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Al-Kurd family evicted from their home in East Jerusalem – Eight international solidarity activists arrested from protest camp

Israeli police have evicted the Al-Kurd family from their home in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, and arrested 8 international solidarity activists that were staying on the property.

The evicted Al-Kurd family have been staging a 3 1/2 month popular campaign against their eviction, establishing a protest camp and regular community actions (www.sheikhjarrah.com)

At around 4:30am, Israeli police arrived at the property of the Al-Kurd family. Eight internationals, from the USA, Canada, Britain and Sweden, were situated in the protest camp established on the Al-Kurd family property. They have been arrested and are currently in Israeli custody in Jerusalem.

This eviction has occurred despite international outrage and objections to the planned eviction, including a formal protest from the United States (see http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasen/spages/1005342.html). The decision paves the way for the takeover of 26 multi-storey houses in the neighbourhood, threatening to make 500 Palestinians homeless and signifying the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Occupied East Jerusalem by the Israeli State.

The Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem was built by the UN and Jordanian government in 1956 to house Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war. The Al-Kurd family began living in the neighbourhood after having been made refugees from Jaffa and West Jerusalem. However, with the the start of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, following the 1967 war, settlers began claiming ownership of the land the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood was build on.

Stating that they had purchased the land from a previous Ottoman owner in the 1800s, settlers claimed ownership of the land. In 1972 settlers successfully registered this claim with the Israeli Land Registrar. While the Al-Kurds family continued legal proceedings challenging the settlers claim, the settlers started filing suits against the Palestinian family.

In 2006, the court ruled the settlers claim void, recognizing it was based on fraudulent documents. Subsequently, the Al-Kurd family lawyer petitioned the Israeli Land Registrar to revoke the settlers registration of the land and state the correct owner of the land. Although it did revoke the settlers claim, the Israeli land Registrar refused to indicate the rightful owner of the land. This refusal is in clear defiance of the Courts ruling.

To further complicate the Al-Kurd family’s situation, settlers began occupying an extension of their home. Despite the fact that their claim to the land was revoked, settlers were given the keys of the Al-Kurds family home extension by the local Israeli municipality. This was possible after the municipality had confiscated the keys of the extension tha the Al-Kurd family built on their property to house the natural expansion of the family. When this extension was declared illegal by Israeli authorities, the Israeli municipality handed the keys over to Israeli settlers.

In July 2008 the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the eviction of the Al-Kurd family, for their refusal to pay rent to the settlers for use of the land. Although the settlers claim to the land had been revoked two years earlier, the court instead based their decision on an agreement made between a previous lawyer and the settlers. It should be noted that the Al-Kurd family -and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood as a whole- rejected this agreement and fired their legal representative.

At the same time, the settlers’ association Nahlat Shemoun has issued a proposal to demolish Sheikh Jarrah and built 200 settlement units. The European Union describes the Israeli Government’s actions in East Jerusalem as discriminatory and recognizes a “clear Israeli intention to turn the annexation of East Jerusalem into a concrete fact.” Israel unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem following the 1967 war, despite the illegality of such actions under international law.