On Friday afternoon, around 70 Israeli and Palestinian peace activists gathered in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to protest a court order that denies Palestinian owners the right to remain in their homes. One ultra-Orthodox protester, Nahum Novertze, told Israeli reporters at the protest, ‘When settlements were evacuated in Gush Katif (settlers) were given caravans and hotel stays until they could obtain new residences. Here they throw Arabs out into the rain without providing substitutes. This is discrimination. They have lived here for 43 years and now they are being thrown out on the street like dogs.’
In a recent article about Umm Kamel, a resident of Sheikh Jarrah who set up a protest tent after Israeli settlers forced her from her home in July, Marcey Gayer wrote in the Electronic Intifada:
“The incident is part of Umm Kamel’s long history of dispossession, dating from 1972. When she first arrived in the neighborhood in 1970 as a young bride, there was not one Jewish family there. The only Jewish-owned house, one that pre-dated the 1948 war — when Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together in the same neighborhood — remained unoccupied. Then the Council of Sephardic Jewry, using an Ottoman document from 1887, made claim to the area and pressured the residents to leave. While it is true that the Sephardic community has deep ties to the catacomb grave where many came to pray and ask blessings prior to 1948, some observers contend that the document is irrelevant since it only states that the Sephardic community had temporary use of the property, not ownership. Moreover, the residents’ current lawyer claims that no comparable document was found in the Turkish archives in Ankara when he went there expressly to check on the document’s authenticity, fortifying the assertion that the document itself is fraudulent.
“The Israeli Land Registry nevertheless certified the document as valid in 1972. This decision was taken within the framework of the 1950 Law of Absentee Property, which revokes all claims of pre-1948 ‘absentee Arab property owners’ (i.e., Palestinian refugees), while reestablishing title to property owned by Jews prior to 1948. After 10 years of acrimonious negotiation, the court recognized the land claim of the Council of Sephardic Jewry.”
The Palestinians who are being evicted from Sheikh Jarrah have lived in their homes there since at least 1948, and some have lived there much longer (living in the homes passed down for hundreds of years from their ancestors). In the last several years, Israeli settlers have repeatedly attacked the neighborhood, injuring residents, damaging property and eventually kicking Palestinians by force out of their homes, and then moving into those homes. Evicted Palestinians have tried to camp out in the street in front of their homes, and hold protest vigils in the street, but these have repeatedly been dismantled and broken up by Israeli authorities.