Following a Palestinian family's appeal against eviction from their Sheikh Jarrah home, Supreme Court judges on Monday offered them a compromise deal in which they will stay in their home but pay higher rent. Israeli settlers, who are the plaintiffs in the eviction suit, rejected the offer.
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The Shamasna family has faced eviction from their home, where they had been living for decades, since a ruling in December 2012 by the Jerusalem District Court. That ruling had ordered the affected individuals to leave their homes by March 1, but the eviction was put off pending appeal. The eviction suit, filed by the Justice Ministry's Custodian General, was engineered by right-wing activists.
On Monday, the Supreme Court offered a compromise in which the family will stay in their home for as long as the father –Ayoub Shamasna – lives, but in exchange, the family will pay higher rent on the home. The plaintiffs rejected the offer.
The law enables Jews, but not Palestinians, to reclaim property they left behind enemy lines in 1948. A number of rightist NGOs have been acting vigorously in recent years to track down the Jewish heirs of properties in East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhoods and assist them in "releasing" the property, held in trust by the Custodian General. They then buy the property from the heirs or rent it to Jewish settlers.
The Shamasna family home, like many others in the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood, was built on land that belonged to Jewish families who had fled to west Jerusalem during the War of Independence. This method has raised much protest from both Palestinians and Jerusalem peace activists.
In last week's Supreme Court session, the family argued they are protected tenants, as they have lived in their homes since before the 1967 Six-Day War, despite the fact that two courts have already rejected that argument. The courts have also rejected the family's claim not to have understood, because the contracts were in Hebrew, that for decades they had signed an unprotected lease agreement.
Attorney Mohand Jabara, who is representing the family, argued that the plaintiffs, who are heirs to the property, together with the right-wing Israel Land Fund, had concealed from the court that the Custodian General had essentially transferred the property to their ownership.
Throughout the legal process, the state has been represented by the law office of Yitzhak Mina, who also represents the heirs and the ILF, without telling the court that the state was essentially no longer a party to the action. According to Jabara, this had been done to “impress the court” with a claim being made by the state against a private person, and not just two private people going against each other.
Attorney Avi Segal of Mina’s office said in response, “The question of who is managing the process has no legal significance.”