Neutral application of property law becomes an international incident because a landlord is a Jew.
In the case now before Israel’s Supreme Court, the owner is an Israeli corporation with Jewish owners whose chain of title is documented back to an original purchase in 1875. Until 1948, the neighborhood now known as Sheikh Jarrah was home to both Jewish and Arab communities. Jordan invaded Israel in 1948 and occupied half of Jerusalem, expelling every one of its Jewish inhabitants and seizing their property.
When Israel reunited Jerusalem and ended the Jordanian occupation in 1967, it had to decide what to do with these properties. In the many cases in which Jordan had officially transferred the title of Jewish-owned properties to Palestinians, Israel respected the new titles—and still does—even though they are based on forcible takings in a war of aggression followed by ethnic cleansing against Jews. Where title had never been transferred, however, Israel returned properties to their owners. Critics of Israel claim that Arabs can’t recover property under the same law, but the law is entirely neutral—it is simply the case that Jordan took property from Jews, not Palestinians.
Title to the properties in dispute in Sheikh Jarrah was never given by Jordan to Palestinians, so Israeli law respects the unbroken title of the plaintiffs. This case has nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. The only discrimination in the legal treatment of Sheikh Jarrah property is historic, by Jordan, and against Jews to the benefit of Palestinians.
The plaintiff and its predecessors in title have spent four decades in court seeking to recover possession of the properties. In every case, courts have ruled in favor of the owners. In the latest lawsuits, the courts ruled that four of the eight defendants were squatters with no legal rights in the land, and the remaining four were descendants of tenants who had never paid rent.
Nevertheless, Israeli courts have treated the Palestinian squatters and leaseholders alike as “protected tenants,” and would shield them from eviction indefinitely if they paid rent. They have refused to do so.
The laws involved are the same as any landlord would invoke. There is only one objection in this case: the owners are Jews. Western progressives have elevated the desire of some Arabs not to have Jewish neighbors into a human right and a legal entitlement that even the Jewish state must protect.