16th May 2013
RE: Do not let settlers expel Palestinians from their Homes in Sheikh Jarrah
Dear Honourable Members of Parliament,
We write to you today on behalf of a ten member family of Palestinians living in Um Haroun, Sheikh Jarrah, who have been ordered to leave their home after the property was released from the Israeli General Custodian into the hands of an Israeli settler organization, and headed by a man named Aryeh King.
Sheikh Jarrah is one of the most contested strips of ground in occupied East Jerusalem. As many of you will know, East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel after the Six-Day War of 1967, though its future has remained hazy for many reasons, one in particular being that the International Community regards East Jerusalem as Occupied Palestinian Territory and subject to final status agreements in the “peace process”. This factor however has not stopped radical Jewish settlers making use of a 1970 Israeli law that allows Israelis to reclaim East Jerusalem properties that, prior to 1948, were owned by Jews and abandoned when the city was divided.
Under usual circumstances we are sure that all would agree that original land owners should be able to make legal claims and—theoretically—take back property and even evict current residents. However this false paradigm ignores the complexity of East Jerusalem and the wider political context that surrounds the situation today.
Reviewing a brief history of the area reveals that in 1956 Palestinian families who had fled their homes in what became Israel during the 1948 Nakba were settled in Sheikh Jarrah and other areas by UNRWA and the Jordanian Government, on the condition that they renounce their refugee status.
Following on from the 1967 war East Jerusalem was occupied by Israel and the Israeli government enacted an ordinance which placed the properties in Sheikh Jarrah under the control of the Israeli Custodian for Absentees’ Property. This was then taken advantage of in 1970 when the Israeli Knesset enacted the “Legal and Administrative Matters” Law, which enabled Jews to make claims on property that they owned in East Jerusalem.
The 1970 law makes it possible for Israeli settlers to claim that they hold prior rights to the land, and thus enable the eviction of Palestinian residents. However, this is a legal double standard, created so that the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem cannot reclaim their property in West Jerusalem and the rest of Israel yet Israeli settlers are able to claim property in Occupied Palestinian Territory.
All of this is part of a wider move to illegally settle East Jerusalem, creating facts on the ground to prevent Palestinians from having a capital city in East Jerusalem as part of a future state.
Now for the first time in more than three years, a Palestinian family in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah is facing immediate eviction and dispossession at the hands of the Israeli authorities and extremist Israeli settlers. According to the Jerusalem district court, the 10 members of the Shamanseh family must leave their home, which they’ve lived in for almost five decades – before the 1967 occupation of East Jerusalem.
The Israeli General Custodian, which has claimed ownership of the property, was represented in the legal processes by private lawyers who are known to represent settler organizations, including Aryeh King’s “Israel Lands Fund”. This is the same group that is intent on taking over the Shamanseh family home to populate it with Jewish Israeli settlers.
During and following the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah during 2009, the international community issued strong statements condemning Israel’s actions. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton expressed opposition to the settlement of Sheikh Jarrah. A recent report issued by the EU Heads of Mission, described settlement activities as “systematically undermining the Palestinian presence” in Jerusalem. They recommended potentially issuing sanctions on Israel in response to such occurrences in East Jerusalem.
At the moment the eviction has been delayed due to the family’s appeal to the high court which shall be heard on 20th May 2013. This is the main reason we write to you today in order to add your voice of condemnation in the hopes of stopping the next eviction in Sheikh Jarrah and putting a halt to the on-going Israeli settlement of occupied East Jerusalem.
We must gather together to let the Israeli government and the settler organisations know that, across the globe, every family matters. Israel’s state policy in East Jerusalem enables and supports settler organizations to take over property, turning the Palestinians living there into refugees – some even for the second or third time. This policy has been many times based on institutionalised legal discrimination which allows one-sided actions, and evictions of Palestinian families throughout East Jerusalem.
Our society is calling for Members of Parliament, in particular those who are in government, to publicly condemn the eviction of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem. We further ask that MPs raise this issue as a matter of urgency with the foreign secretary and demand that the British government put pressure on Israel to prevent this forced home eviction.
We only have a few days to act so please take this up as a matter of urgency, entire families depend on our ability to put their basic human rights first and take action on their behalf.
Mr Gary Spedding
Vice President – QUB Palestine Solidarity Society
You can gather further information from the following sources –
3. http://www.en.justjlm.org/ (Official site of Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity)
For updates via twitter – @justjerusalem