The state has promised that a synagogue and married men’s yeshiva built without permits on privately owned Palestinian land in the Givat Ze'ev settlement will be demolished by next March, after it turned out the purchase deeds to the land were forged.
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The buildings to be torn down are part of a stone enclosure on the slopes of Givat Ze'ev, on the lands of the village of Jib. In 1998, settlers began the construction of Ayelet Hashahar synagogue, and in 2008, the construction of a yeshiva for newly religious married men belonging to an organization called “Banayich Zion.” The entire enclosure is on the land owned by Raba'a Allatif, a resident of Jib.
In July 2008, Allatif, represented by attorneys Michael Sfard and Shlomi Zacharia, along with Yesh Din, an NGO supporting Palestinian rights under Israeli occupation, petitioned the High Court of Justice, demanding that the Israel’s Civil Administration carry out existing demolition orders. In response, Givat Ze'ev residents argued that they purchased the land. High Court justices issued a temporary injunction forbidding further construction and canceled the petition.
Allatif then complained to police that the purchase documents for the land, dated 1991, were forged. The police closed the case, but following an appeal, it was reopened. The report of the Division of Identification and Forensic Science revealed that the signatory on the document was both the buyer and the seller of the land. Still, police closed the case against the suspects due to lack of evidence.
Allatif and Yesh Din then petitioned the High Court of Justice again in December 2011, demanding the demolition of the buildings. Last Tuesday, attorney Hani Ofek of the State Prosecutor's Office presented the state's updated position, which stated, with the consent of the Defense Minister's adviser for settlements, that the buildings will be demolished by March 1st, 2014, either by the property holders or by the state.
Sfard, Allatif's attorney, leveled criticism at the legal system and expressed hope that the family will return to its land soon.
“How embarrassing that a synagogue was built on stolen land and on the basis of forged documents," he said. "How typical that it took 15 years, three attorneys and two petitions to the High Court of Justice to get the police to investigate a complaint by Palestinians that their land had been stolen by Israelis, and conclude that it really had been stolen as they have been claiming all those years. How sad that experience shows that the state’s duty to clear the land of squatters is not necessarily fulfilled.
"Our legal struggle will continue until the Allatif family resumes working its land, and I hope that it will happen soon.”