Palestinian families fighting legal battle against settlers to keep their homes in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM, Thursday, Some 60 Palestinian families are currently fighting a legal battle against Israeli settlers to keep their homes in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem.

On Tuesday, the Israeli High Court adjourned a hearing on the issue of the ownership of 15 dunums of land known as Karam al-Ja’ouni in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in the heart of East Jerusalem.

Sami Irsheid, an attorney representing the Palestinian families, explained that the High Court postponed a decision on the appeal filed by the families regarding ownership of the land after Jewish organizations claimed ownership of the same plot and registered it in 1972 as theirs. They later got court orders to evacuate the people living on this land.

Residents of Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood said they have been living in these homes since the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and Jordan’s Ministry of Construction built them in 1956 to provide housing for Palestinian refugees who fled their homes following the 1948 Nakba. Twenty eight homes are built on this land where about 100 families live.

Twelve other homes in the same area where Palestinians have lived for decades have already been forcibly evacuated from their residents and turned over to Jewish settlers.

Khalil Tufakji, director of the land department in the Orient House, said that the issue of the land in Sheikh Jarrah began in 1967 when this property was considered Jewish-owned but it was used by UNRWA to build homes for the Palestinian refugees.

He told WAFA that Israel wants to use this land to build a settlement for Jews that would link occupied East Jerusalem with West Jerusalem.

He pointed out that going to the High Court came after the failure of the lower courts to rule in these cases, explaining that several houses have already been evacuated by force in this area for the benefit of settlers where Jewish religious establishments were later built.

Tufakji said that after taking these lands and linking them to the Moskowitz settlement project in nearby Karm al-Mufti in Sheikh Jarrah, it will create a settlement bloc stretching from West Jerusalem through the western and eastern neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah to the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus.

The Moskowitz project was launched in 2005 with the aim of establishing a Jewish colony in Sheikh Jarrah with the support of Jewish businessman Irving Moskowitz on the Shepard Hotel site, which Moskowitz owned in 1985. It includes the construction of 90 housing units in six buildings. Shepard Hotel, an East Jerusalem historical landmark, was demolished in 2011 as a prelude to building the settlement.

The Shepherd Hotel belongs to the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, and after the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property has seized it, the hotel was sold to the American millionaire Irving Moskowitz, nicknamed “the godfather of settlements.”

Adnan Ghaith, the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem, told WAFA that “Judaization” and Israelization of the holy city is a priority of the Israeli government, which supports settlement expansion at the expense of the Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem. However, he added, what is happening in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and our occupied capital is contrary to all international norms and conventions as well as the international legality.

He stressed the necessity of providing international protection to the Palestinian people, who are in need of all possible means of support to reinforce their steadfastness to face the challenges and practices aimed at uprooting them from their land.

Source: Palestinian News & Info Agency