Sheikh Jarrah- Emil Salman- March 27, 2010
Left-wing activists demonstrating in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem Mar. 27, 2010 Photo by Emil Salman
Text size

A left-wing group will demand that the state repossess houses in East Jerusalem occupied by settlers to prevent friction with Palestinians and facilitate a peace agreement.

"It's the state's duty to confiscate these properties to prevent a disruption of the social fabric," said former Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair. He was referring to houses occupied by Jewish settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

Ben-Yair and other senior jurists are trying to forge a legal solution to the Sheikh Jarrah clash based on a 1999 legal opinion by former Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement intends to use the jurists' proposal in their campaign.

Mazuz, who was deputy attorney general in 1999, said land belonging to Irwin Moskowitz, the patron of East Jerusalem settlers, may be confiscated to prevent the construction of a Jewish neighborhood in the heart of a Palestinian one. It could also be confiscated to preserve public order and avoid damage to Israel.

The opinion was given in response to a former Jerusalem affairs minister, Haim Ramon, who was looking for ways to prevent the construction of a Jewish neighborhood on land Moskowitz bought in the heart of the neighborhood Ras al-Amud.

The state is authorized to confiscate private land if activities on it could have grave implications on state affairs and public order.

"If a third of East Jerusalem can be confiscated from its Arab residents to build homogenous Jewish neighborhoods, then 14.5 dunams can be confiscated from a Jewish developer to enable the preservation of the existing fabric in Ras al-Amud," left-wing activist Dan Zeidman wrote to Ramon at the time.

Ben-Yair, who was born in Sheikh Jarrah, said he turned down the Custodian General's offer in 1971 to regain ownership of his grandmother's house in the neighborhood because his family had already been compensated with the house of Palestinian refugees in West Jerusalem.

"We lived in the neighborhood until 1948, when we were ordered to evacuate it," Ben-Yair said. After a month "my parents received two apartments in Sheikh Badr [today Romema], which belonged to Arabs who had fled to the eastern side. My grandmother also received a grocery store that used to belong to Arabs, instead of the store in Sheikh Jarrah.

"Every Jew without exception who lived in this neighborhood in 1948 was compensated with properties on the western side. So the whole story is nonsense," Ben-Yair said, referring to settler associations seeking to resettle Jews in formerly Jewish-owned properties in East Jerusalem.

"This is another reason we must accept the results of the War of Independence, otherwise there is no chance of a peace agreement."

Avner Inbar, a leader of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, said "the information exposed today strengthens our claim that Israel is discriminating against the Palestinians and is doing everything to evict and dispossess them."