The New Arab Logo

Breaking News
Israel evicts Palestinian family after half a century in Jerusalem home Open in fullscreen

The New Arab & agencies

Israel evicts Palestinian family after half a century in Jerusalem home

Around 200,000 Israeli Jews now live in East Jerusalem settlement homes. [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 August, 2017

Share this page:
  • 0

  • twitter
The Shamasneh Family have lived in the same home in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood for five decades, but now face imminent eviction to make way for Israeli settlers.
The Shamasneh family have lived in the same home in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood for fifty years, but now face imminent eviction to make way for Israeli settlers.

East Jerusalem was occupied by Israel in 1967, and later annexed into Israel in the 1980s. Around 200,000 Israeli Jews now live in East Jerusalem in settlement homes considered illegal under international law.

Rights groups say Israeli authorities seek to change the demographics of East Jerusalem to pre-empt its division in future peace talks.

This often involves a house-by-house struggle to evict Palestinians.

"Fifty-three years here means leaving is not easy - it is a lifetime. I was a young girl when I came to this house," said 75-year-old Fahamiya Shamasneh.

Israel's Supreme Court has ruled that the family have until Wednesday to vacate the home, but the family are reluctant to leave amid the looming deadline.

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

Under Israeli law, if Jews can prove their families lived in East Jerusalem before the 1948 war that led to creation of Israel they can demand that Israel's general custodian office return their "ownership rights".

No such law exists for Palestinians who lost their land.

During the war, known to Palestinians as the Nakba, or catastrophe, thousands of Jews fled Jerusalem as Jordanian-led Arab forces seized the eastern sector of the city.

Around 700,000 Palestinians were displaced in 1948, leading to a refugee crisis and national statelessness which still remain unresolved to this day.

"The police are threatening us. We don't know what to do," Fahamiya said, adding they had not found anywhere else to go.

'It belongs to Jews'

The family's supporters have no doubt the house will be handed over to Israeli settlers as part of a wider plan to boost Jewish settlements in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

It will be the first eviction in the neighbourhood since 2009, according to Israeli NGO Peace Now, which is now a battleground in the fight over demographics in the city.

The Shamasneh family says it has paid 250 shekels ($70) a month to Israel's general custodian since 1967, an arrangement used by Israeli settlers as proof that the family recognised their status as tenants.

In 2009, the alleged original Jewish owners along with the general custodian launched a legal process to force the family out, but the claimants later sold their rights to a US-registered company, according to Peace Now.

The NGO says such companies act as middle men and are often used to make it unclear exactly who is behind the push to evict Palestinians, a highly-charged political act.

Arye King, director at the Israel Land Fund and a de facto spokesman for much Jewish settlement growth in Jerusalem, denied any legal misconduct.

"This house is not changing hands - it has belonged to Jews for about 90 years and it is returning to the owners after some people rented it," he told AFP.

In 2013, Israel's high court rejected an appeal by the Palestinian family in favour of the Jewish claimants, concluding the family were not protected tenants.

'We will not leave'

Fahamiya said they had been told to leave peacefully or they would have to pay the cost of the eviction, about 60-70,000 shekels ($16-19,000).

"We will not leave of our own will. Maybe if they force us, carry us and throw us on the streets, then we'll go. But for us to lock the door and tell them 'here are the keys,' that's impossible," she said.

Peace Now says the house is part of a "larger process the government is undertaking of establishing settlements in Sheikh Jarrah".

East Jerusalem was occupied by Israel in 1967, and later annexed to Israel in the 1980s

King, who does not dispute that, said the district is "going back to being a Jewish neighbourhood".

"It is happening slowly, slowly but thank God we are succeeding in returning Jews to the place they ran away (from) when the Jordanian legions bombed their houses," he told AFP.

Fahamiya laughs at the idea of Jewish heirs, saying she lived there for decades without any mention of any legal owners

Most Popular

Read More