Israel’s Supreme Court will hold a hearing early next week and the fates of approximately one hundred families living in the Batn al-Hawa neighborhood of East Jerusalem’s Silwan hang in the balance.
The families photographed for this project live in two buildings in the neighborhood, and like the rest, are liable to lose their homes because of eviction suits brought by right-wing and settler organizations. These people are not squatters or tenants who have failed to pay rent. They are families who paid for their homes in full, but a discriminatory law passed by the Knesset in 1970 has made them an easy target for eviction.
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The Legal and Administrative Law enables Jews to reclaim lost property they owned in East Jerusalem prior to 1948. Conversely, Palestinians who owned property within Israeli territory prior to 1948 are not entitled to reclaim it. This law is the basis for all of the eviction lawsuits in Silwan, as well as in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, and has been used successfully by the Ateret Kohanim organization to obtain rights to lands that were Jewish-owned more than a century ago.
None of the subjects photographed for this project are Israeli citizens. They are all permanent residents who are not eligible to vote or run for public office in order to influence the policies being used against them. On the issue of ownership, the court is being asked to rule on a political issue cloaked as a legal one. But how can it be asked to decide between citizens of the state and people who are not citizens of any state? Between those who exploit the occupation for their own purposes and those who are being crushed by it?
The project was carried out in cooperation with Peace Now.