Police evicted 16 members of an Arab family in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal Mukkaber yesterday, five years after the family sold their home to an investment company.
Court records show the company appears to be a front for Elad, a right-wing group looking to increase the Jewish presence in some Arab areas of East Jerusalem.
An Elad spokesman said yesterday that though it did help the buyers purchase the home, it was not behind the sale.
The Karein family contested the sale in court, arguing that one of the family members had coerced his father into signing over the deed. The Jerusalem District Court upheld the validity of the sale and ordered the family evicted.
"The family has lived in the home for 45 years," said Imad Karein, one of the family members. "They ran after me to take their money, but they couldn't so they went behind our backs. Now we've been thrown out onto the street."
The family members argue that one of their relatives, Ali Karein, who has since died, agreed to the sale and violently coerced his father into signing away the house. Rashel Naed, the family's lawyer, said the father is illiterate and signed the sale document without knowing what it was.
Documents in Haaretz's possession indicate that the company that bought the home - Lowell Investments, registered in the off-shore tax haven of Australia's Cocos (Keeling ) Islands - appears to be owned by Rene Paul Weichselbaum, a Swiss Jewish businessman.
The company's attorney in Israel, Boaz Fiel of the Jerusalem-based law firm Yigal Arnon, refused to say yesterday who owns it.
He did say the family was evicted only after it refused to reach a deal with the buyer.
"The company bought the property from its legal owners," said Fiel. "Many attempts were made over the years to reach an agreement with the tenants. Unfortunately, the tenants chose to reject the company's offers, even the generous and unusual ones, so there was no choice but to launch eviction proceedings through the bailiff's office."
The Palestinian Authority agreed to put up a financial guarantee to delay the eviction, but the PA took so long to decide on it that there was no time to appeal the court ruling, the family's lawyer said.
Left-wing activists said Lowell Investments - which has been involved in the purchase of several other East Jerusalem properties, including in Silwan and on the Mount of Olives - is functioning as an arm of Elad, a claim that appears to be supported by court records.
Court records show that in 2001 Weichselbaum gave Elad director David Be'eri power of attorney to enable him to represent Lowell Investments in Israel.
In addition, Assaf Navantzel, one of the leaders of the organization, served as the key witness in the court case about the sale of the Jabal Mukkaber home. His testimony indicates he was closely involved in the purchase.
"The company authorized David Be'eri to be its representative in Israel," Navantzel said in court. "I work for him, and on the basis of his instructions, I was involved in the contacts."
Elad is primarily focused on increasing the Jewish population of the City of David, which is in Silwan, and nearby areas. It also aims to increase Jewish tourism there.
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