Garden-fence dispute heats up strife in Sheikh Jarrah

Jews tear down fence Arab neighbors erect.

By ABE SELIG
April 14, 2010 06:42
2 minute read.
A house belonging to Jews in east Jerusalem's Shei

sheikh jarrah jewish house 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Although the tensions between Sheikh Jarrah’s Arabs and Jews have never really relaxed, recently renewed court proceedings on the proposed eviction of additional Arab families in the northeast Jerusalem neighborhood, as well as ongoing inter communal violence, have created a “super-tense” atmosphere, according to left-wing activists who frequent the area.

The most recent problems came on Saturday night, when a group of religious Jewish teenagers tore down the fence that had been erected around a garden in the front courtyard of the al-Kurd house on Othman bin Afan Street.

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The home, which has been the site of a number of clashes between Arab and Jewish residents in the past, has been divided, per a Jerusalem District Court ruling, between 13 members of the al-Kurd family and an unspecified number of Jewish residents – whom the court ruled were the rightful owners of the property’s front half.

The court ruling was based on evidence confirming Jewish ownership of the land and the al-Kurd family’s refusal to pay rent to the Jews. However, ownership of the property’s entry courtyard, where the al-Kurds planted their garden and built the fence, has not been determined.

Jewish residents said the fence, which was set up around the garden area during Pessah, was a “provocation,” and on Saturday night, entered the compound to tear it down.

Arab residents also arrived, and altercations soon broke out. Police took two men – an Arab and a Jew – in for questioning after the incident.

A video of Saturday night’s events have been posted online, and show the Jewish teenagers shaking the fence and cutting at it, before Arab residents and then police officers intervene.

Last week, a group that represents Jewish claimants to Sheikh Jarrah properties filed a petition with the Jerusalem District Court, asking that two more Arab families be evicted from properties they claim to own. Three families have been evicted from homes in Sheikh Jarrah so far.

In the new petition, the Nahalat Shimon organization said the Arabs were illegal tenants in the homes, and demanded that they “immediately clear the property of all individuals and belongings.”

A total of 28 homes are at the center of the ownership dispute in Sheikh Jarrah, which dates to 1948, when homes that belonged to Jews were seized by the Jordanian government under its Enemy Property Law during the War of Independence.

In 1956, 28 Palestinian families who had been receiving refugee assistance from UNRWA were chosen for a project in which they forfeited their refugee assistance and moved into homes on the seized properties.

The agreement stipulated that the ownership of the homes would be registered in the families’ names – a step that never took place – and court battles between Jewish groups that represent the Jewish owners and the current Arab residents have been going on, in some cases, since the 1980s.

The first eviction resulting from those court cases came in 2008, when extended members of the al-Kurd family were evicted from their Sheikh Jarrah home, not far from the al-Kurd home on Othman bin Afan Street. Two additional families, the Gawis and the Hanouns, were evicted at the beginning of August, and another six families are face imminent eviction if their court cases are decided in favor of the Jewish claimants.


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