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Immediate Threat of Eviction of a Palestinian Family from Sheikh Jarrah

In the absence of government intervention – the Salem family of Sheikh Jarrah may be evicted in the coming weeks.

The Salem family (11 people), who have lived in a house in western Sheikh Jarrah (“Um Haroun”) for more than 70 years, received a notice of eviction a few days ago stating that they must vacate the house immediately, and if they do not evacuate themselves, they will be forcibly evicted on 29/12/21*. The eviction notice was handed to the family earlier this week by two key settlement activists in Sheikh Jarrah, city council members Aryeh King and Jonathan Yosef, who claimed they had purchased the house from Jewish owners who had owned the house before 1948.

* Update from 23/12/21: The settlers demanding the evacuation have submitted a request to the Execution Office to set a new date for the eviction, because the police have told them that a precise date, known in advance, will make it very difficult to carry out the eviction. The settlers requested that the date of the eviction be set for one of the days between January 20 and February 8, without announcing in advance on which day it will take place. The Judge at the Execution Office has determined that a hearing on the application will be held on December 30, 2021.

Peace Now: This is a terrible injustice based on the cynical exploitation of a discriminatory law that allows Jews to exercise the “right of return” to property lost to them in 1948, at the expense of Palestinian families legally living in the property, while another Israeli law denies the same right to Palestinians. This is exactly what the Mishnah says: “He who says: mine is mine and yours is mine, is called evil”. The State of Israel, which took the Palestinian refugees’ properties lost to them in 1948, cannot today allow settlers to take from Palestinians Jewish properties lost in 1948 and on which they are have already received compensation. The government can stop this evacuation, and it must do so.

The story of the Salem family home:

Before 1948 – In the Um Haroun area in Sheikh Jarrah, a small Jewish neighborhood called “Nahalat Shimon” existed with about 40 Jewish families. During the war in 1948, the commanders of the defense of the Jews ordered the evacuation of the neighborhood due to the deteriorating security situation, and all residents were evacuated and received alternative housing from the Israeli authorities in West Jerusalem. It should be noted that in that war, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians lost their homes in the territories that became the State of Israel, all became refugees, received no compensation and are not allowed to return to their properties to this day.

1951 – At the end of the war, the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood was under Jordanian control and the Jewish property in the area was managed by the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Properties. The Jordanian Custodian leased the properties to Palestinian families under a protected tenancy agreement. According to the Salem family, the family members moved into the house as early as 1951, renting it from the Jordanian Custodian in a protected tenancy agreement. Fatma Salem was born in this house in 1952, and lives there till today with her three children, their wives and children (a total of 11 persons including 4 children).

1967 – Immediately after the 1967 war, the Israeli government annexed the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to Israel, along with the rest of East Jerusalem, and transferred the management of these assets to the Israeli General Custodian. The General Custodian continued to lease the properties to Palestinian residents.

1970 – In 1970, the Knesset enacted the Legal and Administrative Matters Law (1970), which effectively stipulated that Jewish property owners who lost their property in East Jerusalem in 1948 could get it back from the General Custodian. In practice, there were no Jewish property owners who returned to live in their homes in East Jerusalem. This law was used only by settlers who used it to deprive Palestinians of their property and replace them with Jewish settlers.

1980s – During the 1970s or the 1980s, the heirs of the Jewish family that owned the house before 1948 received the property from the General Custodian. The Salem family continued to live in the rented property, and pay rent to the owners. But after the father of the Salem family passed away, the Jewish owners submitted an eviction lawsuit against the daughter, Fatma Salem, who continued to live in the house with her family after her parents died. In 1988 the court ruled that she had to vacate the house, but for reasons unknown to us the judgment was not enforced and Fatma and her family continued to live on the property and pay rent to the owners.

In recent years, settler activists have purchased at least parts of the property from the Jewish family, and they are the ones now demanding the eviction. On 5/12/21, Jonathan Joseph and Aryeh King, two key settlement activists in the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and city council members arrived at the Salem family home and handed her the eviction notice. The message came without warning and left the family with only about three weeks to get organized for evacuation. The family’s lawyers are examining whether there is a possibility of fighting the eviction in the legal field.

How to stop the eviction:

In this case, it is private settlers elements who demand the eviction. The government will claim, of course, that it has nothing to do with this case, but the truth is that the government is responsible for all the conduct of the government officials and especially the General Custodian, who brought about this situation, and it is also the one that can, and must, prevent this displacement.

In the immediate term the government can prevent the eviction by refraining from sending the police to accompany the eviction. To evacuate a family from their home requires police escort. The Attorney General has previously confirmed that the police can refrain from carrying out evacuations if there is a fear of harm to public order or political and public interests. The government can stop the evacuation simply by preventing its actual implementation.

To eliminate the danger of eviction once and for all, the government can use its authority to expropriate the property from the settler owners, give them adequate compensation for the loss of the property, and allocate it to the Palestinian families. This is the fairest and simplest solution that can solve the situation of hundreds of other families in Sheikh Jarrah and other places in East Jerusalem, who are groaning under legal proceedings filed against them by settlers in an attempt to take over their homes. Expropriation is not uncommon. Since 1967, the Israeli government has expropriated about 24,000 dunams in East Jerusalem (mostly from Palestinian owners) for the purpose of establishing neighborhoods for Israelis; Today it can expropriate a few dozens of dunams from settlers and let Palestinians continue to live in their homes.