Palestinian Families Evicted From Their East Jerusalem Homes Amid Dispute With Settler Group

The houses belong to the Rawadi family, whose family member Raziq Rawadi was murdered three years ago. Police suspect it was because of his cooperation with the right-wing group Elad

The evacuation of a Palestinian family in Silwan, April 8, 2018.
Emil Salman

A court ordered a halt to the eviction of three Palestinian families from their East Jerusalem homes, but because the evictions had already taken place by the time the required bond was posted, the houses will remain empty until further notice.

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The eviction was carried out Sunday morning at the request of the right-wing organization Elad, which says it purchased the homes in East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood.

The houses belong to the Rawadi family. One member of the family, Raziq Rawadi, was murdered three years ago, and police suspect it was because of his cooperation with Elad. A few months after the murder, Elad presented documents showing it had bought the three apartments from him.

But the family claims he didn’t own the homes, and that even if he did sell them, he never received the money.

Rawadi assisted Elad for many years, mainly by serving as a middleman for the group’s purchases of property in East Jerusalem, and many Silwan residents knew this. His family claims that after he was stabbed to death on his own doorstep, police made no effort to catch the murderer.

After his death, Rawadi was found to have numerous debts and was declared bankrupt. Elad then asked the government’s official receiver for his property, which comprised three apartments housing 15 people.

The Rawadi family asked the Jerusalem District Court to halt the evictions, arguing that the property didn’t belong to Raziq Rawadi and in any case was never sold. It said two of the apartments belonged to Rawadi’s father and were inherited in equal shares by his seven children, yet only Raziq signed the deed of sale. The third apartment belonged to Raziq’s uncle, so Raziq had no rights to it whatsoever, the suit added.

The court agreed to stay the evictions, but required the family to post a bond of 100,000 shekels ($28,000). Since the family couldn’t pay, its attorney, Muhammad Dahleh, appealed to the Supreme Court, asking it to reduce the sum.

The appeal was still pending Sunday morning when representatives of the Bailiff’s Office came to evict the Rawadis and their belongings. Dahleh therefore filed an urgent motion with the Supreme Court, and a few hours later, got an order reducing the bond to 10,000 shekels.

He then rushed back to Silwan, but the families had already been evicted, and a representative of the official receiver refused to let the families return. Instead, the official decided, the houses will remain locked unless and until the court decides otherwise.

A friend of Raziq Rawadi’s who was involved in arranging the sale said Rawadi was promised $600,000 for the homes, but received only $25,000.

“I saw the money he received in a plastic box, in dollars,” he said. “They gave him only $25,000.”

The friend, who asked to remain anonymous, blamed the police for failing to catch Rawadi’s murderer. “There are 10 cameras around the house,” he said. “If you throw a stone there, the police will come within a minute. But he was bleeding for a quarter of an hour and no one came.”

Rawadi’s brother Mohammed echoed this charge. “At the very moment he was murdered, the cameras disappeared?” he asked. “How can that be?”

Mohammed Rawadi also had another grievance. “They say he sold [property] worth millions, so how can it be that his wife and child barely have anything to eat?” he demanded. “I’m giving them food.

“This is how everyone who works with Israel ends up: They spit on him, like they did on Antoine Lahad,” he added, referring to the commander of the South Lebanon Army, with which Israel was allied for years before it unilaterally withdrew from Lebanon in 2000.

Hagit Ofran of Peace Now, who has been helping the family, said, “Elad is sending a reminder to President Trump that the embassy he plans to open in Jerusalem is in a divided city which has two separate capitals. Continued settlement in Silwan threatens the chances of ever achieving peace and compromise in Jerusalem.”

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Elad said the evictions were part of a debt collection effort pursuant to a bankruptcy proceeding and were carried out by the government’s debt collection agency. “The house was legally purchased years ago, at full value,” it added.