Home Archive 22/November/2018 01:44 PM

Israeli High Court upholds removal of dozens of Palestinian families from their homes

 

JERUSALEM, Thursday, November 22, 2018 (WAFA) - The Israeli High Court upheld on Wednesday a decision to remove dozens of Palestinian families from their homes in Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, after rejecting a petition by the families (104 residents) and allowing the Jewish settler group, Ateret Cohanim, to continue with plans to expel 700 Palestinians from their homes after claiming the homes were built on land owned by Jews before 1948.

The decision was taken despite acknowledgment by the judges that Ateret Cohanim’s actions in seizing the land were flawed and raised questions about the legality of transferring the land to the right-wing group.

Ateret Cohanim, which champions Jewish settlement activities in occupied Jerusalem, had asked the court to expel the Palestinian families from their homes and to seize the whole area and the buildings erected on it under the pretext of its ownership by Jews more than 120 years ago.

The settlement organization, which in 2001 claimed the right to administer Jewish property, claimed that it had owned the land before 1948 and began in September 2015 to hand over letters to residents of the neighborhood confirming its ownership of the land and buildings. The residents responded to these letters and the claims against them as well as several decisions issued by the Magistrates Court and the District Court in Jerusalem claiming the right of Ateret Cohanim to own the land that amounts to 5.2 dunums in area where hundreds of Palestinians live.

The affected Silwan residents stressed that the claim by Ateret Cohanim that it owns the land is false because the land in question, according to the Ottoman law that was in force at the time, can only be disposed of by a special order from the Sultan. They said that the buildings owned by the Jewish organizations were destroyed in the late 19th century. Therefore, the organizations represented by Ateret Cohanim do not have any right to the land and if the court had ruled that the organizations had the right to the buildings themselves, these buildings have already been demolished.

In order to support their argument, the plaintiffs from Baten al-Hawa area in Silwan presented the court with a previous ruling in which the Custodian of Absentee Property had rejected transferring land ownership in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem to the Islamic Waqf by claiming the land was miri, that is no one can disposed of it except by order from the Sultan.

The court claimed that part of one of the buildings that belonged to the Jewish organizations survived the demolition, which justified the transfer of ownership of the land, and not just the buildings, to the settlement organization. Therefore, the court ruled that it is the right of those concerned to build a new synagogue on the ruins of what was demolished in the 19th century after evicting the inhabitants of the neighborhood.

Despite all the legal gaps in the transfer of land to Ateret Cohanim, the court decided not to intervene in the decision of the so-called Custodian of Absentee Property and considered that this was a result of "the difficulties inherent in the legal settlement of this type of cases, and not based on the discretion of the guardian.”

The court said that the Magistrate Court, which would deal with the eviction of the Palestinian residents from their homes in Silwan, would have to decide on questions concerning the classification of the land. At the conclusion of its decision, the judge wrote: "The many question marks that have arisen in this context remain to be clarified in future actions that will be taken."

M.K.

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