Maher Hannoun: Evicted from his house on August 2nd, 2009
Early in the morning on Sunday, August 2nd, Israeli security forces forcefully evicted two families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The al-Hanoun and al-Ghawi families were physically removed from their houses and literally thrown out on the street. Groups of settlers, in full collaboration with the Israeli security forces, then proceeded to remove all of their belongings from their houses.
The two families became refugees during the Nakba of 1948 (the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians). In 1956, they were settled in Sheikh Jarrah by the Jordanian Government and the UNRWA as part of a program to house 1948 refugees.
In the case of the Hannoun household, the family was evicted by Israel back in 2002 to make room for settlers who had “proved” the land was theirs in 1972. They moved back into their house in 2006 when the Israeli Land Registry agreed to revoke the settlers registration of the land. Unfortunately, but not suprisingly, the Israeli courts refused to recognize this development and the Hannouns were slapped with an eviction notice in March 2009. Since that time, international activists had been sleeping over the house in solidarity with the Hannoun family.
Let’s take a step back and look at the big picture. According to international law, East Jerusalem is Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel has exactly ZERO legal claim over any of the land it acquired in the June 1967 war (East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza). This means that Israel has no legal right to implement its laws in any of East Jerusalem. Additionally, the Israeli courts and the Israeli land registrar have absolutely no legal jurisdiction over any of East Jerusalem. Furthermore, article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (that Israel ratified in 1952) states that “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” What did Israel do the day it evicted the Hannoun and Ghawi families from East Jerusalem? It physically removed Palestinians from their homes and then transferred parts of its own population into the Occupied Palestinian Territories (East Jerusalem).
Following the evictions, the international community unanimously condemned Israel’s policies of forced transfer in occupied East Jerusalem. When asked about the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah the day before, Sec. of State Hillary Clinton said, “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.” I am definitely happy Hillary made a statement, but she didn’t go nearly far enough. The actions of the Israeli government aren’t only “regrettable,” they are cruel, inhumane and illegal.
The UN envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, made searing criticisms, saying “I deplore today’s totally unacceptable actions by Israel, in which Israeli security forces evicted Palestinian refugee families registered with UNRWA from their homes in the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem to allow settlers to take possession of these properties. These actions are contrary to the provisions of the Geneva Conventions related to occupied territory. They also contravene the united calls of the international community, including the Quartet’s, which in its recent statement urged the Government of Israel to refrain from provocative actions in East Jerusalem, including house demolitions and evictions. These actions heighten tensions and undermine international efforts to create conditions for fruitful negotiations to achieve peace.”
The British consulate in Jerusalem issued a statement, “We are appalled by the evictions in East Jerusalem. Israel’s claim that the imposition of extremist Jewish settlers into this ancient Arab neighbourhood is a matter for the courts or the municipality is unacceptable. Their actions are incompatible with Israel’s desire for peace. We urge Israel not to allow extremists to set the Agenda.”
As I’ve said before, and will continue to say until your heads explode; international law on this matter is extremely uncomplicated. Israeli settlements and population transfers are illegal under the 4th Geneva Convention. There is no doubt that Israel wants Jerusalem to be its undivided capital and therein lies the root of the conflict. Under international law and the two-state solution, East Jerusalem is slated to be the capital of the future Palestinian state. When Israeli makes unilateral decisions to undermine the international consensus (by attempting to unlawfully annex East Jerusalem), it perpetuates the conflict. Ethnic cleansing and transfer of indigenous populations have been the cornerstones of Zionism since its inception. As we can see in the case of the Sheikh Jarrah evictions, not much has changed.
On Monday (8/3), I was able to make my way to the al-Ghawi household in Sheikh Jarrah and take some pictures/videos of the situation there. When I tried to go back yesterday (8/4), Israeli border police were preventing anyone who didn’t live in the neighborhood from entering the area; press included.
Here is a video of the settlers who are now occupying the al-Ghawi house (along with their private security guard in the black shirt):
Here are some pictures of the occupying forces outside of the al-Ghawi house protecting the new illegal residents.
Here are pictures of the ideological settlers entering their new “home”.
Gideon Levy wrote a great article in response to the Sheikh Jarrah evictions. The Israeli judicial system granted settlers ownership over the Hannoun and Ghawi properties because they had the proper Ottoman land deeds. Now it must allow all the Palestinians who were expelled or fled in 1948 to move back into their houses in West Jerusalem and Israel proper (provided they have Ottoman land deeds). It must also violently evict the current residents of these houses and toss them out on the street. Otherwise it would be a double standard, right?