Clashes Erupt During Eviction of Palestinian Family From East Jerusalem Home

Israeli court ordered the eviction of the Abu Assab family, who lived in West Jerusalem before 1948, following appeal by right-wing Jewish activist

Israeli policemen detain a member of the Abu Assab family as he protested their eviction by the police, in the Old City of Jerusalem, February 17, 2019.
Ahmad Gharabli/AFP

Police and protesters clashed on Sunday for several hours as a Palestinian family was evicted from the home in Jerusalem's Old City where they had lived since the 1950s.

The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court had ordered the eviction, which was upheld on appeal, based on a finding that a Jewish charitable trust had rightful ownership of the property, owned by Jews before Israel's establishment in 1948.

A short time after the seven members of the Abu Assab family were removed, Jews entered the premises and flew an Israeli flag from the roof.

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One of the plaintiff's in the case was the rabbi of the Western Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, whose office did not respond to a request by Haaretz for comment.

The Abu Assab family had lived in the Baka neighborhood in West Jerusalem until the 1948 war, when they became refugees. In the 1950s, the Jordanian government, which took control of East Jerusalem after the war, housed them in abandoned Jewish property in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. After Israel's capture of East Jerusalem in 1967, the Justice Ministry’s administrator general transferred the property in 1974 to a charitable trust, or hekdesh in Hebrew, which obtained the title to it that had been held by the Jewish family that lived there before the establishment of the state.

In recent years, Jews have used such entities to take possession of Jewish property in East Jerusalem. Israeli law allows Jews to seek to take back such abandoned property, but not Palestinians.

Israeli settlers place the Israeli flag on the roof of the Abu Assab family house, after the Palestinian family was evicted, in the Old City of Jerusalem, February 17, 2019.
Ahmad Gharabli/AFP

In 2014, the trustees filed suit in Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court to evict the Abu Assab family. The court rejected the family’s claim that they should be deemed protected tenants after evidence was produced that some of the members of the family who had been protected tenants had not lived on the premises continuously.

At the center of the case is Eli Attal, a right-wing Jewish activist who lives nearby in the Muslim Quarter and who has been involved in encouraging Jews to move into the Muslim Quarter. Rabbi Rabinowitz was a plaintiff in the case in his capacity as one of the trustees of the trust.

Magistrate’s Court Judge Elazar Nachalon ordered the family evicted about a year ago, a decision that the district court recently confirmed on appeal. On Sunday, a large contingent of police and Bailiff’s Office personnel came to carry out the eviction. In the clashes that followed, the father of the family and his son were detained.

In response to the eviction, Hagit Ofran of the anti-settlement organization Peace Now said: “On one hand, it’s cruel and hard-hearted to throw a family out of their home and move other people in for political ideological reasons. On the other hand, the use that settlers make of the 'right of return' of Jews to property they lost in 1948 to settle in the heart of the Palestinian population and in so doing preventing any chance for peace undermines the moral basis of the Israeli demand that Palestinians not be given the right of return to their properties.”