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Activists barricade JNF headquarters to protest eviction of Palestinian family

The JNF has been trying to evict the Sumarin familiy from their home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan for decades. An international campaigned stopped the eviction in 2011. Now, the family is threatened again. 

Protesters block the entrance to the JNF headquarters in Jerusalem. January 31, 2018. (Joshua Leifer)

Protesters block the entrance to the JNF headquarters in Jerusalem. January 31, 2018. (Joshua Leifer)

Several dozen Israeli and international activists demonstrated outside the Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) Jerusalem offices Wednesday, protesting its role in the eviction of a Palestinian family from Silwan, a neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

The JNF, through a subsidiary called Himnuta, has been attempting to evict the Sumarin family for decades. In 1991, after the JNF received land and houses in Silwan from the Israeli government, it leased the land, including the Sumarin’s home, to Elad, a right-wing settler organization that runs the City of David archeological site in Silwan.

The JNF filed suit to evict the Sumarins in 2005, and in the fall of 2011 the Sumarin family received an eviction notice. A massive letter-writing campaign led by Israeli and international activists successfully delayed the eviction of the family.

Now, the Sumarin family is facing eviction again. The JNF, through Himnuta, has returned to court to evict the family. According to Peace Now, the next hearing is set for April 2018, and a verdict is expected in a few months.

Activists blocking the entrance to the JNF headquarters in Jerusalem. January 31, 2018. (Courtesy of Free Jerusalem)

Activists blocking the entrance to the JNF headquarters in Jerusalem. January 31, 2018. (Courtesy of Free Jerusalem)

The protest, organized by Jerusalem-based anti-occupation group Free Jerusalem, was planned to coincide with the Jewish holiday of Tu’Bishvat, customarily celebrated in Israel with the planting of trees. Activists dressed in tree costumes blocked the entrance to the JNF’s Jerusalem headquarters, holding signs that read: “JNF don’t uproot the Sumarin family,” and, “JNF your $$$ support the occupation.”

The roughly 30 protesters also included members of All That’s Left, an anti-occupation collective primarily composed of North American Jews in Israel, Peace Now and Meretz activists, Jerusalem City Council Member Laura Wharton, and former Deputy Mayor Yosef “Pepe” Alalu.

“We are here to demonstrate against the activities of the JNF, an organization that’s been in the service of the right and the settlements, collaborating with the settlers to uproot Palestinians from their homes,” said Shabtay Bendet, head of Peace Now’s settlement watch program.

Council Member Wharton said she joined the protest after hearing of the JNF’s attempt “to evict the family from their home and confiscate their property to serve the interests of ultranationalist extremists, who are a disgrace to our people and our country.” She added that she hoped the JNF would stop its collaboration with El-Ad, which she described as “undermin[ing] the cause of justice in Israel.”

IfNotNow, an American anti-occupation movement, organized solidarity protests in several cities on Wednesday, including Chicago and Los Angeles. Additional protests in London, Paris and elsewhere around the world were planned for the coming days. (Full disclosure: I have been active with IfNotNow in the U.S.)

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    1. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      I really do not understand. Is the Sumarin family owner of the house or do they rent it? It seems that they rent it. They have received an eviction notice in 2005 and they are still living in the house. I am a Jew, living in Israel. The owner of my flat has decided to evict me for a private reason. I have asked him to wait a little more. Last week I have received an eviction notice and I must leave before the end of this month. Will the left wing “activists” help me to stay in the apartment I rent? Double standard.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        You are correct. You really do not understand.

        If “a private reason” turns out to be “because I am Jewish” please do get back to us. We’ll get right on it. The Sumarin family are being threatened with eviction only because they are not Jewish.

        If this does not clear up your confusion, please try to say why. I’ll do my best to help you.

        Reply to Comment
      • Nathanael

        If it’s like most of the similar cases — I haven’t checked this one, but there are thousands which are identical — the Sumarins own the land and have owned it since before the creation of Israel. The Israeli government, however, refuses to recognize Ottoman land titles, stole the land, and claims to own it.

        It’s similar to the theft of property from Native Americans in the US — which the US finally stopped doing in the 1950s.

        It’s a disgrace but it’s been done constantly in “Israel”.

        Reply to Comment