After an eight-year lull in evictions, Israeli authorities kick out the Shamanseh family from their home in Sheikh Jarrah. They had been living in the neighborhood for over 50 years.
By Yael Marom
Israeli security forces evicted a Palestinian family from their home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah Tuesday morning, the first such eviction in eight years, allowing Israeli settlers to take over the property.
Large police forces arrived at the Shamanseh family home at 6.a.m., along with a large truck to carry their belongings, following days of police visits to help prepare for the eviction. Three settlers swiftly entered the home and took over the property. The family — made up of eight people, including young children and two elderly parents — have lived in Sheikh Jarrah since 1964.
Israeli police, which sealed off the entrances to the neighborhood to both vehicles and pedestrians, arrested three Israeli activists who demonstrated against the eviction. They also took the father, Muhammad, and his son into custody after they reportedly attempted to stop the settlers from changing the locks on the house.
Over the past decade Sheikh Jarrah has become one of the focal points of the attempt to Judaize East Jerusalem by messianic right-wing organizations. The family’s eviction is the first step in a larger plan to Judaize the neighborhood and turn it into a settlement. Two other families in Sheikh Jarrah are also currently facing eviction and are likely to be kicked out of their homes in the coming months.
The majority of the residents in Sheikh Jarrah are descendants of Palestinian refugees from West Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa, and Lod. After Israel’s establishment, they were resettled in the neighborhood.
Until the 1948 war, the land on which some of the families live today belonged to Jews. After the war, the homes belonging to Jews were taken over by the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property, which rented them out to Palestinians. Following Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, the land was transferred back to Jewish hands. This time, the Palestinian families remained in the homes, and began paying rent to the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property.
But as opposed to Palestinian refugees who lost all legal rights to their property, Israel still allows the original Jewish landowners in Sheikh Jarrah to reclaim their property, while evicting the Palestinians who have been living in those homes since the 1950s and 60s.
The Israel Land Fund – a right-wing NGO that seeks to Judaize East Jerusalem – contacted the descendants of the Jewish owners of the land on which the Shamasneh family’s house stands, representing them in a bid to restore it to its original owners. In 2013, after a long legal saga, Israel’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling by lower courts, ordering the family to be expelled from their home with a grace period of 18 months, due to humanitarian concerns. The family had not received an eviction order until late July of this year, after which their attorney only managed to obtain a number of short-term injunctions.
Throughout 2008-2009, Israeli forces evicted three Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah. Nearly 50 people, from young children to elderly, were thrown into the street, and were replaced by Israeli settlers. The evictions sparked a protest movement that brought out thousands of Israelis and Palestinians to weekly demonstrations. Since those evictions and the high-profile protests, the evictions have ceased in the neighborhood.
Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.