Evicted Palestinians stand their ground – on thin mattresses
Forced out of their Sheikh Jarrah homes after losing a property-rights case to Jewish families, their situation has drawn international censure.
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According to a briefing (PDF) by Israeli advocacy group Ir Amim, an Israeli group that opposed the evictions and advocates a Jerusalem "equitably shared by the two peoples," Nahalat Shimon is seeking to build a 200-unit settlement, Shimon HaTzadik, in the area. It's unclear who is behind the real-estate company, which is sometimes characterized as a settler group.Skip to next paragraph
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"We don't focus on the specific settlers' groups because in our view the one who is really responsible in these cases is the Israeli government and the municipality," says Orly Noy, a spokesperson for Ir Amim,
After an Israeli court ruled in the Jewish families' favor, the Palestinian families were given a court order to leave by July 19. The families refused. "We know their documents are forgeries," says Rami Hanoun, whose arm is in a sling after being injured by police when he was evicted from the house.
Arabs see ethnic-cleansing of Jerusalem
Hosni Abu Hussein, a lawyer for the two extended Palestinian families – which include eight nuclear families – says that six of the eight nuclear families who were evicted were thrown out illegally, when police overstepped their orders. But two of the eight families, including Maher, Nadia, and three children, don't have a strong case for getting reinstated.
"This eviction was done in an illegal matter and without due process," says Abu Hussein. "The duty of the authorities as they see it is to cleanse Jerusalem of Arabs."
Though that's a harsh accusation, it is a sentiment that is felt throughout East Jerusalem, where many Palestinian residents are facing either eviction or demolition orders. Just two weeks ago, Israeli officials approved the construction of settler apartments in another part of Sheikh Jarrah on the grounds of the old Shepherd Hotel. Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat defended the move, saying it was inconceivable that Jews not be allowed to live anywhere they chose in the city Israel has declared as its undivided and eternal capital.
Two different spokesman – one for the Justice Ministry and one for the Jerusalem mayor's office – said they could not comment on the case because it was solely in the hands of the court.
A plethora of international organizations have expressed dismay over the evictions, which came amid attempts to revive the peace process. The Obama administration in particular has asked Israel to freeze settlement growth in the West Bank and not to authorize projects that aim to settle Israelis in the heart of Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, thereby changing the "status quo" and frustrating hopes for a two-state solution that would include a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem.
Some Israelis vehemently disagree with their government's policy in Sheikh Jarrah. Two of them are professors Yaron Ezrahi and Ruth HaCoheh, a couple who came down the hill from a conference at nearby Hebrew University to visit with the Palestinians families and sit with other visitors empathetic to their plight.
"It's going on under our noses, so how can we not come? We find it outrageous," says Prof. Ezrahi, a political scientist who has been a frequent critic of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians. "These kinds of actions destroy the moral fabric of our society."