The Biden administration has to get tough on Israel, if it wants to make a difference in the Middle East.
“If I don’t steal your home, someone else will steal it,” was the answer given by an Israeli settler to Mona al-Kurd, a young Palestinian woman who accused him of stealing her home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in the occupied East Jerusalem.
The dialogue, captured on video by Palestinian activist Tamer Maqalda on Saturday, shows 22-year-old al-Kurd confronting the settler in the garden of her family home.
In the video, al-Kurd is heard telling the settler in English: “Jacob, you know that this is not your home.”
The settler replies in a thick US accent: “Yes, but if I go, you don’t go back, so what’s the problem? Why are you yelling at me?”
This doesn't describe the Israeli occupier's logic only; it also describes the rudeness of those who support the Israeli colonial policies of expropriating the Palestinian occupied lands. pic.twitter.com/OSB0QejwCT
— Ramy Abdu| رامي عبده (@RamAbdu) May 1, 2021
The response provoked al-Kurd, who told him “You are stealing my house!”
“If I don’t steal it, someone else will steal it,” Jacob answers. “So why are you yelling at me?”
“No one is allowed to steal my home!” al-Kurd shouts.
Jacob then says in Hebrew: “This is not mine in order to return it.”
In recent months, the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood saw a series of sit-ins by Palestinians to protest against Israeli orders for them to vacate their homes, which they have described as a continuation of the ethnic cleansing that began with the Nakba in 1948.
On Monday night, dozens of Israeli forces stormed the neighbourhood and assaulted Palestinian families by beating and shooting tear gas and sound bombs at them. According to local Palestinian media, 20 people were injured, and at least four Palestinian men and one girl were arrested, with two being released on Tuesday.
These violations happened at the request of the Israeli settlers taking over our homes. I can’t get the voice of our neighbors’ children screaming out of my head. This is a nation of terrorists. Israel is fascist and genocidal. pic.twitter.com/UocsuBLgfr
— #SaveSheikhJarrah (@m7mdkurd) May 4, 2021
Half of the al-Kurd family home was taken over by Israeli settlers in 2009. Al-Kurd’s twin brother Mohammed previously told Al Jazeera that sharing their home with “squatters with Brooklyn accents” was “insufferable, intolerable [and] terrible”.
“They are just sitting in our home, tormenting us, harassing us, doing everything they can to not only force us to leave the second half of our home but also harassing our neighbours into leaving their homes as part of an effort to completely annihilate the presence of Palestinians from Jerusalem,” Mohammed said, who was 11 years old when the settlers forced their way in.
Last March, the Israeli district court in occupied East Jerusalem ratified orders for six Palestinian families – the al-Kurds included – in Sheikh Jarrah to vacate their homes in order to make way for the settlers. The same court also ruled that another seven families should leave their homes by August 1.
On Sunday, Israel’s Supreme Court postponed its ruling regarding these families who threatened with displacement from their homes in favour of mostly private US-funded settler organisations. The court gave the families until Thursday to reach an “agreement” with the settlers, which is based on paying the settlers rent and recognising them as the landlords of their own homes.
The court’s terms of agreement have been condemned by the Palestinian families.
“The inherently unjust system of Israel’s colonial courts is not considering questioning the illegal settler’s ownership and has already decided on the families’ dispossession,” a statement from the families said.
— #SaveSheikhJarrah (@m7mdkurd) May 2, 2021
The 28 Palestinian families arrived at the Karm al-Jaouni area of Sheikh Jarrah as refugees in 1956. Under an agreement with the Jordanian government and the UN refugee agency UNRWA, the homes were built in exchange for a revocation of their refugee status and the promise that these families would own the homes after three years.
The promise was never fulfilled, and in 1967 Jordan lost its mandate over the West Bank and East Jerusalem after the territories were occupied by Israel.
Israeli settlement groups said Palestinian families had built their homes on land owned by Jews before 1948 and that they must vacate these homes, but Palestinian cartographer Khalil Toufakji refuted those claims.
Toufakji said he found the land deed that negates any Jewish ownership of the area at the time after digging through the archives in Ankara 11 years ago.
“I presented it to the Israeli district court, which promptly rejected it,” Toufakji told Al Jazeera.
In the last years, Palestinians evacuated three homes in the neighbourhood, after Israeli court decisions. There are 38 Palestinian families currently under the threat of eviction.