Israel revokes decision to rename Jerusalem streets after rabbis

Israel revokes decision to rename Jerusalem streets after rabbis
A Jerusalem municipality naming committee panel rescinded its controversial decision and has instead opted to name the streets 'neutral or Arab names'.
3 min read
08 February, 2020
An Israeli policeman walks in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan in east Jerusalem [AFP/Getty]
Israel revoked a controversial decision on Thursday to name five streets in an occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood after rabbis.

A Jerusalem municipality naming committee panel rescinded its controversial decision and instead opted to name the Silwan streets "neutral or Arab names", Haaretz reported.

The name and commemoration committee voted eight to two to name five streets in East Jerusalem's Silwan neighbourhood after rabbis in June 2019, under pressure from right-wing members. 

Hundreds of Palestinian families live in the Batan al-Hawa section of Silwan, where the street names were set to be changed, as opposed to 12 Jewish families, according to Haaretz.

The naming committee approved the move last year despite the opinion of a professional committee brought in to advise. The committee said it was "inappropriate to give streets Jewish and rabbinical names in neighborhoods where the vast majority of the residents are Arab". 

"This creates unnecessary tension," it said, and recommended adopting "neutral names that all the residents can live with in peace".

"I welcome this decision, which shouldn't have needed to be made," said city councilman Yossi Havilio. "But better late than never."

Havilio was one of the two panel members to vote in June against naming the streets after rabbis. 

A court petition against the move was filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel on behalf of almost thirty Silwan residents. 

"It's good that the municipality came to its senses, but it's a shame that a petition was necessary to make it understand how condescending, unreasonable and strife-inducing the decision was from the beginning," the organisation said, praising the council's revocation.

'Heart of a Palestinian neighbourhood'

The mostly-Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem often makes headlines when Palestinians are evicted from their homes in favour of Jewish residents.

In such a case last month, a Jerusalem magistrates court ruled in favour of evicting a Palestinian family from their home in the Silwan neighbourhood following a lawsuit filed by members of the pro-settlement Ateret Cohanim organisation.

The family has lived in the building since 1975, he added, arguing they are "victims of a political game by the Israeli courts and the settler organisations".

Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

Israel considers all Jerusalem its undivided capital but the Palestinians see the eastern part as the capital of their future state.

Around 200,000 Israeli Jews now live in east Jerusalem in settlement homes considered illegal under international law.

Read more: Unravelling power, control and the misuse of international law for Palestine with Noura Erakat

Under a decades-old Israeli law, if Jews can prove their families owned property in east Jerusalem before the 1948 war that led to the creation of Israel, they can demand that Israel's general custodian office release the property and return their "ownership rights".

No such law exists for Palestinians who lost their land.

Peace Now said the family was one of around 100 families threatened by eviction lawsuits filed by Ateret Cohanim, in total putting around 700 people at risk of eviction.

It said the eviction notices were an "attempt to displace a Palestinian community and to replace it with an Israeli one, in the heart of a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem."

Agencies contributed to this report.

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