s violence alone while demonstrating against the planned evictions, and after Gaza was once again bombed, that the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates released a statement.

Capitalising on the Israeli Supreme Court’s suggestion that Palestinians live as tenants on their own rent and pay rent to settlers, the PA “accused the Israeli judiciary of being complicit in the government’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem.” 

Has the PA just woken up to Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians? Or is it simply incapable, or unwilling, to make the connection between the earlier colonial ethnic cleansing which is synonymous with the Nakba, and the more recent tactics that focus on state-sanctioned forced displacement, so normalised that even the PA fails to make a statement that is stronger than its rhetoric?

“The occupation courts play a racist role with regard to the displacement of Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood for a political end that does not have legal reference in order to reach one goal and that is to legitimise the settlers’ claims of ownership of the land, and to whitewash the forged documents they submitted,” the statement partly read.

But the PA failed the residents of Sheikh Jarrah, just as it failed all Palestinians in other circumstances. Simply reiterating facts does not constitute a political stance. On the contrary, the PA’s acquiescence to Israeli violence, notably through the two-state politics and security coordination, has weakened the link between politics and the people to constitute a complete rupture.

Sheikh Jarrah’s residents know they cannot rely on the PA to safeguard their rights, not when PA officials themselves squandered Jerusalem in the past and now only references the city and its predicament only in response to violations which cannot be reversed. 

Israel’s Supreme Court has delayed its decision, and yet the PA does not avail itself of the interlude. The Palestinian people’s right to their homes in Sheikh Jarrah is being contested by Nahalat Simon, a settler movement that has no roots in 1948, or legal claims to the land which Palestinians are living on. Just as the early settler-colonists had no claim to Palestinian land.

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The PA, however, dissociates between the historical ethnic cleansing and the present, making the latter only a reference to international law and refusing to consider the Zionist colonial enterprise as a continuation. 

Palestinians have no legal recourse other than Israel’s courts, which are part of the state’s institutions and will unlikely rule against Israel’s colonial expansion. The international community, despite its constant reminders against settlement expansion, will not treat Sheikh Jarrah as part of an ongoing process of forced displacement, which further weakens the Palestinian people’s possibilities for justice. Just like Khan al-Ahmar a few years back, which was portrayed as an exception by international diplomacy and mainstream media. 

While Sheikh Jarrah attracted international attention, the international community has once again failed Palestinians. Having normalised Israel’s colonial expansion, the international community’s stance against forced displacement and settlement expansion is considerably weaker than the effort it puts into protecting Israel at all costs, including refusing to sanction Israel for its violations of international law.

It is through this framework that the PA also strengthens itself against the Palestinians, particularly since its cancellation of the elections which triggered discontent that escalated with the murder of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat.

A look at the PA’s complicity in the abandonment of Sheikh Jarrah’s residents is more important than the perfunctory statements that the leadership in Ramallah does not abide by. 

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