Sunday, September 20, 2020

Protest tent in threatened Sheikh Jarrah

By Felix Black - February 09, 2013
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Eviction] [Jerusalem] [Settlers] [Sheikh Jarrah] [Absentee Law]

Photo by Andy Beale.

150 activists turned out in solidarity on February 8 to erect a protest tent outside a Palestinian house in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem.

All ten members of the Shamasna family living inside the house have been told by Israeli authorities to leave by March 1 or face forced eviction. They are the fifth family to face expulsion in the neighbourhood during the current eviction phase that the Israeli authorities have initiated.

During the course of the day the demonstrators marched out onto Nablus Road, waving banners and chanting slogans to make their statements and claims clear to drivers and pedestrians on the busy main street. A few days earlier, Israeli authorities explicitly told the Shamasna family that they “do not want trouble in this neighbourhood following the eviction order.”

Fayrouz Sharqawi, co-ordinator at Grassroots Jerusalem, an online network providing a connection between human rights activists in the city, has aspirations for the protest tent scheme to develop and demonstrate at every eviction in the area. 

“In other neighbourhoods, the tent demonstrations did not work so well because it was elevated above the local community. Here, we believe in community-led demonstrations that will foster more confidence and continue the fight in a better way,” she said.

Of the twenty-eight families in the neighbourhood, eighteen are considered to be under threat from eviction. People know they will be evicted, but it is just a question of when. 

Mohammad Shamasna, the father of the family living in the targeted house, explains “Today’s demonstration is not just for my family, but for everyone facing eviction.”

Photo by Andy Beale.

The “Guardian” and the “Star”

“Giving one property back to its 'rightful’ and 'legal’ owners is the easiest thing for any state to do, it makes it look like the state is doing a good thing,” states Fayrouz.

However the 'good thing’ that the Israeli state is is quite the opposite. 

Eighteen Palestinian families have the new unprotected contracts. These are the families that will face eviction in the coming years, if not months or weeks

In times pre-dating the Israeli state, the entire land was owned by Palestinians. At some point during this period, the Palestinians rented the houses to some Jewish families.

Following the Nakba in 1948, Palestinian owners of the properties were removed and fled elsewhere. Other Palestinians, who had fled from areas in current-day Israel, took up residence in these empty houses, as refugees. The Shamasna family in particular fled their home in current-day West Jerusalem to take refuge in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem. Their actual home is still visible from the main highway into the Jerusalem city from Tel Aviv. 

After the 1967 war, the authority for the houses was passed to the Israelis in the form of the Guardian of Absentee Properties law. Under legal contract, the “Guardian” was the sole protector of the Palestinians living in their new houses as long as they paid rent and renewed the contract every year.

Under protected tenancy with the “Guardian,” the Palestinians were safe in their new houses. 

However, representatives from the “Guardian” would gradually dupe Palestinian families into signing manipulative contracts. The representatives would infiltrate the family’s social life, drinking coffee with the adults or playing games with the children, and then offer new contracts that would remove all protection over their houses. The contracts were written entirely in Hebrew. These 'new’ contracts, that offered no insurance to their houses, are now being used to evict the Palestinians. 

Locals then say that a man named Ariah King, or the “Star”, as they like to call him, is the next link in the chain of manipulating Palestinian houses out of Jerusalem. 

He finds details of the Jewish people who lived there hundreds of years ago. After tracking down their present-day ancestors, he subsequently gives them enormous amounts of money, much to their disbelief, in exchange for the “20 metres square” that they own in Jerusalem.  

He then simply sells the prized land in Holy Jerusalem to Jewish settlers for even more money. The state of Israel merely has to evict the current residents to make way for the 'true’ owners of the properties. Ergo the eviction of Palestinian families and the continuation of the Judization of Jerusalem.

Eighteen Palestinian families have the 'new’ un-protected contracts, including the Shamasna’s. These are the families that will face eviction in the coming years, if not months or weeks.

Abdulazraq Sheikh-Umar, a community leader, has one opinion on the matter.

“If you want to claim back the properties that were once yours that is fine, take them!” he said. “Just as long as we can have our properties that were taken from us in 1948. Don’t come to us and use double standards.”

By Israeli standards, the evictions are legal and the state is acting as enforcer of the law. However it is only doing so behind a veil of legitimacy crafted by agents working below it who twist and manipulate human life to their advantage.   

The protest tent and grassroots action provide some resistance to the apartheid system faced by families of Sheikh Jarrah and the rest of East Jerusalem. 

“There is no justice from the Israeli courts, so we are doing it our way,” Fayrouz underlines. Responsibility must now also lie with the international community to recognize and condemn the injustice being planted on innocent Palestinians living in East Jerusalem.

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