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MPT presence at the Al Kurd's in East Jerusalem

The Fall MPT 08 team was asked to spend some time as a peaceful, protective, presence at the Al Kurd home in East Jerusalem. The home is part of the Sheik Jarrah neighborhood that was constructed in 1956 by UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) and the Jordanian Government for the Palestinians that were displaced after the 1948 war. There are 28 of these houses in the Sheik Jarrah area. When the homes were built, the refugees were offered ownership of the houses if they relinquished their food assistance from UNRWA for three years.

The Al Kurds are the owners of these two connected homes. The Israeli settlers have illegally occupied the part that is entered by the double doors to the left.

The father of Mohammad Al Kurd received the house and raised his family there. As a young man, Mohammad brought his 15-year-old bride, Fawzieh, home and later they inherited the house from his family. Fawzieh and Mohammad raised their five children in the house, renovated and planned to divide it into sections so one of their sons and his family could continue to live with them, as they grew old.

Fawzieh and Mohammed Al Kurd

Mohammad Al Kurd is now in poor health. He has diabetes, a heart condition, and is partially paralyzed after a stroke. While he was hospitalized in 2001, a group of Zionist settlers broke into part of the house and took up residence. The action was part of an ongoing struggle by a Sephardic Jewish organization to take over this area of East Jerusalem that is historically Palestinian

Another settler has come to visit the settlers illegally occupying part of the Al Kurd home.

After the six days war in 1967, a group of Jewish settlers filed false claims to the land and registered it with the Israeli Land Registrar. This began legal proceedings to determine who had a clear title to the land and if the Jordanian Government had the right to build there. There have been claims and counter claims, eviction notices for both the settlers and the Al Kurd family, and appeals as high as the Israeli High Court (comparable to our Supreme Court.) Intricacies of the legal details would interest only lawyers, but by 2006, after extensive legal proceedings, it was clear that the settlers did not own the land and the Land Registrar agreed to revoke the settlers’ 1972 registration of the land.

When an order of eviction was executed against the settler family, another Israeli Zionist family was installed in the house to replace the one just removed. This has continued for 7 years. The current family has four young children who are understandably confused and hostile to outsiders. The mother and father speak English and it seems they are American immigrants to Israel.

Settler children are sometimes used by their parents to harass others.

Visiting settler children near the "harvest tent" set up in the patio by the settlers for a Jewish feast.

Settlements in Jerusalem contravene both international law and the ‘Road Map” established in the Oslo Peace Accords. The United Nations recognizes East Jerusalem as occupied territory. Therefore, it is subject to the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and consequently rejects Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem. Israel signed onto the Geneva Convention in 1951.

UN Security Council Resolution 446, Article 3, “Calls once more upon Israel, as the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, to rescind its previous measures and to desist from taking any action which would result in changing the legal status and geographical nature and materially affecting the demographic composition of the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, and in particular not to transfer parts of its own civilian population into the occupied Arab territories.”

In spite of the Geneva Convention rules, international law, the US Government’s objections, and the UN Security Council Resolution, the Israeli government is moving settlers or “colonists” into areas that are occupied Arab territories. The settlers’ sold their claims to an investment company, Nahlat Shermoun. In February of 2008, the company filed a plan to the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem to demolish the 28 homes and build a commercial center and 200 settlement units for new Jewish immigrants. We gathered information from local and on-line sources that indicate the primary backer and owner of the company is Irving Moskowitz, an American millionaire based in Florida. He is the owner of Hawaiian Gardens, a casino in a small, poor, Latino town outside of Los Angeles. He transfers the gambling profits to a non-profit foundation that supports extremist views and opposes the peace process. According to the Jewish News Weekly (Sept. 1997), he is also a long-time friend of Benjamin Netanyahu, who is expected to become the next Prime Minister of Israel. Therefore, we have a retired Jewish doctor, living in Florida, responsible for evicting an aging Arab family living in East Jerusalem, in order to fulfill an ultra-orthodox and extremist vision of what Jerusalem should become, and delaying the peace process in the interim.

MPTers enjoyed great meals with the family. This was a special breakfast in the patio.

The Al Kurd family has consistently worked through legal means and non-violent resistance to keep their home and maintain their family life and values. They gather with family and international support for meals in the courtyard outside the two rooms that are left to them. Fawzieh, or Kamal as she is often called, speaks to groups in that courtyard and tells of her long struggle to keep a piece of her heritage and identity.

This year and half year old granddaughter is the pride of her grandparents, the Al Kurds.

This is the first of four parts on the Al Kurd family accompaniment. Three blogs follow this one.

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