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Sheikh Jarrah: The struggle continues

By Sam Gilbert

May 21, 2013

  Hundreds of demonstrators marched in Sheikh Jarrah this Friday, 17 May 2013,  in opposition to the ongoing settlement campaign in East Jerusalem.  Weekly protests have been taking place here for years as Israelis, Palestinians and international activist alike have joined together against the eviction of Palestinian residents and the intrusion of Jewish-Israeli settlers into the area.  This Friday marked the largest demonstration in almost a year as many gathered in solidarity with the Shamasneh family and their upcoming court appeal.

The protestors marched through the streets playing drums, chanting slogans and holding up political banners.   Naomi, a student at Tel Aviv University who had previously never been to Sheikh Jarrah spoke about her reasons for being in Jerusalem this Friday afternoon.  "Our [Israeli Jewish] presence is important here.  These families were forced to leave their homes in Israel in 1948 to come here.  And now, 60+ years later, our government is repeating the same process all over again.  What’s happening in Sheikh Jarrah is morally corrupt. The occupation, the settlements—all of it has to stop."   

The Shamasneh family, like most Palestinians who live in Sheikh Jarrah, are refugees from 1948 and were forced to relocated to East Jerusalem during the war. This neighborhood of some 3000 Palestinians has, since the late 90’s, garnered international recognition when Jewish settlers began occupying buildings in the area.  As a result of a ruling in December 2012 by the Jerusalem District court, numerous members of the Shamasneh Family face the treat of displacement once a again.  

 Legal Woes

The Shamasneh family faces an uphill battle in court on Monday 20 May 2013, where they are likely to reiterate two claims, both of which have already been rejected by the Israeli court.  According to the Israeli newspaper Harretz, the Shamasneh’s lawyer will argue firstly that the family members are protected tenants under the law, having lived and paid rent in their homes prior to 1967 war (and subsequent Israeli administrative control)(x).  Secondly, the family claims that they unknowingly signed an unprotected lease agreement, owing to the fact that the document was in Hebrew not Arabic.

These evictions are not unique to the Shamasneh family or to Sheikh Jarrah. They are part of a settlement enterprise that has utilized the Israeli courts to establish a Jewish presence in East Jerusalem, thereby making the division of the city and the establishment of the a future Palestinian capital less likely.

The eviction of the Shamasneh family is based on the Legal and Administrative Matters Law of 1970 that enables Jews to make claims on property that belonged to them prior to 1948 (xi). However, this law does not allow Palestinians, even those living inside Israel, to make claims to their properties confiscated during the war. In Sheikh Jarrah, the Israeli Supreme Court has already accepted Jewish Israeli claims to ownership of land’s that date back to ottoman times (although the validity of these claims are highly contested).   

While the turnout at Sheikh Jarrah was heartening to many, others spoke with a deep pessimism about the fate of the Smamasneh family and others like them. Jamal is a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem. He spoke candidly about the prospects for victory in court.  "Palestine is 27,000 kilometers…..too small. This has always been a battle for land. The Israeli court will do all it can to take as much land as possible.  We [Palestinians] are not protected under the law.  These laws can only hurt us." 

Jamal’s distrust is well founded.  The Israeli Legal system has been an indispensable tool for the Jewish settler project in Palestine.  And while the protests against the displacement of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah are important, the processes that began in 1948 continues unabated to this day.


Photo by Eugene Peress.

 

(x) http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/after-one-year-break-weekly-protests-to-resume-in-east-jerusalem-s-sheikh-jarrah.premium-1.524405

(xi)  http://www.en.justjlm.org/what-is-our-struggle-about/sheikh-jarrah-solidarity/the-legal-struggle-in-sheikh-jarrah



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