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

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