The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Urgent news from Sheikh Jarrah

November 13, 2020

I’m writing with some urgent news from East Jerusalem that hits very close to home – we’ve just received word that new eviction orders have been issued to four families in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, and they may be forcibly removed as early as Saturday.

Sadly, this is a story we’re intimately familiar with. Sheikh Jarrah was home to Just Vision’s first office and we witnessed the devastating takeover of the neighborhood by right-wing settlers, backed by the Israeli courts and police, over the course of years. The experience of this Palestinian community was chronicled in our 2012 short documentary, My Neighbourhood, and the El-Kurd family – whose teenage son Mohammed sat at the heart of the film – is one of the four who may find themselves homeless in the midst of a pandemic in just a few short days.

Mohammed is watching the heart-breaking developments from his apartment in New York, unable to get home due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, and is asking that we share this story far and wide. You can read his personal appeal – which has more context – below.

While the cases in Sheikh Jarrah are thinly veiled as a legal matter, the political motivations are clear. This latest round of evictions is part of a broader attempt by the Israeli state to forcibly displace Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The process is methodical and impacts thousands of lives on a daily basis. In the past month alone, Israel hid under the US election media frenzy to undertake the largest demolition of Palestinian homes and structures in a decade, and just yesterday, announced a new settlement, Givat Hamatos, that would effectively cut East Jerusalem off from Bethlehem.

This all happens under the United States’ watch – subsequent US administrations have done little to hold the Israeli government to account, and the latest administration has given a carte-blanche for unjust activity like this.

Israeli courts could determine the fate of the El-Kurd family, and several others, in a matter of days. And while the families are appealing the decision, their chances of success are extremely low.

With the courts and police working in lockstep with Israeli settler organizations, Sheikh Jarrah is calling on those in the international community who are concerned about what’s happening to help raise visibility and apply pressure to halt the evictions. Will you share this widely with your networks?

Thank you, and if you have suggestions of ways to amplify this story, please be in touch.

With determination,

Suhad Babaa
Executive Director, Just Vision

From: Mohammed El-Kurd
Subject: Critical Update from Sheikh Jarrah
Date: November 13, 2020 at 2:58:46 PM EST

Hello friends,

I’m reaching out because my family’s home in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, is facing the imminent danger of forced, legally baseless eviction by the Israeli government and settler organizations, alongside 11 other families.

On the 22nd of October, the Israeli magistrate court ruled to evict four Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah—Jaouni, Iskafi, al-Qasim, and my own. The Israeli court also ruled that each family must pay 70,000 shekels in fines and fees to cover the Israeli settlers’ legal expenses. This ruling means that on November 21st, we will lose our homes. Our lives hang in the balance as the Israeli courts determine whether they will hear our appeal.

The Israeli court has continually refused to discuss the land ownership or interrogate the validity of the settler organizations’ claims on a legal technicality. As a result, the court has disregarded documents demonstrating Palestinian ownership of the land, which pre-date those provided by the settler organizations. The likelihood that our appeal will change the current outcome is extremely low.

As some of you may already know, Israeli settlers—backed by Israeli courts and police—have been relentless in stealing our homes in Sheikh Jarrah for decades. Sheikh Jarrah was built in 1956 by UNRWA and Jordanian government after families like mine were made refugees in the Nakba. In 2009, the homes of Ghawi and Hannoun families, as well as half of my home, were taken by settlers under the protection of the Israeli military and police. Today, a total of 12 out of the remaining 24 Palestinian families who live in Sheikh Jarrah are on the brink of homelessness (87 persons, including 30 children).

I’ve been on the phone with my parents a few times since I heard the news. Their response is like that of tens of thousands of Palestinians facing dispossession: we won’t leave. But this resilience isn’t enough to keep their roofs over their heads. We must act fast.

As we know, the Israeli judicial system is created by and for Israeli settlers that benefit endlessly from Israel’s settler-colonial regime. Our lawyers are doing the best they can, but the courts are stacked against us despite our historical ties to the land.

In my brief twenty-two years, I have seen Palestine dwindle in size and spirit: countless families displaced, homes demolished, and entire communities reduced to nothing. This cannot be the fate of Sheikh Jarrah.

That is why I am asking you to help ensure that my community is not erased in silence. For those of you who are well-connected with journalists, editors, and other people of influence, I ask that you share this information to spotlight this urgent situation. I’m happy to provide data and background information on Sheikh Jarrah and answer questions or be connected with media outlets.

We are witnessing Israel wipe out all Palestinian presence from Jerusalem in real-time. We must not stand by quietly.

Mohammed El-Kurd