In 2001, after long legal proceedings, a group of settlers headed by Member of Knesset Benny Elon took over some Palestinian homes in Shiekh Jarrah under heavy police escort in the middle of the night. From that day on they have continued to populate the houses, in the middle of the Palestinian neighborhood, under guard provided to them by the Ministry of Housing.
In November 2008, the al-Kurd family was evicted from its home, to great international commotion. In August 2009 two more familes were evicted. 26 more families are currently under threat of immediate eviction.
Legal background: realization of “right of return”
The eviction of the Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah comes in the context of a prolonged legal battle between the “Sephardic Community Committee,” which authorized the Nahalat Shimon settler association to act on its behalf, and the Palestinian residents.
According to the “Sephardic Community Committee,” the contested plot was bought by them before 1948. After the war, in 1956, the Jordanian regime leased the land to Palestinian refugees, who built their homes on it with the status of protected tenants. After 1967 settler organizations asked to repossess the property by Jews in order to build a settlement there, and went to court for that purpose. In some of the cases the court recognized the rights of the Sephardic committee to the land, but ordered to continue the protected tenants status of the Palestinian families. Some of the Palestinian families refused to accept the agreement, and claimed forged documents were involved, and that the Sephardic community did not have right to the land, and they continued the legal proceedings. Recently the court ruled that several families, who did not pay their protected tenants’ rent to the Sephardic Community Committee, lost the right to live in their homes, and that is the background for the Civil Enforcement order to evict them.
This opens a “Pandora’s box” of the “right of return”
The use of Jewish-owned property before 1948 is a double-edged sword, which can open a Pandora’s Box of Palestinian claims to receive property they owned before 1948. Mrs. al-Kurd, who was evicted from her home in Sheikh Jarrah, said recently that she was willing to return the property to Jews, as long as she too can return to the home of her birth in the neighborhood of Talbiyeh in West Jerusalem.
Peace Now calls on the government and the police to prevent the eviction of the families and stop the settlement plans in the Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem, so as not to shut the door on the chance for a solution.