'Great injustice': Palestinian family on brink of eviction by Israel from home of 50yrs speaks to RT
The Shamasne family have been living in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood since 1964, when the area was under Jordanian rule. When Israel took over East Jerusalem in 1967, nobody claimed the rights to the property.
The issue came to light after an Israeli right-leaning settler group, the Israel Land Fund, found the previous owners of the house several years ago.
“We lived for 53 years in this house, it is a great injustice. Israel should give us back our land. They take our homes and claim it is theirs,” 76-year-old Fahmiah Shamasne told RT.
Under Israeli law, property proven to have been owned by Jews before 1948 can be reclaimed. Four years ago the Shamasnes lost their appeal to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the family must hand over their home.
The Palestinians were to leave last week amid police inspections of the building and threats of forceful eviction. The decision has sparked anger among the Arab population of East Jerusalem, who staged prayers outside the house in a show of protest.
“The police are threatening us. We don’t know what to do, we are sitting here like fools. We don’t know whether to stay or leave. We have nowhere to go to,” the elderly woman told AFP news agency. She added that her 84-year-old husband will not leave unless he is forced to.
“Maybe if we were to find at least a room we could leave. But even if you were to drag out my husband and kick him, he would refuse to go.”
Other members of the family also made it clear that they would not give up the place where they spent their whole lives. The couple’s, Mohammed Shamasne, said he would struggle for the family property.
Meanwhile, Arye King, director of the Israel Land Fund, which won a court battle to claim the elderly couples house, says the Palestinian family must obey the court ruling.
“I am the owner - it is like being an owner in the middle of Paris or the middle of London - to tell your tenant to go out and he is telling you, ‘no. I don’t want to go out.’ This is what the Shamasnes did. After all they don't want to go out from our apartment, so then we told them we took them to court,” King told RT.
The Shamasnes are not the only family on the verge of forceful eviction in East Jerusalem. At least 44 other Arab families face the same threat, according to Free Jerusalem activist Uri Agnon.
“The situation now in Sheikh Jarrah is truly awful. The idea that these seven people [in the Shamasne family] may be evicted from their homes any day now is something that troubles each and every person in Jerusalem and not only in it,” Agnon said in an interview to RT.
The word is turning a blind eye to the problem as Israel has a powerful lobby abroad, the activist believes.
“Palestinians are being talked about a lot and the issue of the occupation is being brought up again and again in different places around the world, but the actual action has not really been taken because, I think, Israel has a very strong lobby around the world.”
Law is unjust – Israeli ex-attorney general
The Palestinian family’s claims to their property in Sheikh Jarrah were supported by former Attorney General of Israel Michael Ben-Yair, whose relatives also had to flee the eastern part of the city in 1948.
“The current Israeli law that enables double compensation only for Jews for [lost] properties in East Jerusalem from the times before 1948 is unjust,” Ben- Yair said, as cited by the Jerusalem Post.
The Israeli authorities should let the current inhabitants of the disputed house stay and give them all the necessary rights to it, Ben-Yair added.
Meanwhile, the fate of the Shamasne family as well as others facing eviction has caused grave concern from the European Union missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
“The EU calls on the Israeli authorities to reconsider these decisions,” the missions said in a statement on Friday, adding that some 180 households in the area are also facing the threat of eviction.
Brussels and the UN have repeatedly condemned Israel's settlement policy, including evictions and demolitions.
“The settlement policy is illegal under international law, and its continuation undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace,” the EU missions stated.