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East Jerusalem Part I: Update on Sheikh Jarrah Home

On Sunday, 2 August 2009 at 5:30 am the Hanoun and al-Ghawi families were evicted from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem. In total 53 people were evicted, 19 of which were minors. MPT’s summer team members spent two nights at the Hanoun family’s home earlier last week in order to provide a protective presence and international support.

The Israeli police forcibly entered the homes by throwing bricks through windows and blasting open doors. The police closed off the entire neighborhood prior to evicting the families. When the families refused to leave their homes they were forcibly removed by gunpoint. While the Hanoun family was being forced from their home the eldest child was injured by a police officer, his arm is now in a cast. The family’s possessions were removed from their house and put in storage, all of which the family is responsible for paying for. While their belongings were outside on the sidewalk settlers began moving their belongings into the Hanoun household.

During the eviction, 8 internationals who were staying with the family in order to provide a protective presence were arrested and one Israeli activist. The only international that was not arrested was forced from the home and prevented by the police officers from getting his wheel chair. As expressed in his quote from the International Solidarity Movement website:

Jody McIntyre, a British solidarity activist:

I woke up to the sound of a brick through the front window. By the time I could get up, I was being pushed out the door by Israeli forces. They wouldn’t allow me to take my wheelchair and were physically violent towards me and the others in the Hannoun house. The unjust policies of the Israeli government are not just written documents, they affect real families. The government has made the Hannoun and al-Ghawe families homeless, and their only crime is being Palestinian in a system that is racist against them.

The next morning 6 of the 8 activists were released on the condition that they would not return to the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood for three weeks, 1 activist is being deported while another refuses the conditions and has gone on a hunger strike in protest.

Although the families were given the land by the United Nations and Jordanian government because they were refugees after 1948 the Sephardic Community Committee have claimed rights to the land dating back to the Ottoman Empire. This claim has been criticized internationally as Palestinian refugees have proof of land ownership dating before 1948 that Israel does not recognize as legitimate. The Hanoun and al-Ghwi families were also evicted from their homes in 2004 and lived in tents for 4 months before being allowed to return. The Israeli Court ruled that the Hanoun family could remain in the house by granting them a protected tenant status. However, the settler group filed an appeal, which they won, say that the family had violated the agreement.

In the process of these house evictions a tent which another family was living in after being evicted from their home was also destroyed. The United States, European Union, United Nations, and United Kingdom have all publicly criticized the evictions. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday, “The eviction of families and demolition of homes in East Jerusalem is not in keeping with Israeli obligations and I urge the government of Israel and municipal officials to refrain from such provocative actions," (Al Jazeera)

Two more homes in Sheikh Jarrah are scheduled to be demolished in the near future.

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