Elderly Palestinians to Be Evicted From East Jerusalem Home

Family forced to leave after 53 years in same house in first eviction in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood since 2009

The Shamasneh family in 2012.
Emil Salman

A Palestinian family is slated to be evicted from their home in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on August 9, in what would be the first eviction in this neighborhood in eight years.

The family consists of a couple in their eighties plus four other relatives. On Thursday, they were visited by representatives of seven European countries – France, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, Sweden, Norway and Malta.

The Shamasneh family has lived in their small home in Sheikh Jarrah since 1964. Like many other homes in the neighborhood, it was built on land that belonged to Jews before Jordan captured East Jerusalem during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.

A right-wing group, the Israel Land Fund, contacted the heir of the original owners, a woman named Ashira Bibi, and represented her in legal proceedings to reclaim the building.

Four years ago, after several lower courts had ruled that Bibi owned the building, the Shamasnehs lost their appeal to the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the justices deferred their eviction for 18 months for humanitarian reasons. “We don’t make light of evicting someone from his home, especially not when the person is elderly and has lived there for many years,” they wrote.

Recently, however, the eviction proceedings were renewed, something activists helping the Shamasnehs attributed to the political atmosphere and the new U.S. administration. Last week, the family received an order to vacate the premises by the morning of August 9 or face forcible eviction. Policemen came to inspect the building and summoned one family member for questioning.

In 2009, three Palestinian families were evicted from homes in Sheikh Jarrah under similar circumstances. Those evictions gave birth to a large protest movement that received international support. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter participated in a demonstration against the Judaization of the neighborhood and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about the issue. Perhaps for this reason, there have been no evictions in Sheikh Jarrah since then.

But recently, the policy seems to have changed. Aside from the Shamasnehs, eviction proceedings have been renewed against two other families. Moreover, four construction plans for settling Jews in Sheikh Jarrah were recently approved, including a residential building that will require evicting dozens of Palestinians.