Israel Evicts Palestinian Family From East Jerusalem Home to Make Way for Pre-'48 Jewish Owners

In first such eviction since 2009, eight members of Shamasneh family were kicked out of their Sheikh Jarrah property

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Police escorting a member of the Shamasneh family from the roof of the family home, September 4, 2017.
Police escorting a member of the Shamasneh family from the roof of the family home, September 4, 2017.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

A Palestinian family in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem was evicted from its home in a large police operation on Monday – the first such eviction since 2009 involving the restoration of land to the Jewish family that owned it before Israel’s establishment.

In carrying out the eviction of the eight members of the Shamasneh family, including elderly parents in their 80s, police sealed off the streets to the neighborhood and removed the family by force, eyewitnesses said. The family claims it has lived on the land since 1964.

Several dozen Palestinians and left-wing activists had gathered since the morning outside the Shamasneh family home. They were in the early afternoon by members of the family who had been evicted. The police detained three of the activists, claiming that they interfered with police officers.

As is the case with many other properties in Sheikh Jarrah, the Shamasnehs' home was built on land that had been owned by Jews before Israel’s independence in 1948.

The law allows Jews, but not Palestinians, to reclaim property or land they were forced to abandon in enemy territory during the War of Independence.

Israeli policemen evict Palestinian Ayoub Shamasneh (C), 84, from his family home, September 5, 2017.Credit: AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP

Sheikh Jarrah and the rest of East Jerusalem came under Jordanian control in 1948, until the city was reunited under Israeli control following the 1967 Six-Day War.

The Israel Land Fund – a right-wing nonprofit – contacted the heir of the original owners of the site where the Shamasnehs were living and represented her in legal proceedings to reclaim it.

In 2013, the Shamasneh family lost their appeal of the case in the Supreme Court, after lower courts also ruled that the family didn't prove residency in the house before 1968, and thus they were not eligible for protected tenant status.

But the Supreme Court also deferred any eviction of the Shamasneh family at the time on humanitarian grounds, stating: “It is not easy to evict someone from their residence, particularly when it involves someone elderly who has lived at the property for many years.”

Two and a half years after the eviction date set by the court, legal proceedings against the family were renewed and the family was served with an eviction order.

Diplomatic representatives from seven European countries, including France, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, and Sweden, visiting the Shamasneh family home in Sheikh Jarrah, August 2, 2017.Credit: Peace Now

Sources who have been trying to assist the Shamasnehs attributed the revival of the eviction to a change in the political situation since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, and that Israel would not come under diplomatic pressure from the United States to halt the eviction. Last month, diplomats from seven European countries – France, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, Sweden, Norway and Malta – visited the Shamasnehs in their home.

In 2009, three Palestinian families were evicted from homes in the neighborhood under similar circumstances, prompting major protests that attracted international attention. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter participated in a protest against efforts to increase the Jewish presence into the neighborhood by such means, while then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also spoke about the case.

No further evictions of Palestinians had been carried out until this week. But there seems to have been a policy shift recently – including not only the revival of the eviction case against the Shamasnehs, but also approval of four Jewish construction projects in Sheikh Jarrah that will require the eviction of dozens of Palestinian residents.

Joint List lawmaker Dov Khenin commented: "We must stop the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah. The injustice cries out to the heavens, not only because there are elderly and children among the family members evicted to the street, but also because of the discrimination that cries out to the heavens between Jews, who can sue and return to the properties they owned before 1948, and Arabs, who have no such right. Palestinian families can be evicted from their homes, even though the Shamasneh family has lived in the house for more than 50 years."

Khenin contacted Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) and asked him to examine the legality of the eviction, as well as to prevent future evictions.

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