Jerusalem – The forced eviction of Palestinian families in Jerusalem from their homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah by the security forces represents an “unacceptable violation” of one of the fundamental human rights, that of being able to live in peace in one’s own home. And the violence used to prevent Palestinian Muslims from reaching the al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem “undermines their security and their right to have access to the Holy Places and to pray freely”.
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem chooses vibrant and alarmed tones to express concern and discouragement in the face of the escalation of clashes and tensions that from the Holy City are already spreading throughout the Holy Land, lengthening the list of human sacrifices that accompany each new phase of the endless Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On Monday 10 May, after the missiles launched by Hamas and other Palestinian groups from the Gaza Strip against the Israeli territory, retaliation by the Israeli air force already caused dozens of deaths in the Strip. Regarding the situation of Sheikh Jarrah, the Latin Patriarchate of the Holy City, currently led by Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, relaunches the considerations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who defined the modus operandi of the Israeli authorities as “highly discriminatory” on what is becoming “one of the most critical points of the growing tensions in Jerusalem in general”.
In that area of East Jerusalem, a kilometer north of the Old City, Palestinian protesters have for days been opposing the eviction of eight Arab families who, according to Israeli regulations, must leave their homes to groups of Hebrew settlers. On a legal level, the eviction sentences call into question the “right of return” of Jewish families forced to flee that neighborhood – still mostly inhabited by Arabs – during the different phases of the conflict following the birth of the State of Israel. But the authorities of the Jewish state strongly reject any attempt to have the same “right of return” recognized for the multitudes of former Palestinian displaced persons who have lived in refugee camps for decades, including those who had to leave their homes in the part of Jerusalem controlled by Israel since 1948.
The radical religious organization of settlers Nahalat Shimon plays a primary role in the dispute, which in the 1990s had bought the nominal ownership of land in the neighborhood adjacent to the historic tomb of Simon the Righteous (Shimon Hatzadik), a rabbi who lived between the third and fourth centuries BC who according to the Bible welcomed Alexander the Great when he entered Jerusalem. The settler organization explicitly aims to reduce the Arab presence in East Jerusalem.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Aryeh King acknowledged that “certainly” the legal battle waged by Nahalat Shimon is part of a broader campaign to “surround Jews” East Jerusalem. Taking into account all this controversial situation, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, in its message, underlines that the episode of the evictions of Sheikh Jarrah “does not refer to a real estate dispute between private individuals”, but represents “an attempt inspired by an extremist ideology that denies the right to exist to those who live in their own home”. Regarding the question of access to the Holy Places, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem deplores that “the Palestinian faithful have been access to the Al Aqsa mosque during this month of Ramadan. These manifestations of force”, reads the patriarchal declaration “wound the spirit and soul of the Holy City, whose vocation is to be open and welcoming; to be a home for all believers, with equal rights, dignity and duties”. The Latin Patriarchate reaffirms what it defines as the “historical position of the Churches of Jerusalem” in the face of “any attempt to make Jerusalem an exclusive city for anyone”.
“This continues the document “is a holy city for the three monotheistic religions and, on the basis of international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions, also a city in which the Palestinian people, made up of Christians and Muslims, have the same right to build themselves a future based on freedom, equality and peace. We therefore ask for absolute respect for the status quo of all the Holy Places, including the Al-Aqsa mosque complex”. Without explicitly naming any government, the Patriarchate refers to the authority “which controls the city”, and which “should protect the special character of Jerusalem, called to them be the heart of the Abrahamic faiths, a place of prayer and meeting, open to all and where all believers and citizens, of all faiths and affiliations, can feel at home, protected and safe”. Peace – continues the patriarchal document – “requires justice”, and as long as “the rights of all, Israelis and Palestinians, are not supported and respected, there will be no justice and therefore no peace in the city”. In the concluding section of the pronouncement, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem asks “the International Community, the Churches and all people of good will to intervene to put an end to these provocative actions and to continue praying for the peace of Jerusalem”. Before the document of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the heads of the Churches of the Holy City had already expressed in a joint statement their shared concern and discouragement “for the recent episodes of violence in East Jerusalem, both at the Al Aqsa Mosque and in Sheikh Jarrah, which violate the sanctity of the people of Jerusalem and that of Jerusalem as the City of Peace”.
On Thursday, May 6, Riyad al Maliki, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, met Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States in Rome. . The meeting also took into account the new escalation of tension in the epicenter of Jerusalem. In the Holy City – al himself Maliki remarked in an exclusive interview to Agenzia Fides (see Fides 7/5/2021) – there is an increased tendency to attack mosques and churches and to prevent both Muslims and Christians from having access to their holy places and participate in mass and prayers”. With the Vatican representatives al Maliki also touched on other issues, including “the phenomenon of the global growth of evangelical sects”, a phenomenon that “should also worry the Catholic Church, and which worries us as Palestinians, given their anti-Palestinian orientation”.
Al Maliki’s visit to Rome took place in the context of a European tour carried out by the Palestinian Minister to meet, among others, the Russian foreign Minister Serghei Laveov and the Italian foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio. The intent was to verify what European institutions and countries can do “in order to push Israel to allow the elections to be held in Jerusalem, not only in West Bank and Gaza Strip”. The Palestinian Authority has postponed the political elections – which were to be held on May 22 – after Israel rejected the request to open polling stations in East Jerusalem. An inalienable right for the Palestinian authorities, who claim Jerusalem as the capital of their State. “The whole question of elections” underlined al Maliki in the conversation with Fides “concerns Jerusalem. Holding elections without Jerusalem means accepting what Donald Trump said, and that Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of Israel. This is a political question, it is not a technical question”.
Source: Agenzia Fides