Opinion

In Arab East Jerusalem: Zionism's Model Apartment

Eight Palestinian family members, including an 84-year-old man in a wheelchair, were evicted from the apartment because before 1948, its owner was Jewish

Members of the Shamasneh family at their long-time home in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, before their eviction on September 4, 2017.
Emil Salman

There’s one like it in every construction project, the model apartment. Anyone who wants to see what the building will look like when it’s completed, comes to see the model apartment. The up-to-date Zionist project also has a model apartment – on Kunder Street, not far from Nablus Road, in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. It’s worth visiting.

This apartment is where they should bring all the Birthright participants, to show them what the Zionist project, in whose name they are brought here by the tens of thousands, really looks like. Other guests of Israel, those who ask whether there’s apartheid here, should also be brought to the house on Kunder Street.

This is where their questions will end. This is where the Shamasneh family lived for 53 years, as renters. This is what it’s like in Zionism’s model apartment.

This act of eviction is nothing new, of course. It’s as old as the entire Zionist project. Eight family members, including an 84-year-old man in a wheelchair, were evicted from the apartment because before 1948, its owner was Jewish. Now the house has been returned to the owner’s heirs, the descendants of the late Haim Ben Sulimani Yan’i.

What could be more just than that? There was a house, it was restored to its owners. Even the Supreme Court (which the libelous right sees as “post Zionist”), Israel’s lighthouse of justice, whose beacon shines afar, legitimized the eviction four years ago when it denied the family the right to appeal. The three justices at the time, Edna Arbel, Hanan Melcer and Noam Sohlberg, may have squirmed in their seats before writing their verdict, it was so difficult for them, but that’s how Supreme Court justices always acted in occupation issues, before making the abomination kosher.

Ultimately they were relieved. They denied the appeal request “with a heavy heart” and stated: “These matters cannot raise any principled legal issue.” They also said: “The pretext of distorting justice doesn’t exist.” Then they ruled: “Indeed, it isn’t easy to evict a person from his home, all the more so when it’s an elderly man who has lived in the property for many years.”

Not easy, but it can be done. In a humanitarian gesture the justices gave the family 18 months to leave their home. Where else can you find such merciful judges but in Jerusalem? They too, of course, are part of the Zionist project – evicting and moaning; evicting and uttering sanctimonious statements. At Umm al-Hiran and at Sheikh Jarrah.

The house on Kunder Street is the Zionist project’s model apartment, because here you get it all in a refined, condensed form. Here Israel says, without stammering: Entrance for Jews only. Exit for Arabs. Not only the right of return, but the right of property is also exclusively for Jews. A Jew who lost his home in 1948 will have his house returned to him with all respect. A Palestinian – and there were hundreds of thousands of them – has lost it forever. Two justice systems on an ethnic basis. In other languages it’s called apartheid. There’s no other name for it.

The court will say in its defense that it only dealt with the question of whether the renter was a protected tenant. The simplistic, narrow view is always good in these issues, even in the Supreme Court. Most Israelis would say it’s all legal, the court approved it, didn’t it? What more could we ask of a Jewish, democratic state of law? The heirs will also feel that justice has been done as far as they’re concerned, and have already leased their house to the new settlers – right-wing, ultra-Orthodox, well guarded activists. Another dunam and another goat, as the Zionist saying goes, and Sheikh Jarrah will be Jewish. Another dunam and another goat, and the transfer will intensify and the apartheid state will stand on legal foundations.

This is the state of all its Jews. There’s no other way to excuse the brazenness in which Israel declares that correcting the injustices of 1948 is for Jews alone, while most of the victims were Palestinians.

Justice can only exist in one format: equality for everyone. But Zionism continues to say “no” to this singular justice. To say that in 1948 there were only Jewish refugees is an especially insolent version of Nakba denial. For what is the difference between the heirs of the owners of the land on which my house is built, on the ruins of Sheikh Munis, and Haim Yan’i’s heirs? In the model apartment on Kunder Street, all shame has been lost.