A Story Your Reps Should Hear: House Evictions in Sheikh Jarrah
As I mentioned in our last alert, I'm in Israel-Palestine right now on an Interfaith Peace Builders delegation, meeting with Israelis and Palestinians to better understand the situation on the ground.
Just days before our delegation departed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to build over 800 new housing units in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.  But settlement construction isn't the only way Israelis are extending their control of areas the Palestinians intend to comprise any negotiated state.
Families in Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian village in East Jerusalem, are being evicted from their homes and replaced by Jewish settlers. Earlier this week, our delegation met with the al Kurd family, whose 94 year-old matriarch was displaced from her Haifa home in the 1948 war and has resided in Sheikh Jarrah for nearly 60 years. The family lost half of its home to an Israeli settler family in 2008—and is currently under threat of being evicted from the rest.
When we asked Maysa al Kurd, the daughter of the matriarch whose family lives in the section of the home remaining in its possession, what she hoped we, as Americans, would do to help her family and other Palestinians facing eviction, she said she wanted us to tell their story to President Obama and Congress.
We just happen to have an easy way to do just that. There is a powerful, twenty-five minute documentary online detailing the al Kurd family's struggle to reclaim its home and prevent a complete eviction. Watch the documentary and tell your representatives to do so as well.
Here's the documentary:
And here's the action link:
The building in which the al Kurd family lives is comprised of two houses. The one that was confiscated by settlers was the home of Maysa al Kurd's brother and is situated in the front of the compound. Getting from the street to the section of the home in which the al Kurd family lives requires walking past the settler-inhabited house, one window of which is adorned by an Israeli flag, a constant reminder of a most personal occupation.
So how can Israeli Jews move into a Palestinian home? Well, prior to 1948, the land which comprises Sheikh Jarrah was owned by two Jewish trusts. Under Jordanian rule, the land was managed by the Jordanian government, which in 1956 resettled 56 Palestinian refugee families displaced by the 1948 war. In 1967, when Israel seized control of East Jerusalem, the Israeli government ordered all land that was managed or registered to the state of Jordan to be transferred to Israeli control. By law, if the land transferred from Jordanian control was the private property of a Jewish entity pre-1948, it was to be returned to that entity. So, the two Jewish trusts petitioned for the return of what was, pre-1948, their property, and began eviction proceedings for its Palestinian inhabitants. Ultimately, ownership of the land was transferred to an organization that began settling Jewish families in the Palestinian families' homes following court orders from the state.   
The fact that the Israeli government recognizes Jewish land rights to pre-1948 property but not Palestinian rights to the same thing is hugely problematic. If the Jewish owners of Sheikh Jarrah can reclaim their property, then the Palestinian inhabitants of Sheikh Jarrah should be able to reclaim the land they left as refugees. But the Israeli government has no intention of ever allowing the latter.
The US government needs to step up and use its leverage over Israel to compel a moratorium on Israeli settlement activity. Tell your representatives to watch My Neighborhood and support substantive US action.
Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just US foreign policy,
Just Foreign Policy
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1. “Israeli settlements approval raises tensions before Middle East peace talks,” Harriet Sherwood, The Guardian, August 9, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/09/israel-settlements-middle-e...
2. You can watch the full documentary here: http://www.justvision.org/myneighbourhood/watch
3. “The status of West Bank property that belonged to Jews prior to 1948: HCJ 3036/03 Shlomo Valero v. State of Israel (judgment rendered February 6, 2011),” Yotam Ben Hillel, Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual, April 4, 2012, http://www.hamoked.org/Document.aspx?dID=Documents1941
4. “The Sheikh Jarrah Affair: The Strategic Implications of Jewish Settlement in an Arab Neighborhood in East Jerusalem,” Yitzhak Reiter and Lior Lehrs, The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 2010, http://jiis.org/.upload/sheikhjarrah-eng.pdf
5. Israeli interpretation of the land law as applied in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is itself problematic. For a primer, see http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/babs-factsheet