Sheikh Jarrah is once again in the news. On Wednesday, a Palestinian family in Sheikh Jarrah was evicted and their home was demolished, and Israeli police arrested Palestinian and Israeli protestors. The move has drawn international condemnation, including from U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield on behalf of the Biden administration. 

The story is a familiar one. Potential evictions of several Palestinian families in this contentious East Jerusalem neighborhood, known to Jews as Shimon HaTzadik, led to protests and unrest in Jerusalem in May 2021 that received international attention, and ultimately brought about a war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.  

Most Palestinians facing eviction in Sheikh Jarrah—about 300 according to Ir Amim—are facing challenges from private right-wing Jewish groups, such as Nahalat Shimon International, a Delaware-based real estate company that was the plaintiff in the high-profile case last May. Nahalat Shimon acted on behalf of local Jewish groups claiming that the Palestinian families’ homes were on land owned by Jews prior to the 1948. The case is still pending a High Court ruling, after the court suggested a compromise in October that the Palestinian residents rejected.

But this Sheikh Jarrah case is different. The Salihiya family’s eviction case did not come from a private group, but rather the Jerusalem municipality. The city had expropriated the Salihiyas’ land through eminent domain in 2017 in order to build several schools for local residents. Following a legal challenge from the family, a Jerusalem court ruled in favor of the municipality in 2021, upholding the eviction. Israeli officials and Jerusalem municipal figures, including Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum and Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev of the Labor Party, have defended the eviction as in the interests of the neighborhood’s Palestinian residents, as the new schools would serve the community. 

However, Deputy Mayor Yossi Havilio and city council member Laura Wharton urged Mayor Moshe Leon to cancel the eviction, arguing that other public land was available in the neighborhood for the new schools. Critics have also claimed that a political motivation exists behind the Salihiyas’ eviction given that the municipality handed a nearby empty lot in Sheikh Jarrah to the Or Sameach organization to build a Haredi yeshiva, instead of using this available property for the good of the predominately Palestinian local community. 

The Salihiyas continued to contest the move until the day of their eviction. On Monday, they barricaded themselves inside their home when the police came to carry out the eviction order. In protest, family patriarch Mahmoud Salihiya threatened to burn himself alive in a video widely circulated on social media. A standoff between the police and the family ensued. The stalemate ended in the hours before daybreak on Wednesday, when the police arrived to carry out the demolition.

This was the first eviction Sheikh Jarrah has seen since 2017, but the tenth eviction or demolition in East Jerusalem in 2022 thus far. Defending the move, Hassan-Nahoum argued that the now-demolished home was an illegal structure built in the 1990s. This claim is substantiated by another East Jerusalem Palestinian, Sami Abu Dayyeh, who claims that he owned the property since the 1960s and that the Salihiya family stole it from him. 

The family, by contrast, has claimed that they have been the property’s true owners since the Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem, prior to 1967. The Salihiya family moved to the area from Ein Karem, a village in West Jerusalem, following the 1948 war. Mahmoud Salihiya’s wife, Lital, is an Israeli Jew—meaning that several of the Palestinians evicted were, in fact, halachically Jewish, even though the family identifies solely as Palestinian. 

The details of this eviction case are substantively different from previous ones, but Palestinians nevertheless see it as yet another attempt by Israel to displace them from the area in the interest of “Judaizing” East Jerusalem, regardless of stated intentions or legal justifications. Given the degree to which tensions in Sheikh Jarrah reverberated across the Israeli-Palestinian arena last May—from the Israel-Gaza war to interethnic civilian violence in Israel’s mixed cities, the likes of which had not been seen since 1948—any eviction in the area is politically charged. While this may be the end of the Salihiyas’ fight against the expropriation of their property, it will not be the last time events in Sheikh Jarrah make headlines.