Brawl spotlights Arab-Jewish tensions

Sheikh Jarrah brawl spot

sheikh jarrah brawl 248 88 (photo credit: Abe Selig)
sheikh jarrah brawl 248 88
(photo credit: Abe Selig)
The east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah was the scene of renewed violence Tuesday afternoon when a fight broke out between local Arab residents and a group of Jews who had moved into a home on the neighborhood's Othman Bin Afan Street earlier in the morning. Several protesters gathered at the home just before 10 a.m. as the Jews were entering the property. But the violence broke out some two hours later when a verbal spat between the two sides deteriorated into a full-blown brawl. One of the Jews was lightly wounded during the fracas when he was hit on the head with a piece of plastic piping, causing him to bleed onto the white tile entrance to the house as a crowd of journalists and local residents looked on. The injured man was treated at the scene and evacuated to Hadassah University Hospital at Mount Scopus, police said. Five arrests were made by police at the home during the day, including two Jews, two foreign, left-wing activists and an Arab resident, a police spokesman said. The home, which was the setting of a similar brawl that occurred nearly a month ago when a number of Jews arrived there to begin renovating the property, is split into two sections - the front, which is now home to the Jewish family, and the back, which is home to members of the al-Kurd family. Tuesday's entry of the Jews into the building was the result of a court decision Monday to reject an appeal made by Nabil Kurd to prevent their arrival. He had attempted to postpone a previous court ruling that favored the Jewish claimants in the case, who have maintained that the property is theirs. While the rejection of his appeal paved the way for the Jews to enter the home legally on Tuesday, Kurd said that the court's ruling was symptomatic of an "unjust" system, and alleged that the Jewish claimants' documents had been falsified. "Their documents are all forged," Kurd said on Tuesday. "The judge himself is a settler and continues to rule in their favor. When we bring documents and forms to be submitted to the court, the judge rejects them and says [we are] too late." Furthermore, Kurd said that the home in question was built only nine years ago - in contrast to other homes in the neighborhood that were built between 1955 and 1956 as part of an UNRWA project to resettle Palestinian refugees on properties confiscated by the Jordanian government during the War of Independence. "So how can this be a Jewish-owned home?" Kurd asked. "Yet they still come in and enter the home." While Kurd was speaking, the spokesman for the UN Special Coordinator's Office in Jerusalem, Richard Miron, who was at the scene, gave a brief statement to journalists, in which he expressed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's "dismay at the continuation of demolitions, evictions and the installment of Israeli settlers in Palestinian neighborhoods in occupied east Jerusalem." "Provocative actions such as these create inevitable tension, undermine trust and often result in tragic human consequences that make reviving negotiations [between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority] more difficult," Miron added. "We reiterate the secretary-general's calls for these actions to cease immediately." Sheikh Jarrah has been a focal point of increasing tension in east Jerusalem since early August when the evictions of two families - the Hanouns and the Gawis - sparked international condemnation and gave way to numerous protests in the area. The brawl on Tuesday was one of a number of similar outbursts that have taken place on Othman Bin Afan Street in recent months, and the home in question is one of 28 properties in Sheikh Jarrah that are the subject of an ongoing legal battle between Jewish claimants and the Arab families who live there. A large 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.