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Palestinian family in Sheikh Jarrah days away from eviction

On December 31, as Americans celebrate New Year’s Eve and Israelis lift a glass to “Sylvester,” a Palestinian family will be evicted from their East Jerusalem home to make way for Jewish settlers.

The Jerusalem District Court has ruled that the Shamasneh family must leave the house they have been living in 1964—three years before Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem began—by 2:00 PM on Monday afternoon. Ten people currently live in the home, including six children.

The court has granted ownership to the Israeli Custodian for Absentee Property, which was represented by lawyers who also represent settlers’ organizations, including the Israel Land Fund.

According to the Israel Land Fund’s website, the organization’s goals include “acquiring all the land of Israel for the Jewish people.” The ILF “strives to ensure that Jewish land is… reclaimed and in Jewish hands” rather than “hostile, non-Jewish, and enemy sources.”

The ILF has been behind a number of different settlement projects in East Jerusalem. Activists believe that the Shamasnehs’ home will be handed over to Jewish settlers after the family is evicted.

The Jerusalem District Court’s decision breaks a three year lull in such evictions in Sheikh Jarrah. The al-Kurd family was evicted from their house in Sheikh Jarrah in 2008 and were left homeless; two more families were dispossessed in 2009. Jewish settlers now occupy all of the houses.

The wave of evictions led to weekly protests in Sheikh Jarrah that were, for some time, popular with Jewish Israeli activists.

In the below letter, Ayoub Shamasneh, asks the international community to help him and his family. He also points out that Jews the world over can claim properties in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories based on previous ownership–however tenuous those claims–while Palestinians are not allowed to reclaim the properties they were forced to leave during the 1947-1948 conflict.

To whom it may concern,

My name is Ayoub Shamasneh and I live in Um Haroun, Sheikh Jarrah. My wife and I are living here with our son, Mohammed, his wife Amaal, and their six children ranging from the ages of 11 to 22 years old. We have lived in this house since 1964, it is where we built our family and raised our children.  In 2009, after decades of living in our home, the Israeli General Custodian’s Office informed us that our rental’s agreement will not be renewed. They have now sued us in order to take ownership of the property via individuals whom they claim are the descendants of the original Jewish owners pre-1948. Our case has been reviewed by an Israeli court in two separate hearings and judges have refused to accept evidence we have submitted to show proof of our residence in our home since 1964. Therefore, they are claiming that we are not eligible for protected tenant status. Consequently we have been ordered to evacuate the property by 2pm on December 31st, 2012.  As far as we know, the property will be handed over to a right wing settler organization that has previously taken over properties in the neighbourhood.

Now more than ever we are aware of the double standard of the Israeli law that does not lend Palestinian refugees or their children a claim to property they owned before 1948, yet allows children of Jewish Israelis to sue and evict Palestinian families from homes they have lived in for decades. As a result of this discriminatory double standard of the Israeli law we are about to lose our home and be thrown out onto the street.  

Forced eviction from our home will not only be a human tragedy but also a political maneuver which aims to strengthen and expedite the settlement project in East Jerusalem, specifically in Sheikh Jarrah.  Israeli Jewish settlement takeover in Sheikh Jarrah serves to interrupt the presence of a continuous and connected Palestinian community in East Jerusalem. Numerous families have already lost their homes and 30 more are living, day-to-day, under the eminent threat of eviction. Our case will set yet another precedent that will play directly into the hands of the settlement project and will be another nail in the coffin of a viable East Jerusalem.

We are turning to you, as writers, activists, public figures, artists and concerned citizens of the world, to do all that you can to call on the Israeli government to instruct the General Custodian not to evict our family from our home and thereby facilitate the agenda of extremist settlers who are destroying all chances for a peaceful and just future in Jerusalem.


Ayoub Shamasneh

Spotlight: Sheikh Jarrah
Friday protests in Sheikh Jarrah now a tiny vigil

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    1. It is generally assumed foregone that IF Bank settlers are ever evicted they will be given compensation and support finding a new place to live. There really is no reason for not doing that to this forced removal as well. If resident since 64, their tenure predates Israeli control of East Jerusalem. Claims of ownership before 48 are not stable against counter claims made by non Jews. Unless there is no equal protection under the law.

      Jimmy Carter was right. But he paid for what he said. Peace, not Apartheid.

      Reply to Comment
    2. directrob

      Claims of land ownership before 48 are stable, but they will have to wait until the occupation has ended. (The Israeli occupation courts do not have Jurisdiction.)

      In the mean time this illegal eviction is against all human values.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Rauna

      Does this action go along with the teaching of judaism, the faith of the chosen people.

      How could the civilized people of israel let this happen before their very eyes.I feel like crying.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Jan

      Sadly far too many people in Israel and in the diaspora put the presumed rights of Jews to take what they want over the rights of others.

      I have always felt it a travesty that Palestinians, born in Palestine or in Israel, cannot return to the land of their birth while I, a Jew, none of whose family has ever lived anywhere but Europe or America, can “return” to a country where none of my blood relatives have ever lived. It is sick.

      How long will Jews and the world permit this ongoing slow ethnic cleansing? When will we stand up for the rights of others? I am afraid that that day is far off and that the Palestinians will continue to suffer at the hands of our people.

      Reply to Comment
      • Rauna

        Jan, It’s good to know that there’re still humane and civilized jews around. God bless you.

        Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        When the rights of others are couched in a demand to kill or expel the Jews I would be entirely surprised if any sizable number of Jews would support such rights. When the rights of others are couched in an ideology that denies any connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel I would be very surprised if any sizable number of Jews would support such rights.

        May I presume that you are one of those Jews that thinks the Jews have no connection or right to the land of Israel?

        Reply to Comment
        • How pathetic, K9. Your Declaration of Independence insures free ingress of Jews into Israel as recognized by the green line. One can be opposed to the actions in East Jerusalem, as is Jimmy Carter, without claiming Jews have no right of ingress into Israel proper. Calling somebody a race traitor because they disagree with you is rather medieval. It is, however, exactly what a raced based political ideology does. I stand with the Declaration; you may not like that bit of history, but it is there, ready for use.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            How pathetic that you have to boldly lie to make your case. Where in the Israeli Declaration of Independence is there any talk of the green line? In fact, such a reference would be amazing since the declaration was put out in 1948 while the green line (a cease-fire line and not a border at the express request of the Arab side) wasn’t agreed to until 1949.

            The Palestinians overwhelmingly demand the end of Israel. Even the majority of those that claim support for a two state solution see it as a baby step to the destruction of Israel. This is how they see the realization of their ‘rights’. The realization of those ‘rights’ inevitably (look around the Middle East) means the massacre and exile of Jews.

            Any Jew that supports such an end result I unreservedly deem a traitor.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Declaration of Independence, accepted by the UN, insures the free ingress of Jews into Israel proper. At no point did I say what Israel proper is. My point remains that one can be for the stability of lived housing in East Jerusalem and still support the free ingress of Jews into Israel. Indeed, East Jerusalem could be fully absorbed into Israel and one could still both support the free ingress of Jews AND the stability of lived housing. You effectively accused Jan, above, of race treason. It is a barbaric position but gaining strength on the Israeli right. Frankly, K9, you brand is slipping.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Israel can and should absorb East Jerusalem and that is precisely the intention of actions like those of the settlers in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and all other Arab neighborhoods.

            I consider the vague Palestinian group demand for rights that Jan seems to support to be synonymous with a demand to destroy Israel with the resulting massacre or exile of Jews. This isn’t exactly the first time Jan expressed her sympathies. I fail to see how one can charitably define someone who prefers the suffering of a group one claims to belong to over that of the other.

            Reply to Comment
          • Herein Jan, above, said: “How long will Jews and the world permit this ongoing slow ethnic cleansing? When will we stand up for the rights of others? I am afraid that that day is far off and that the Palestinians will continue to suffer at the hands of our people.” : Slow ethnic cleasing is an empirical reality, recognized by Jimmy Carter, at some cost. From her statement here, I see Jan defending those to be soon removed from their home. You call this “vague Palestinian group demand for rights,” but, in this instance, it is an equity call for continuence in a home enjoyed for decades, just as Israelis have enjoyed interior green line property for decades, once owned by Arabs. It is a call to stop now based on individual hardship, not “vague…group rights.” But if only racial groups exist, then people are merely cells of their race; no individual right exists.

            If I spend too long on a thread I see myself as getting a little crazy, and I don’t like that. So I’m exiting this one upon this read, and wanted to let you know that future silence from me is not meant to insult you or your words. I just need to go.

            Reply to Comment
    5. Michal

      I, as a convert to Judaism, made Aliya 5 years ago. Upon landing, I automatically became I citizen of a country in which I had not connection to other than my new faith. Neither my biological family nor ancestors had ever set foot in Israel or anywhere in the Middle East for that matter. I had and continue to have all the rights and entitlements of a Jew living in the Jewish homeland. Yet, my doctor and friend, who is Arab, born and raised in East Jerusalem, from a family who’s ancestry is deeply rooted in Jerusalem. He does not have the same rights as I do. He is not a citizen in the country of his birth, he is only a permanent resident. He does not have the same rights as I (the foreigner) do. All because he is Arab. Something is fundamentally wrong with these policies.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        This is an empty argument. Tell your friend to apply for Israeli citizenship. He is eligible for it if he is a permanent resident of Jerusalem. It has nothing to do with him being an Arab. It has everything to do with him not ending up in Israeli territory in 1948, but fortunately since the annexation of Jerusalem he can correct this.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Lauren

      Such acts cause me to feel ashamed of my country. This is not the Israel I thought I’d moved to in the late 60’s. We all must work to end the occupation and see 2 states for 2 peoples. This act does not fit the ways of Judaism I learned.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        You are ashamed that Jews are taking over land that belongs to them in Jerusalem?

        Reply to Comment
        • Once again K9 employs the “it must be” of the Israeli right (and center, for that matter). There is fair chance that many deeds in East Jerusalem are unstable in that, pushing far enough back, you will find some form of usurptation, voiding all following holdings. This happened in California. There are Spanish deeds for some of the land, then Mexican deeds for some, sometimes overlapping; and then purchases by US citizens, and homesteading by same claiming the land was–yes–unoccupied so unowned. Linclon appointed a California Supreme Court Justice, Field, to the US Supreme Court to help settle the matter. Guess what they did: settlers are right because they live on the land now; these, of course, were US citizens. What is happening in East Jerusalem is that settlers living there for decades are being thrown out for deeds pre-48 which are dubious after losing (then) the war at that time.

          Land law under war and soverignty switches is often quite unjust and chaotic. The simplist, just solution would be to freeze deeds by settlement now in East Jerusalem with long tenure. Those who are evicted will not be replaced by descendants of the purported valid deeds; rather, these have been bought or somehow otherwise found, and will be given to individuals solely unrelated save for the term “Jewish.” There is no equity in this. Indeed, if you are going to force just reclaim from pre 48, there is much land lost by war and disorder in 48-50 which you will NOT allow to be similarly reclaimed. This removes any equity argument as a process of law. Rather, one can find a way to expell Arabs–take it. The only rule of law in this is that of race.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Yep, it must be, because every day of news in the Middle East demonstrates as much. 400 dead in one day of a sectarian civil war in that most secular of Arab states.

            Those that are evicted will be replaced by people that purchased the deeds from the original owners. That they are Jewish is obviously not accidental given the underlying motives but had the Arab squatters bought the deeds instead the case would have been thrown out of court as other cases have been when Arabs managed to prove ownership.

            Reply to Comment
          • But those having deeds within Israel proper are denied return through unocupancy laws when they were forced out and often denied reentry. Sounds like Jim Crow legislation to wipe out the reality of freedom by redefining obligation. You do not care for the rule of law, nor equity. Very little–very little–would be lost if these individuals could live in their homes as for decades. You want to portray them all as usurpers. They are no more usurpers than you. Real peace begins when you recognize how similar you are.

            Rather sad from a man who once was stateless. I suppose that now, having one, you have decided to be as uncaring as others were to you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Indeed, having been stateless I am entirely willing to be completely uncaring in order to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. To you this might be sad, to me it is eminently pragmatic.

            I don’t believe that Jerusalem can have shared sovereignty without it turning into a warzone in short order (Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad are all fine examples of what happens without a strong central authority over an ethnically diverse city). Avoiding this benefits all Jerusalemites. I also believe that Greater Jerusalem is critical to Israel to dealing with any threat from the East. Unfortunately the only way for Israel to ensure control over all of Jerusalem in a future settlement is by making partition inconceivable and the most effective way of doing this is by taking over land and settling Jews in Arab neighborhoods. In this case the land happens to have been owned by Jews thus simplifying matters. I don’t particularly enjoy seeing hardship imposed on these people but I don’t believe that this can be the deciding factor in determining grand state policy. I see this as a form of eminent domain and it is unfortunate that a financial arrangement couldn’t have been worked out.

            Reply to Comment
          • I congratulate the clarity of your position. You would cleanse East Jerusalem to prevent future ethnic conflict. To this end, legal matters are merely an available tool of the moment.

            Hitler wins to this day when we think as him. If you are Soviet, I have no doubt that you have a tomb of stories I would find unfathomable. And perhaps you understand that the slowly inacting philosophy you articulate is creating another tomb of stories among those to be blotted out. And so you will decide to be even harder on them because–they are as you.

            “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” Guess that’s already happened. Maybe part of the blinding was Gandhi’s assassination.

            Reply to Comment
    7. Rachamim Ben Ami

      Not suprisingly, 972 decided to omit some very important details. Arabs living in Nahalat Shimon (Umm Haroun) were allowed to remain living there despite the fact that they were occupying Jewish-owned property. They were even given a symbolic minimal rent, roughly 20 US Dollars a month. It was only when these families decided to stop paying that symbolic rent in the 1980s that the rightful owners began eviction proceedings to regain their property. The families living there have manipulated Israeli courts for nearly 30 years as they file petition after petition. Finally, they reached the end of Israel’s too easy appeal process and were forced to comply with the court’s ruling.

      The protagonists asks why Jews are allowed to sue Palestinians over occupied property, when Palestinians are denied the converse. The answer is rather simple; Arabs who lost their property in the 1948 War did so because they chose to. Some left in fear of Israel, but most did so because their leaders ordered them to and then sold them out. There were also several thousand Arabs who were forcibly evicted by Israel during the war.

      After the war these Arabs who voluntarily left their homes were given 3 seperate opportunities to return home with the only pre-requisites being that they would accept citizenship and swear not to take up arms against Israel and its citizens. Almost all refused to return because the Arab World labeled any who even considering doing so “a traitor” or “a collaborator.”

      Reperations were paid, as was restitution of liquid assets. Property that remained abandoned for 3 years after the initial offer of repatriation were seized by the state and re-distributed. To have done otherwise would have been foolish for any nation- let alone a nascent one.

      To the Westerners reading this, name a single nation that allows people to squat at will. There are none. So why this article? Because Israel, as usual, is being singled out and attaxked.

      Reply to Comment
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