Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

Sheikh Jarrah, Occupied East Jerusalem – The Salem family lives in fear and dread and awaits the impending forced relocation of the house in which they have lived since 1951 – currently the home of three generations.

After Israeli settler NGOs filed a claim on the property, an Israeli court ruled last year that the family of 11, including four children, in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, which occupied East Jerusalem, by December 29, 2021 had to be driven out by force.

The forced eviction was temporarily halted by an Israeli court on December 23 after a police request for protests and confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli forces.

But it will now take place this month on an unspecified date, with the family unable to make further appeals.

The eviction notice was delivered on December 9 by a right-wing Israeli activist and Jerusalem City Councilor Yonatan Yosef to the family’s matriarch, 74-year-old Fatima Salem.

He, along with Jerusalem’s deputy mayor, Arieh King, claimed to have bought the house from its Jewish owners who owned the property before 1948.

The Salem family became refugees in 1948, when some 700,000 Palestinians were forcibly evicted from their homes and land when Israel was established.

In 1951, the family rented the house under a protected tenancy agreement from the Jordanian custodian of hostile property, which was established to handle property taken from Jews in areas controlled by Jordan after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Israel later took control of East Jerusalem during the 1967 war.

“My parents have lived here since 1951. I was born here, I got married here and I gave birth to all my children here. “My three sons, their wives and children all live here now,” Fatima told Al Jazeera.

“We have no other place to go and we can not afford to rent a new place. We may end up in the street in the cold and rainy winter weather.

“The stress is unbearable. We all struggle to sleep at night and it makes my health problems worse. ”

The Palestinian residents also questioned the authenticity of documents provided by the settlers to prove ownership of the Salem family home.

Fatima Salem Sheikh JarrahFatima Salem (74) was born in the house that the settlers are trying to take over [Al Jazeera]

Meanwhile, while Israel applies laws that allow Jewish settlers to take over land and property in East Jerusalem that they claim to have lived in before the 1948 war, the same laws do not apply to Palestinians who have suffered forced evictions from their homes to the state of Israel.

According to at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at least 970 Palestinians, including 424 children, are at risk of forced eviction in East Jerusalem due to cases brought before Israeli courts, mainly by Jewish settler groups, with support of the Israeli government.

Forced relocations and settlements are violations of international law.


Media interest in the Salem family affair has been heightened by 22 European diplomats who visited the Salem family’s home and last year saw an increase in evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes.

By 2021, at least 317 Palestinians have been forcibly evicted from their homes in East Jerusalem, according to OCHA (PDF), while 161 structures were demolished under the pretext that they did not have a building permit, making it difficult for the Israeli authorities to obtain.

The head of the EU’s mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, said he was shocked by the Salem family’s pending eviction, and urged Israel to stop it.

“Eleven people living in the Salem family’s home are threatened with eviction in the next few days, during Christmas and in the middle of winter,” von Burgsdorff told media at the premises when he visited on December 23. .

“For me, as a Christian, it is difficult to imagine. This is occupied territory. People have every right to live here. They were evacuated from West Jerusalem in 1948 and found refuge here. And after 70 years, the authorities want to evict them again and turn them into refugees again.

“It is inhuman and unjust.”

Ibrahim Salem, Fatima’s son, said the settlers were making their lives miserable, especially on weekends when they were virtually under siege, curtailed by Israeli settlers on both sides.

The neighborhood is also cordoned off by Israeli forces to prevent supporters and friends from joining the family in solidarity, he added.

“Groups of settlers move in under the protection of the police and throw abuse and stones at the family and our house, demanding that we leave and tell us the house and land belong to them,” Ibrahim told Al Jazeera.

“The police just look and do nothing. “If any Palestinians respond, either orally or with stones, they will be beaten and arrested.”

Setlaar motors Sheikh JarrahSeveral cars belonging to Israeli settlers in the area were set on fire by Palestinians [Al Jazeera]

Last Friday, Ibrahim and Fatima were assaulted by settlers and police, taking Fatima to a hospital in an ambulance.

Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters, sound grenades and physically assaulted residents, activists and journalists, according to OCHA.

At least one journalist and one Israeli border policeman were injured in the altercation.

‘Expect more violence’

Last year, the pending evictions of other Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah sparked a military confrontation between Palestinian armed groups in the besieged Gaza Strip and the Israeli army, sparking an 11-day war.

On November 2, four Palestinian families facing forced relocation in Sheikh Jarrah unanimously rejected an Israeli court’s proposal, requiring them to accept settler ownership of the land in East Jerusalem on which their homes lie.

The case of Sheikh Jarrah, according to a UN Special Rapporteur report, “has become marked by the threats of forced relocation facing many Palestinian families in East Jerusalem with the aim of establishing a Jewish majority in the city and creating irreversible demographic facts on the ground”.

Ibrahim Salem Sheikh JarrahIbrahim Salem and his daughter Fatima [Al Jazeera]

Meanwhile, the Salem family fears for its future.

Ibrahim’s wife, Sabreen, said she was worried about surviving the winter conditions if her family was made homeless and forced to sleep outside. She said her eight-year-old daughter, Fatima, is experiencing nightmares given the uncertainty about their future.

“Every time she hears the confrontations outside, or the settlers shouting, she gets very scared and starts shaking,” Sabreen told Al Jazeera.

“We expect more violence this Friday when the settlers return to our neighborhood.”

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