Palestinian family press conference protesting eviction
JERUSALEM – The U.S. and international media are rife with misleading stories of club-wielding Israeli police evicting Palestinians from homes in Jerusalem, failing to provide proper background information while painting a picture of Jewish expansionist activity that could not be further from the truth.
A BBC article entitled, “Palestinians evicted from Jerusalem,” tells of Israeli police who evicted nine Palestinian families living in two houses in “occupied East Jerusalem.”
“Jewish settlers moved into the houses almost immediately. The U.S. has urged Israel to abandon plans for a building project in the area,” reported the British outlet.
An AFP report, “Israel evicts Palestinians from Jerusalem homes,” begins with a scene of intimidating Jews removing peaceful Arabs from their apartments.
“Israeli riot police wielding clubs kicked out two Palestinian families from their homes in occupied east Jerusalem on Sunday, defying international protests over Jewish settlement activity in the area,” reported AFP.
“I was born in this house and so were my children,” Maher Hanoun, one of the evictees, was quoted as stating. “Now we are on the streets. We have become refugees.”
Reuters reported that Israeli police “evicted two Palestinian families on Sunday from homes in Arab East Jerusalem, and Jews moved in, despite pressure from Israel’s main ally, the United States, to freeze settlements.”
Scores of other news outlets featured similar pieces. Most of the articles focused almost exclusively on international condemnation of the Israeli moves. The pieces did not provide much background on just why these Arabs were being evicted other than one sentence in each article stating an Israeli court ruled the Arabs should be removed.
Most of the pieces did not cite the justification for the court ruling, with the exception of Reuters, which wrongly claimed the decision was based solely on “19th century documents.”
Now, let’s reveal what is really happening.
The housing complex in question is located in the Sheik Jarra neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem. The home was originally Jewish, but its Jewish occupants were chased out during countrywide anti-Jewish Arab riots in 1929. Arabs then squatted on the property, with one family, the Hejazi family, becoming the de facto occupants despite never having purchased the property.
Even though documentation proves the complex is owned by Jews and that Arabs have been squatting on it illegally for almost a century, Jewish groups still legally re-purchased the property from the Hejazi family. Following pressure from the Palestinian Authority, however, the family later denied selling the complex back to the Jews despite documentation and other evidence showing the sale went through.
Israel’s court system, not exactly a friend of Jewish “settlers,” twice ruled now the property undoubtedly belongs to Jews.
Many of the articles on the home use the terms “occupied” and “East Jerusalem.” Reuters called it “occupied Arab East Jerusalem.”
According to the United Nations, eastern sections of Jerusalem are not “occupied” but “disputed.” Referring to the area as “Arab East Jerusalem” presupposes the outcome of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that have yet to take place and ignores British documentation that authenticates Jews outnumbered Arabs in eastern Jerusalem from the 1800’s until Jews were expelled by Arabs in 1929.
Now let’s talk about “East Jerusalem.”
Historically, there was never any separation between eastern and western Jerusalem. The terminology came after Jordan occupied the eastern section of the city, including the Temple Mount, from 1947 until it used the territory to attack the Jewish state in 1967. Israel reunited Jerusalem when it won the 1967 Six Day War, although the Palestinians claim eastern sections for a future capital.
Palestinians never maintained any state or official national entity in Jerusalem. Demographics from the late 1800’s show Jews actually outnumbered Arabs in Jerusalem at the time.
The eviction of squatting Arabs from a Jewish-owned property in Jerusalem follows recent U.S. demands for Israel to halt all “settlement activity,” meaning Jewish construction, in Jerusalem and the strategic West Bank.
Last month, Israel’s ambassador to Washington was summoned by the State Department to demand a Jewish construction project in eastern Jerusalem be immediately halted.
The construction project at the center of attention, a hotel financed by Miami Beach philanthropist Irving Moskowitz, is located just meters from Israel’s national police headquarters and other government ministries. It is a few blocks from the country’s prestigious Hebrew University, underscoring the centrality of the Jewish real estate being condemned by the U.S.
Moskowitz’s housing project, legally purchased, formerly was the house of the infamous mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who spent the war years in Berlin as a close ally of Adolf Hitler, aiding and abetting the Nazi extermination of Jews.
Al-Husseini was also linked to the 1929 massacre of Jews in Jerusalem and Hebron and to other acts of incitement that resulted in death and destruction in what was then called Palestine. Some Palestinians have expressed a desire to preserve the building as a tribute to Husseini.