East Jerusalem Man Facing Eviction Says Harassed by Police

The High Court of Justice will deliberate in May over the request of the resident’s family to appeal a court order of eviction from their apartment so that it can be repossessed by the heirs of the pre-1948 Jewish owner.

An East Jerusalem resident who is requesting permission to appeal the eviction of his family from their home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah claims that the police are harassing him and that he was even arrested on false charges.

He says that the harassment is meant to dissuade him from continuing his struggle against the eviction order, which is being actively supported by left-wing activists. A police spokesperson rejected his claims.

Ayoob and Fahima Shamasna, a couple in their 70s, live together with their son Mohammed, his wife and their six children in a small apartment that, prior to 1948, belonged to a Jew named Haim Ben Sulimani. The property, like other properties and plots in the neighborhood, was placed in the jurisdiction of the office of the Jordanian custodian general for absentee property and, after 1967, in
the jurisdiction of the office of the Custodian General, to which the Shamasna family paid a monthly rental fee. Eight years ago, Sulimani’s heirs; Shoshana Tzarom, Ashira Bibi, Haim Tawil, Miriam Elkayam, and Eliezer Aricha requested that the Custodian General would release the property and transfer it to them.

In this case, as in other similar cases in the neighborhood, right-wing organizations are involved. They locate the heirs of the properties, rent or purchase them and then populate them with Jewish families. Twice the courts ordered the Shamasna family to vacate the apartment: Once on May 2012, a verdict was handed down by Magistrate Court Judge Anna Schneider and, once on December 2012, a similar verdict was given by Jerusalem District Court Judges Yoram Noam, Carmi Mussak and Moshe Bar-Am.

The Shamasna family, represented by their attorney, Mohand Jabara, petitioned the High Court of Justice to appeal the eviction order. The High Court received two contradictory responses from the Custodian General. The first, through lawyer Tova Frisch, was that the Custodian General is not managing the property and is therefore has nothing to do with the case. The second response, also made on behalf of the Custodian General, this time through the law firm of Yizhak Mina & Co. Advocates, was that the Shamasna family’s appeal be thrown out. Because of the contradictory nature of the two responses, High Court Justice Edna Arbel decided that the court will hold a hearing to review the petition in May.

Mohammed Shamasna, a gardener, told Haaretz that in addition to the legal proceedings he is facing, the police began taking great interest in his affairs. He recounted that three weeks ago a police officer – whose name he did not ask for – was waiting for him by the entrance to his home. The police officer, Shamasna said, advised him that his family should vacate the premises and that he should sever his ties with leftist activists, who have protesting with him in front of his home. Shamasna said that the police officer told him: “At the end of the day, they are going back to their homes and you will be left with your problems and with the fines you will have to pay.” In addition, Shamashna claimed, the police officer suggested that he meet with rightwing activist Aryeh King, who was helping Sulimani’s heirs with their litigation and that he should reach a settlement with King.

A few days later, Shamasna was summoned to a meeting with a man named Erez, who said he was responsible for security in Sheikh Jarrah. At the meeting, which took place in the police station on Saladin Street in East Jerusalem, Erez expressed his view that the Jewish heirs were the rightful owners of the land in Sheikh Jarrah and that they were justified in their demand to reclaim their property. According to Shamasna, Erez did not respond when Shamasna asked him, “In that case, aren’t the [former Palestinian] residents of [the Jerusalem neighborhood of] Lifta not justified in demanding that they be allowed to return to their homes?”

Two weeks ago, Shamasna was arrested at the Hizma checkpoint, separating Jerusalem from the West Bank, by Border Police officers, who informed him that he was being detained and that he must await the arrival of a police patrol car. An hour later, the patrol car arrived and Shamasna was told that he was under arrest on suspicion of plotting to commit a crime. He police refused to answer his questions as to the nature of the crime he was accused of or the names of the people with which he allegedly plotted to commit it.

He was scheduled to appear before a judge the next morning for an extension of his arrest but instead the police prosecutor instructed him to fill out a document stating that he was being detained for 24 hours and then be released. Shamasna said he preferred to appear before the judge so that he could hear what charges led to his arrest.

A spokesperson for the Israel Police, Chief Superintendent Shmulik Ben Rubi, has stated in response to Shamasna’s story that these are “totally baseless claims made by someone who has broken the law on several occasions and who is now requesting the protection of various persons for his actions. The complainant resides with his family in a home that he does not own, as noted in a court verdict; he was
supposed to have vacated that home a month and a half ago but has so far failed to do so.

Moreover, the complainant has even recruited the residents of his neighborhood to participate in protest demonstrations and in unlawful assemblies in the neighborhood in the hope that these activities will help him to avoid complying with the court’s verdict. In addition, he was summoned for interrogation purposes to the Moriah Police Precinct in Jerusalem following the receipt of intelligence information about a house break-in. He was interrogated and then released; the investigation against him is still in progress.” It should be pointed out here that a court injunction allows the family to continue to reside in their apartment until their request for an appeal is deliberated by the High Court of Justice.

Members of the Shamasneh family at their long-time home in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, before their eviction on September 4, 2017.
Emil Salman