First Palestinian Family Evicted From Beit Hanina

Housing project for 'idealistic Jewish couples' planned in East Jerusalem neighborhood, says right-wing activist.

An East Jerusalem Palestinian family was evicted yesterday from its home that a court ruled had been purchased by Jews in the 1970s. The eviction, carried out by the Bailiff's Office with police back-up, gave Jewish residents complete control of three homes in the Beit Hanina neighborhood, paving the way for the first Jewish residential presence in the area.

Aryeh King, a right-wing activist involved in Jewish purchase of Arab East Jerusalem homes, said he intends to seek a building permit for dozens of housing units for Jews on the site. The plot will be developed with apartments selling for less than a million shekels, designed for "idealistic couples," said King, director of the Israel Land Fund, who has been going after the Beit Hanina homes since 2004. He has announced plans to take possession of other sites in Beit Hanina and the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, which would mean further evictions of Palestinians.

Michal Fattal

King earlier had come to an agreement with Palestinian residents to vacate the other two houses, but the Natsheh family, a couple and their nine children, had refused and were evicted yesterday morning without incident.

The father, Khaled Natsheh, had argued in Jerusalem Magistrate's Court the house's documents of sale had been forged, but Judge Yitzhak Shimoni ruled about a year ago that the ownership claim of the Jewish plaintiff, who received assistance from King's organization, was valid, and ordered the Natshehs to vacate. The Palestinian father described the Magistrate's Court as the "settlers' court."

Partial ownership of the site is held by Hebrew University, which received the land from a donor who gave the university his interest in the property in his will. The university unsuccessfully attempted to sell its interest to a Palestinian real estate firm, but was barred from reselling it by the terms of the bequest.

The court case against the Natshehs was filed in 2004 after King located the Jewish owners of the property and assisted them in filing their case. The judge ruled that the Natshehs had presented no proof of their contention that members of their family had possessed the land as far back as the 1940s, and said evidence that the family had maintained a plant on the site was hearsay as they had "no personal knowledge of what transpired on the site before they lived there."