3 arrested over Sheikh Jarrah protest

Police clash with 40 demonstrators as protests over evacuation of two east Jerusalem homes continue.

Sheikh Jarrah eviction 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Sheikh Jarrah eviction 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Three people were arrested on Monday during ongoing protests against the eviction of two Arab families from their homes the previous morning in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The demonstration was attended by some 40 people, who clashed with police after officers attempted to disperse the crowd. The evictions, which drew strong condemnations from the US State Department, the British Embassy and the United Nations, were carried out early Sunday morning after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jewish families who claimed ownership. The families were seen moving into the homes after the evictions were completed. Some 200 people demonstrated in front of the homes on Sunday morning; 13 were arrested after clashing with police. After the protests died down on Monday, the evicted families and a handful of supporters remained across the street from the property, facing the police officers stationed at the entrance to the homes. "We don't have anywhere else to go," one of the evicted family members, Maher Hanoun, told The Jerusalem Post. "And it hurts me that I was kicked out of the place where I was born." Lamenting the court's decision, Hanoun called the Jewish claimants' documents "forgeries" and said his family had brought papers from the Turkish archives in Istanbul, proving their ownership of the property dated back to Ottoman rule. "But the court told us it was too late," Hanoun said. "What does that mean too late? If a person was sentenced to hang and at the last minute you brought evidence that showed he was innocent, would you still hang him?" The Jewish families and the organization that supported their legal efforts, Nahalat Shimon International, have not made themselves available for comment, but have maintained in previous court hearings that the homes were owned by Jews dating back to the late 19th century, and were abandoned during a spate of Arab attacks in the area in the 1920s and '30s. According to a report issued in May by Ir Amim, a non-profit group that engages Israeli-Palestinian issues in the capital, the Jordanian government took control of these plots under the Enemy Property Law during its rule from 1948 to 1967. In 1956, 28 Palestinian families that had been receiving refugee assistance from UNRWA were selected to benefit from a relief 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 Ir Amim report states. The agreement stipulated that the ownership of the homes was to be put in the families' names - a step that never took place. In 1972, two Israeli organizations - the Sephardic Community Committee and the Knesset Yisrael Committee - began notifying the residents that they owed rent, and initiated a process with the Israel Lands Administration to register the land in their names, also based on 19th-century Ottoman-era documents. In 1982, the two committees brought a lawsuit against 23 families for rent delinquency. Itzhak Toussia-Cohen, the lawyer representing the Palestinians, did not contest the legitimacy of the committees' ownership claims, and instead arrived at a court-ordered settlement - a binding agreement that can be appealed only if proven to be based on false grounds - that secured "protected tenancy" status for the residents. The families claim Toussia-Cohen did not have their authorization to make this agreement, but it has served as the precedent for rulings on subsequent appeals, including the present-day cases. While it remains unclear when Nachalat Shimon entered the picture, it became part of the legal proceedings in 2003 when it filed a joint case with the committees against the state and the Kurd family - one of the original families to be sued for rent delinquency and eviction, and which was eventually evicted from their home as well. The years since have resulted in a slew of legal battles between the two sides, now culminating in the eviction. On Monday, Hanoun said he hoped increased international pressure over evictions in east Jerusalem would result in "action on the ground." "I don't want this just for my family and our home," he said. "I want to see a stop to all of these evictions."