Pales­tini­ans face Jerusalem evic­tion after half cen­tury

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

JERUSALEM: Fa­hamiya Shamas­neh, a 75year-old Pales­tinian woman, re­fuses to pack her things de­spite a loom­ing dead­line for evac­u­at­ing the home she has lived in for more than 50 years. Is­rael’s supreme court has ruled the fam­ily have un­til Wed­nes­day to va­cate the house in an­nexed east Jerusalem. The fam­ily’s sup­port­ers have no doubt the house will be handed over to Jewish Is­raelis, as part of a wider plan to boost Jewish set­tle­ments in the pre­dom­i­nantly Pales­tinian neigh­bor­hood of Sheikh Jar­rah.

It will be the first evic­tion in the neigh­bor­hood since 2009, ac­cord­ing to Is­raeli anti-oc­cu­pa­tion group Peace Now, and has be­come part of a fight over the dis­puted sta­tus of Jerusalem. Is­rael sees the city as its un­di­vided cap­i­tal, while the Pales­tini­ans want the eastern sec­tor as their fu­ture cap­i­tal. Fa­hamiya, her sick hus­band Ay­oub, 84, their son and his fam­ily have un­til Aug 9 to vol­un­tar­ily leave the cramped,50-sq-m base­ment of their build­ing or be forced out.

“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 Fa­hamiya. “The po­lice are threat­en­ing us. We don’t know what to do,” she said, adding they had not found any­where else to go. Un­der a decades-old Is­raeli law, if Jews can prove their fam­i­lies lived in east Jerusalem homes be­fore the 1948 war that led to the cre­ation of Is­rael, they can de­mand that Is­rael’s gen­eral cus­to­dian of­fice re­lease the prop­erty and re­turn their “own­er­ship rights”.

Dur­ing the war, thou­sands of Jews fled Jerusalem as Jor­da­nian-led Arab forces seized the city, while hun­dreds of thou­sands of Pales­tini­ans fled from land that was later to be­come Is­rael. No such law ex­ists for Pales­tini­ans who lost their land. Is­rael oc­cu­pied east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later an­nexed it in a move never rec­og­nized by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. Around 200,000 Is­raeli Jews now live in east Jerusalem in set­tle­ment homes con­sid­ered il­le­gal un­der in­ter­na­tional law.

The Shamas­neh fam­ily says it has paid 250 shekels ($70) a month to the gen­eral cus­to­dian since 1967, an ar­range­ment used by the pro-set­tlers’ side as proof that the fam­ily rec­og­nized their sta­tus as ten­ants. In 2009, the orig­i­nal heirs 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 are of­ten used to make it un­clear ex­actly who is be­hind the push to evict peo­ple, 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 fam­ily in fa­vor of the claimants, con­clud­ing the fam­ily were not pro­tected ten­ants.

A spokesman for Pales­tinian pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas con­demned the planned evic­tion. 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 ($1619,000). “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”. King, who does not dis­pute that, said the district is “go­ing back to be­ing a Jewish neigh­bor­hood”. “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.

JERUSALEM: Pales­tinian Fa­hamiya Shamas­neh, 75, stands out­side her fam­ily house in the an­nexed east Jerusalem neigh­bor­hood of Sheikh Jar­rah on Aug 1, 2017, de­spite a loom­ing dead­line for evac­u­at­ing the home she has lived in for more than 50 years. — AFP

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