Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood tense again as Jews enter new home

Capitals Sheikh Jarrah

November 4, 2009 00:31
3 minute read.

A scuffle broke out and one woman was arrested on Tuesday morning after a group of Jews entered a home in east Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood armed with a court order that named them as the property's owners. While no one was evicted - the section of the property determined to be owned by Jews had been vacant for some time - the arrival of the Jews, whom police described as right-wing activists, was seen as a continuation of a series of evictions in the neighborhood that have sparked international condemnation and a number of local protests. A Palestinian family who had been living in a separate section of the building remained there on Tuesday, and planned on remaining. According to police, a group of local residents and left-wing activists arrived at the scene soon after the Jews did, and began protesting their entry into the structure. At one point, a police spokesman said, the protesters also attempted to enter the home, but were stopped by police and border policemen. "Our forces were called in to prevent any security-related problems from occurring," the spokesman said. "While one female attacked a police officer and was arrested, the overall situation was calm and ended quickly." The spokesman added that while the Jews may plan to live in the home at a later date, they came on Tuesday to begin renovations before leaving again. "They were gone about an hour and a half after they arrived," the spokesman said. "But a number of private security guards did remain at the site to watch over the property." The home, which is in the Shimon Hatzadik section of the neighborhood, is one of 28 properties in Sheikh Jarrah that are the subject of an ongoing legal battle between Jewish claimants and the Palestinian families who live there. A number of homes in the neighborhood that belonged to Jews before 1948, were seized by the Jordanian government under its Enemy Property Law when Jordan occupied the area from 1948 to 1967. In 1956, 28 Palestinian families who had been receiving refugee assistance from UNRWA were selected to benefit from a project in which they forfeited their refugee aid and moved into homes built on "formerly Jewish property leased by the Custodian of Enemy Property to the Ministry of Development." The agreement stipulated that the ownership of the homes was to be put in the families' names - a step that never took place - and court battles between Jewish groups that represent some of the former Jewish homeowners and the current Palestinian residents have been going on, in some cases, since the 1980s. Two groups, Nahalat Shimon International and the Sefardic Community Association, are spearheading court proceedings for the Jewish claimants, yet little is known about either group and representatives of neither have made themselves available to the press. While members of the Kurd family were the first to be evicted from their Sheikh Jarrah home in November 2008, two additional families, the Gawis and the Hanouns, were evicted at the beginning of August. Those evictions brought a slew of international condemnations, including from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who labeled them "provocative" and called on Israel to refrain from taking steps that were not in line with its obligations under the road map peace plan. Meanwhile, court rulings on the rest of the homes are expected to be handed down, as lawyers for both sides try to prove their clients' ownership. The Sabbagh family, who are the next facing possible eviction, have appealed a number of rulings on the property they live in, that have shown the Jewish claimants to be legal owners the property. A lawyer for the Jewish claimants recently asked that the judge in the case not schedule another hearing regarding ownership, saying that it had already been proven. The court's ruling on that request is expected in the coming weeks. Meanwhile on Tuesday evening, members of both the Hanoun and Gawi families were to address the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington regarding their experiences in east Jerusalem over recent months. The head of the Settlements Monitoring Department at the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem, Suhail Khalilieh, was expected to speak as well. According to an announcement released by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, all three have also been "lobbying members of Congress, and will be traveling on to New York to lobby members of the United Nations for their property rights and homes in Jerusalem."

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