Contextual Content

Homeless in East Jerusalem

On August 2, Israeli riot and border police evicted two Palestinian families
from their homes in East Jerusalem, claiming the land on which their
houses were built belongs to Jews. The court ruling was the result of a
Jewish settlers’ association claiming there were Jewish inhabitants in the
region in the 1930s. Lia Tarachansky spoke to the evicted families, and to
Stephen Lendman, Research Associate at the Center for Research on
Globalization about whether the same could happen to Jewish families.

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Story Transcript

Homeless in East Jerusalem

Producers: L. Tarachansky, C. Wolfson, & B. Buntin

LIA TARACHANSKY, TRNN: In the early hours of August 2, the Israeli riot and border police burst into the homes of the al-Ghawe and Hannoun families and evicted them. The two families make up 58 newly homeless men, women, and children. They say they are the latest in an Israeli campaign to ethnically cleanse occupied East Jerusalem in a state effort to make the neighborhood more Jewish.

MAHER HANNOUN, HOMEOWNER, EVICTED AUG. 2: We are asking all the world to help us. Like the UNRWA, and the UN, and the US, the European union, we are asking all those countries and organizations to help us return back to our houses and to stop evacuate all the neighborhood, because as I know, they don’t have any right to evacuate anybody from here.

TARACHANSKY: Their outcry attracted wide media coverage and strong support from both Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations who have been involved in the fight against evictions of Palestinians from East Jerusalem for years. This eviction became so publicized, the United states government was compelled to comment.

HILLARY CLINTON, US SECRETARY OF STATE: I think these actions are deeply regrettable. I have said before that the eviction of families and demolition of homes in East Jerusalem is not in keeping with Israeli obligations. And I urge the government of Israel and municipal officials to refrain from such provocative actions.

TARACHANSKY: But the eviction is only the latest in a series. In November, the al-Kurd family was evicted from their house in the middle of the night. The family was forced to move to a tent beside their house. The eviction led to a severe deterioration in Mohammad al-Kurd’s health, and he died, leaving his wife, Um Kamel, alone in their tent through the winter. The tent was erected on private property across the street from the al-Kurd house, but was still demolished several times by Israeli authorities. al-Kurd, Hannoun, and al-Ghawe are but a few of the dozens of families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood who have received an eviction notice late last year. The notice was the result of decades of legal fighting between Jewish settlers and the Palestinians of East Jerusalem. Maher Hannoun’s house was built by the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) and the Jordanian government, which, until the Israeli occupation of 1967, ruled the West Bank. The houses were built as compensation for these families, who were expelled from Israel when the state was created, due to the war of 1948. The courts ruled in May that the families were in contempt of court for refusing to pay rent to the Jewish settlers organization that claims ownership over the land. The courts, however, did not stipulate what would happen if other nationalities who lived on the land before would contest their ownership. The Ottoman Empire ruled over the area for centuries, so perhaps one can argue that Turkish citizens can lay claim to that neighborhood too. Before, there were European Crusaders, the Romans, the Canaanites, the Greeks. We can maybe even go as far back as the ancient Egyptian takeover thousands of years ago. The contention becomes where to draw the arbitrary statute of limitations, the beginning of land claims. But the argument doesn’t need to be stretched that far. The real question lies in what would happen if Palestinians were to claim the houses from which they were expelled only 61 years ago, which today are inhabited by Israelis. The Real News spoke to Stephen Lendman, cohost of the Global Research Hour and research associate for the Centre for Research on Globalization, about this question. Lendman explains that the reverse could not happen, because immediately after the creation of the state, Israel instituted a series of laws preventing Palestinian refugees from claiming rights to their homes and restricting sale of land and houses.

STEPHEN LENDMAN, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE, CENTRE FOR RESEARCH ON GLOBALIZATION: Well, after the ’47-’48 war, beginning in June 1948, Israel began enacting laws to solidify the new state of Israel, to legitimize the new state, to legitimize the seizure of Palestinian land to make it exclusively for Jewish use. June 1948, the Abandoned Areas Ordinance, it referred to, in quotes, "any area or place conquered by or surrendered to armed forces or deserted by all or part of its inhabitants." Well, just think for a moment. Abandoned. People were running for their lives, the ones that weren’t killed. So Israel calls this abandoned land, surrendered, and basically said this law says that Palestinians are prohibited from returning and claiming their property. The land was no longer theirs, and the property on it was no longer dares. And that meant that Palestinians lost all rights and were subject to whatever laws Israel enacted. And it went on. There were other laws. There was one in 1950 called the Absentees’ Property Law. Basically it’s talking about the same thing. Another one in March 1950, the Development Authority Transfer of Property Law, this was a legal ploy to to shield Israel from being accused of confiscating abandoned Palestinian land. But, again, Palestinians who ran for their lives, as anybody would, they’re prohibited from going back. Israel took the land. It’s now theirs. Case closed. The Israeli land authority is able to allocate lands exclusively for Jews and prohibit Palestinians from having them by a very simple process. Laws are enacted. The Israeli Knesset, the Israeli parliament, enacts laws and basically lays out the premises, the legal premises, that these lands will be for Jews, they will not be for Palestinians. And it could be various laws that are passed at different times. Sometimes laws are proposed and not passed, but they all come down to the same thing: these lands will be for Jews. And there are greater laws that go beyond just land that essentially say Israel is a Jewish state for Jews.

TARACHANSKY: Today the Israeli settlers are represented through various community associations funded by millionaires in the United States. These associations, such as Ateret Cohanim, which fought to evict Palestinians from the neighborhoods of Silwan, ["sa-DEE-ya"], and Wadi Joz, and Nahalat Shimon International that’s now fighting to evict these families of Sheikh Jarrah. Immediately after the August 2 eviction, the Jewish settlers moved into the houses of the Hannoun and al-Ghawe families. The same happened to the al-Kurd family home and the homes of other Palestinians evicted from other East Jerusalem houses.

LENDMAN: This goes on all the time. The authorities simply come in and order either an evacuation or their homes to be demolished, and Palestinians have to get out or else. So people who’ve lived in who’ve lived in their homes [inaudible] they could have lived there for many years, they were ordered out.

HANNOUN: They kicked us out. We will be homeless, because we are refugees, and we are refugees again now. And we are here, as you see, sleeping on the street.

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.