Posted by: jrodnoble | August 3, 2009

Sheikh Jarrah House Evictions

At about 6:30 in the morning yesterday I received a text message from my roommate.  It read, “Maher house in Shikh Jerah evicted. call rima for details.”  It’s funny how nothing seems very important before 7:00 am.  But ten minutes later I rolled out of bed and headed down the hill to the Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

If you’ve been following the news about Obama and his diplomacy effort in Israeland the Middle East, you know that the settlement issue is a major concern for all parties involved–Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans.  Sheikh Jarrah is one of the most contraversial sites in Israel.  While many moderates in Israel agree that the settlements in the West Bank are bad policy–and Netanyahu has agreed to a temporary freeze of settlements in the West Bank–most Israelis refuse to consider E. Jerusalem occupied territory.  As Netanyahu has repeatedly stated a “united Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel…[and] we cannot accept the idea that Jews will not have the right to live and purchase in all parts of Jerusalem” (qtd. in nytimes).  This policy complicates the peace process for Palestinians who cannot imagine having an independent State without East Jerusalem as its capital (E. Jerusalem at the least).

Sheikh Jarrah has spiraled to the epicenter of these debates.  The legal question is about ownership. Who really owns each house in the neighborhood?  Jewish settlement organizations claim that many of the homes and apartments (which now reside in Palestinian hands) should be reinstated to the orginal families.  20 plus houses have open court cases about this issue in the Sheikh Jarrah area.  But the bigger question is political.  How can the transformation of a Palestinian neighborhood into a Jewish neighborhood hurt or help the opportunity for peace? 

The Maher house (referenced above in the text message) is one of two houses that were evicted on August 2nd; it had been battling in the Israeli court system for about 40 years.  When an eviction notice was finally issued recently, the residents refused to leave.  International supporters began spending the night to (a) delay the eviction and (b) ensure media attention when any activity takes place. 

I rushed to the scene and found the entire street blocked off by police officers.  I joined Ryan, Christina, and Heidi (Denver students) where they congregated outside the baricade with internationals, neighbors, human rights workers, family members, and members of the media.  From what I heard UN representatives were denied access to the site and certainly no NGO workers were allowed in.  But I witnessed a Hungarian consulate gain the authority to enter (what he was doing is unclear)–from what I can guess diplomats were interested.  After a fruitless attempt to get closer, we watched the police escort the new Jewish family into the evacuated home.  Here are some of the photos I snapped:

 

 

Some good news coverage from aljazeera:

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Responses

  1. How sad for these families. What a complicated issue. I am sure that the Jewish families strongly believe they have a right to these properties just as strongly as the Palestinian families believe these properties are truly their homes. It’s hard to see an end to these disputes when issues like these continue to stir-up feelings hate and animosity. How could it not!

  2. Excellent photos, Jake. It’s amazing how long the memories are in this region. From your post, it sounds like the homes have been in Palestinian hands for about forty years. What were the circumstances of the homes coming under Palestinian ownership in the first place?

    • Hey Matt,
      Well the houses have been in possession of the Palestinian families for over 50 years and the court case have been vacillating in and out for close to 40 years. In the end the issue is not about ownership. Who originially owned what home, is an important question (maybe). But the real question is who is allowed to return to their homes and who is not. Palestinians are not allowed. You’re right when you say that the memories are long in this region… they are very long. But they are being manipulated in a way (on both sides) to create a future that will not bring peace. Thanks for the support Matt… what have you been up to this summer?

  3. I don’t believe that the Israels would ever give up any part of Jerusalem.

  4. Jacob, your explanations are so informed and concise. I never understood the Jerusalem controversy between Palestinians and Jews before. Apparently, way before the Jews were given land in Israel these properties belonged to these Palestinian families. The UN displaced them and opened the land to the Jews. What a problem!!

    • I can’t wait to talk to you about it more in depth when I come home on labor day!

  5. So, I guess my question is, who should, then, be living here? Who has the right? Don’t we all? I mean, couldn’t I walk in a buy the home if I wanted to? I’m not sure I understand segregation – why can’t palestinians and jews live among each other? So the house originally belonged to a jewish family… and then a palestinian family… and now a jewish family? I’m not sure who will assume the ownership of my home when I sell it… is it really that important? I guess I’m just trying to grasp the situation better…

    • There’s no doubt that it’s a complicated issue that I’ve parred down to a few paragraphs; but I’ll really enjoy having a conversation with you about this when I get home (on labor day). In the mean time check your e-mail… I’m going to send you a message! I miss you lauren!


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