Court Orders Dozens of Palestinians Out of Jerusalem Homes to Make Way for Settlers
Judges base evacuation orders in two cases on claims to Jewish ownership of property from before 1948, which the law permits for Jews only
A Jerusalem court ordered last week, in two separate cases, the eviction of dozens of Palestinian residents from their homes in East Jerusalem. The beneficiaries will be settler associations who argued that the homes belonged to Jews before 1948.
Under Israeli law, property restitution from before the 1948 war is allowed only to Jews, while Palestinians have no right to claim property abandoned before 1948. In both cases, right-wing activists had worked to evict residents since the purchase of land or the control of an Ottoman-era bequest.
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Judge of the Magistrates Court in Jerusalem, Efrat Eichenstein ruled that 26 members of the al-Fatah Rajbi family living in the Batin al-Hawa neighborhood in Silwan should hand over their homes to Ateret Cohanim. The family has lived there since 1966, after the grandfather bought the land from a Palestinian seller. However, the court accepted the claim of Ateret Cohanim’s representatives that the Jews owned the land before 1948 as part of a Yemeni neighborhood in Silwan.
The land belonged to a legacy of the Ottoman era registered in the name of a Benvenist Moshe Moshe. The District Court in Jerusalem accepted a request from three members of Ateret Cohanim to become land administrators in 2001. Those who have since sued about 700 Palestinians living on land belonging to the faith, in order to expel them. In one of Ateret Cohanims’ many trials, the court ordered the expulsion of 11 families, numbering 67, from Batin al-Hawa. The families appealed to the Jerusalem District Court, which has not yet issued a final decision.
Peace Now said after the ruling: “For every dunam of land owned by Jews before 1948 that was lost in the war, there are hundreds of thousands of dunams of land in Israel that were owned by the Palestinians before 1948 and were lost. Settlers demand expulsion of Palestinians based in pre-1948 ownership is a strategic threat to the moral justification of hundreds of thousands of Israelis living on Palestinian property and land.
In a similar case in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, Judge Miriam Lifshits ruled that three Palestinian families living in the neighborhood since the 1950s should evacuate their homes and hand them over to a company owned by right-wing activists. The Jordanian government and the United Nations built homes for Palestinian refugees in the 1950s. In this case, the company, Nahalat Shimon, proved that the land belonged to the Sephardic Jewish community council and the Ashkenazi council before 1948 and was sold to it in the 1990s. claims of enterprises and ordered the eviction of residents by the end of August. It also ordered the Palestinians to pay the plaintiffs 30,000 shekels ($ 8,800) in court fees.
On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal of a 78-year-old Silwan resident against eviction from his home. His landlord had sold the house to the settlers ‘association Elad, which is seeking his eviction, but a Magistrates’ Court recognized him as having defended the rights of the tenants. The court ruled that the association was entitled to evict him but would have to pay 360,000 shekels in damages. The District Court in Jerusalem rejected the appeals of both parties. The Supreme Court ruled that the husband should leave by mid-October.
In June, Silwan residents filed a petition against Ateret Cohanim and the Benevolent Trust Registrar, arguing that the association has a serious conflict of interest with the Benvenist Trust and is not respecting the original trust, which was established 120 years ago for it. benefited poor cities. The claimants argue that, by taking control of the land, the association has effectively become the owner of the land. Judge Eichenstein acknowledged the trust position, ordered the houses to be evacuated by next April, and ordered the Palestinians to pay the trust 7,500 shekels.
Photo: A demonstration of support for Palestinian families outside a hearing on their evacuation in the Jerusalem District Court, 30 June 2020. Source: Ohad Zwigenberg.