Once again the world's press and media are full of emotive images and reports of Arabs being evicted from homes in Jerusalem.The wretched inhabitants are being photographed being dragged away by police from homes in which they claim to have lived for 50 years. Rarely do the media give the backstory: that these occupants never had legal tenure, and the homes were once owned by Jews who were themselves evicted. The homes have been the object of legal disputes in the Israeli courts going back several decades. If they do mention such facts, the media assume that - flying in the face of demonstrable proof that the Israeli courts are no friends of settlers - the system would automatically side with the Jews.
The Jerusalem Post, however, does give this piece of background information:
"The roots of the ownership dispute over the 28 properties in question dates back to 1948, when a number of homes in the neighborhood that belonged to Jews before the creation of the state were seized by the Jordanian government under its Enemy Property Law during the War of Independence.
"In 1956, 28 Palestinian families who had been receiving refugee assistance from UNRWA were selected to benefit from a project in which they forfeited their refugee aid and moved into homes built on the seized properties in Sheikh Jarrah.
"The agreement stipulated that the ownership of the homes was to be put in the families' names - a step that never took place - and court battles between Jewish groups that represent some of the former Jewish homeowners and the current Palestinian residents have been going on in some cases since the 1980s."This Reuters report is one of the few to quote the words of one of the Jewish claimants:
"They can go to Syria, Iraq, Jordan. We are six million and they are billions," said Yehya Gureish, an Arabic-speaking Yemen-born Jew who said his family owned the land and had Ottoman Empire documentation to prove it."
To those who worry that the issue sets a precedent and opens up a can of worms, exposing the whole of Israel to Palestinian property claims and legitimising an Arab 'right of return', the answer is that there are two cans of worms here - any Palestinian claims must be set against Jewish claims for their property seized in Arab countries.
As commenter Rafael Moshe wrote on the Jerusalem Post thread:
"In brief, the Arabs are seeking to retain the fruits of 'ethnic cleansing' of Jews. The current residents may even be the heirs to the perpetrators. When the Jews from North Africa and the Middle East were expelled by the Arab nations in response to Israel's declaration of independence, real estate totaling an estimated five times the size of the state of Israel was confiscated from these Jews. Yet, the Western apologists for the Palestinians are far more concerned with the "rights" of Arab squatters. Any explanation?"
Tangled web of Jewish ownership in Arab areas