Several prominent progressive US Democrats condemned Israel on Saturday over the pending evictions of several Palestinian families in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, whose homes are claimed by nationalist Jews as part of a long-running legal battle.
“The United States must speak out strongly against the violence by government-allied Israeli extremists in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and make clear that the evictions of Palestinian families must not go forward,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote in a tweet, seemingly referring to far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir.
Ben Gvir last week set up what he said was a “parliamentary office” in the contentious neighborhood and on Saturday called for enabling policemen “to defend themselves and use weapons including live fire” against “the terrorists in the Temple Mount and throughout the country.”
Sanders was not the only lawmaker to issue a statement of condemnation. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, denounced the evictions as “abhorrent and unacceptable.”
“The Administration should make clear to the Israeli government that these evictions are illegal and must stop immediately,” she said.
New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also slammed Israel over the “inhumane” evictions.
“Israeli forces are forcing families from their homes during Ramadan and inflicting violence,” she tweeted.
The US State Department has expressed concern over the looming Sheikh Jarrah evictions.
Jalina Porter, a State Department spokesperson, said during a telephone briefing: “We are deeply concerned about the potential eviction of Palestinian families in the Silwan neighborhood and in Sheikh Jarrah, many of whom have lived in their homes for generations.”
Over 70 Palestinian residents are threatened with eviction and could be replaced by right-wing Jewish nationalists, in a legal battle being waged in the courts.
An Israeli court has ordered the families to leave, as the property was owned by a Jewish religious association before 1948. A 1970 Israeli law allows Jews to reclaim property in East Jerusalem from before it fell into Jordanian hands; no similar law exists for Palestinians.
The Supreme Court is expected to convene on the families’ appeal on Monday; however, amid the tensions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Benny Gantz are said to be seeking to delay the hearing.
The condemnation from the Democrat lawmakers came after the four members of the Middle East Quartet — the US, Russia, the EU and the UN — on Saturday expressed “deep concern” over violence in Jerusalem at the Temple Mount, as well as the launching of rockets and incendiary balloons from Gaza toward Israel, and attacks on Palestinian farmland in the West Bank.
“The Envoys noted with serious concern the possible evictions of Palestinian families from homes they have lived in for generations… and voice opposition to unilateral actions, which will only escalate the already tense environment,” the Quartet statement read.
Condemnation also came from other parts of the international community.
The United Arab Emirates, which normalized relations with Israel last year and has so far had warm ties with the country, condemned “Israeli authorities’ storming of the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque” as well as the plans to evict East Jerusalem residents. Bahrain also criticized the “Israeli plan to evict the citizens of Jerusalem from their homes,” as did Saudi Arabia, which does not have formal relations with Israel but is widely reported to have close clandestine ties.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said Israel “must stop all measures that violate the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” referring to clashes on Temple Mount. It added that potential evictions were a violation of international law, and reduce the chances of a two-state solution.