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SAME NIGHT: peace speeches in Tel Aviv - a family expelled in East Jerusalem

Acts speak louder than words. Few hours after peace speeches by Peres, Barak and Livni at the Rabin Square, police expelled the Al-Kurd Family from their home, on behalf of extreme-right settlers.

On Saturday night, Nov. 8, President Shimon Peres, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni mounted the podium at the mass rally at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square. All three, addressing a mostly young crowd of tens of thousands, reiterated again and again their wish and commitment to the achieving of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The true worth of these pledges was seen a few hours after the crowd dispersed. In the dark of night at about 4.30am, large police forces surrounded the home of the Al-Kurd Family at the Sheikh Jarah Neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, broke down the door and expelled family members from their home. Eight international volunteers from the ISM, citizens of the US, Canada, Britain and Sweden were detained. The Al-Kurd Family members, left dispossesed, were temporarily housed by neighbors.

"I have arrived at the spot when I heard what happened, but there was little I could do except try to consolate the bitterly crying mother of this family, who was so terribly wronged by our country" said Yehiel Gernimann, activist of the Rabbis for Human Rights group.

The expulsion of the Al-Kurd Family was carried out in accordance with a court order recognizing the house as "Jewish Property" according to an Ottoman title deed from 1880. This is a clear and manifest discrimination, since the Al-Kurd Family are refugees from West Jerusalem, and the State of Israel refuses to recognize their title deed to the house where they lived prior to 1948; this, like the title deeds of hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians, was declared null and void in Israeli law under the 1950 "Absentee Properties Law".

Conversely, old title deeds held by Jews are recognized as valid by Israeli courts, making Arab inhabitants into "illegal squatters" in the homes they have inhabited for decades. Some 500 Sheikh Jarah inhabitants face the threat of expulsion on much the same legal grounds. The drive to locate and take possession of such "old Jewish properties" in Sheikh Jarah is energetically coordinated by the settler association "Nahalat Shimon" - patronized by extreme right Knesser Member Benny Elon, an outspoken advocate of "Population Trensfer" (i.e. ethnic cleansing) of all Palestinians.

Several months ago the United States lodged a protest at Israel's intention to expel the Al-Kurd family from their home, and implementation of the expulsion was at that time put off. But now, the Government of Israel is evidently trying to take advantage of the interregnum in Washington, with Bush being a "lame duck" and Obama not yet entered into the White House.

Foreign Minister Livni had gone yesterday to Sharm A-Sheikh in order to "report to the Quartet on the progress of negotiation with the Palestinians". The expenses of her flight could have been saved, by inviting the Quartet representatives to come to the Sheikh Jarah, see the actual situation with their own eyes, and come to the obvious conclusion about the "progress of the negotiations".

Contact: Adam Keller, Gush Shalom spokesperson