Nir Hasson
April 7, 2010 - 12:00am

Settler groups are pushing to evict two more Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, part of a wider program to demolish Palestinian homes in the area to make way for 200 housing units designated solely for Jews.

Over the past six months, Sheikh Jarrah has become a focus of leftist protest and a flash point for clashes between Jews and Arabs claiming ownership of property there.

The settlers' ownership claims are based on Ottoman-era documents that indicate the land on which the contested properties sit belonged to Jews a century ago. Following the Six-Day War in 1967, the properties' original owners - the Sephardic Community Committee - granted Nahalat Shimon, an organization representing the settlers, power of attorney to administer the properties. A court-brokered arrangement classified the Palestinians living there as protected tenants. In at least one case, eviction orders were issued after the tenants did not pay their rent.

A series of judges accepted Nahalat Shimon's eviction orders - each rejecting Palestinians' requests to remain in homes they had acquired as refugees following the 1948 War of Independence.

The settlers have thus far evicted three Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah and inhabited the homes themselves, in effect creating a mini-settlement in the heart of the neighborhood. Violent altercations erupt nearly every day between the settlers and the former tenants, who erected a protest tent nearby after being evicted.

Now the settlers are attempting to remove two additional families living adjacent to a home already acquired by settler groups. In their demand, filed Tuesday with the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, the settlers call for the Palestinians to "immediately clear the property... of all individuals and belongings." The settlers accused the Palestinians of "regularly disturbing and/or bothering and/or threatening their neighbors" as further basis for their removal. Nahalat Shimon also reaffirmed its commitment to building additional housing units for Jews in Sheikh Jarrah.

"This scandalous request offers a glimpse into the settlers' modus operandi," Avner Inbar, a regular participant in protests against the building plan, said Tuesday. "First they place Kahanist thugs in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood, who threaten and abuse residents, then they turn to the courts and ask to have the Palestinians removed from their homes on the pretext that they are disturbing their Jewish neighbors.

"While the eyes of the entire world are fixed on Jerusalem, the Netanyahu government continues to collaborate with a handful of fanatical settlers trying to raise tempers in the city in an effort to quash a peace agreement with the Palestinians," he continued. "It's the obligation of every peace-loving Israeli to join the protests against the settlements in Sheikh Jarrah."


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