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The Guardian: Israeli police evict Palestinian couple from home of 52 years

By Rory McCarthy

To view original article, published by The Guardian on the 10th November, click here

Israeli police have evicted a disabled Palestinian man and his wife from the home where they had lived for 52 years, in a Palestinian district of east Jerusalem which is now surrounded by hardline Jewish settlers. The eviction came after years of litigation which culminated in an Israeli supreme court ruling in July ordering them out of the house.

Several foreign governments, including the US and Britain, had tried to intervene on behalf of Muhammad and Fawzieh al-Kurd, but without success.

Most of the international community has not recognised Israeli sovereignty over east Jerusalem, which was captured in the 1967 war and annexed soon afterwards.

Palestinians have long argued that such evictions, as well as house demolitions, are an attempt by Israel to reduce the number of Palestinians in east Jerusalem, to allow settlement expansion and to pre-judge a final status peace agreement.

“It is damaging the peace between Palestinians and Israelis,” Rafiq Husseini, chief of staff to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said. “They have to halt their settlers or they will not have peace with us.”

An Israeli police spokesman said the eviction was in accordance with the court’s decision.

Kurd and his parents were among several families of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war for the creation of Israel who were housed in the Sheikh Jarrah district in 1956, when it was under Jordanian control. Kurd’s family were from Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, and his wife’s family were from Talbeyieh, in west Jerusalem. Under an agreement with the UN agency for Palestinian refugees – the UN Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA – the families gave up their food ration cards and were given the properties under a 33-year lease. They were told the homes would then revert to full ownership as long as they paid a token rent and kept them in good order.

However, it appears that the land was previously owned in the late 19th century by Jews – it is close to an old Jewish tomb long popular with pilgrims.

After 1967, when Israel captured east Jerusalem, the land was given to two rabbis who appeared to be heirs to the 19th century owners. The Kurd family say their then Israeli lawyer made the agreement without their knowledge. The couple became “protected tenants”, liable to pay rent to their new Israeli landlords. However, they refused on principle.

As soon as police evicted the couple on Sunday at 4am, a group of Jewish settlers moved in. “Because we are Palestinians they have to humiliate us like this?” said Fawzieh al-Kurd, 57. “Don’t we deserve to live in peace on our land?”

UNRWA said the eviction was “shameful” and said it would continue to assist the family.

Although Israel’s absentee property laws were applied against the Kurd family, they are rarely, if ever, applied on properties in Israel that were owned by Palestinians before the 1948 war.