Israeli Court: Real Estate Transaction That Evicted Palestinian Family Was Forged

Lawyers will now ask the Israel Defense Forces to remove a Torah institute from the home.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

The Jerusalem District Court has ruled that a real estate deal by a settler purchasing arm was faked – a forged transaction that led to the eviction of a Palestinian family in favor of a Torah institute.

The Palestinian families will now ask the Israel Defense Forces to remove the institute from the home in the West Bank near Ramallah.

"Ten years of legal struggle have proved that the purchase was fake and that, as far as [purchasing arm] Al-Watan is concerned, the end justifies the means," said Attorney Muhammad Dahleh, representing the Palestinian side.

"We hope the authorities, which so far have not helped the Shehadeh family return home and have worked hand in glove with the company, will do what they should without excuses and delays. They should evict the company's people and help the Shehadeh family come home."

Attorney Daniel Kramer, who represents Al-Watan, said the ruling was inconclusive but declined further comment.

Settlers had sought to acquire the home on the outskirts of a village near Ramallah. The two-story home and yard was built in 1988 on land owned by the Shehadeh family. When the Ramallah bypass road was paved, the home was cut off from the rest of the village. It lay on the eastern side of the road, next to the settlement of Ofra.

In 2003, the family came home one evening to discover that the locks had been changed. Settlers claimed they had bought the land from the family. Machon Mishpatei Aretz, a Torah institute specializing in religion and finance, moved in.

Ofra later put up an illegal fence surrounding the institute. The fence was destroyed on orders of the High Court of Justice, and now guard dogs watch over the site.

Al-Watan is registered in the West Bank because under Jordanian law only a local company can buy land in the territory; Jordan ruled the West Bank from 1948 to 1967. Al-Watan had already been involved in another forged deal to buy land in the Migron settlement.

A police investigation found that the Torah institute transaction never occurred, but the case was closed because the police could not prove who forged what.

The company Binyanei Bar Amana controls 80 percent of Al-Watan. In turn, Binyanei Bar Amana is a subsidiary of the Amana cooperative society, a settlement agency in the West Bank. Amana is headed by Ze'ev "Zambish" Hever. The Mateh Binyamin Development Company, a subsidiary of the regional council, and a privately owned firm own the remaining 20 percent in Al-Watan.

After the takeover of the home, Al-Watan applied in 2003 to the IDF's Civil Administration to have the land registered in its name. The Civil Administration rejected the request after finding problems in the documents.

Al-Watan petitioned the district court in 2008 to order the Civil Administration to complete the registration process. The company claimed that five family members had presented a will to a notary and sold the land.

Judge Arnon Darel, however, has rejected the suit. During the hearings, it emerged that Yitzhak Solomon, the notary for the deal, had been convicted in criminal court for stealing from his clients and had had his license revoked.

Likewise, he failed to identify in court the family member he claimed to have met twice. Solomon claimed that one family member identified himself with an ID card from 1995 that was issued in Ramallah, while it was issued in 1998 in Beit El.

The agent in the deal was Khaled Kadura, a resident of Hebron. He has been indicted for falsifying documents, a case going through the Jerusalem District Court. He disappeared a few years ago and his whereabouts are unknown.

A neighborhood under construction in the West Bank settlement of Ofra.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen

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