* By Zeev Sternhell Haaretz – Israel News *
Thanks to an attempted settler takeover of the Sheikh Jarrah quarter, that quiet neighborhood of East Jerusalem has turned into a kind of microcosm of the illnesses that are poisoning relations between Jews and Arabs.
The worst of these is the refusal to recognize the finality of the situation that was created at the end of the War of Independence. It is possible to understand the settler right, whose existential aim is the continued conquest of the land. But how is it possible that state institutions will lend a hand to an act that destroys the very land under our feet?
Indeed, this time the settlement is not being carried out merely with brute force like in other parts of the West Bank, but with documents from the days of the Ottoman Empire. The settlers appeared in court armed with Turkish title deeds, which originally were in the hands of the Committee of Sefardic Jews, and on this basis eviction orders were issued for the Arab residents.
The Jews came to prove a principle – land that was once owned by Jews is required to be returned to the hands of Jews. The question is, how much longer will it be possible to maintain a situation in which the Jews will have the right to demand ownership of Jewish property that has been left on the eastern side of the Green Line, while the Arabs are forbidden to demand rights of ownership to their property that has been left on the western side of that same line?
After all, there are Palestinians, among them those who live in East Jerusalem, who have title deeds to homes in Talbieh, Old Katamon, Baka, and other neighborhoods in the western part of the city. If Jerusalem is a united city and all its residents, as the authorities claim, are equal before the law, on what moral basis can they decide that what is permitted to the Jews is forbidden to the Arabs?
The state institutions now have a golden opportunity not only to show that equality in the eyes of the law is more than an empty, flowery phrase, but also to declare that there is no way back from the political and legal situation that was created in 1949. Any other approach will be considered intolerable discrimination and will serve as a preface to endless appeals to international institutions.
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