In Victory for Settler Group, Court Orders Eviction of Two Palestinian Families From Jerusalem Home

This is the third time in a week that court rules in favor of Ateret Cohanim, removing Palestinians from their East Jerusalem homes because property once belonged to Jews

Residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.
Emil Salman

A Jerusalem court on Wednesday ordered the eviction of two Palestinian families from their home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, marking the third time in two weeks that the court has sided with a settler organization in its attempts to evict 700 residents from the Batan Al-Hawa enclave.

Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Gad Ehrenberg ordered the 17 residents of the building to leave by August 15, accepting the arguments of the Ateret Cohanim organization, which is dedicated to Judaizing East Jerusalem.

Last week, the Jerusalem court ordered the eviction of 26 family members from a building in the same neighborhood of Silwan, where they had lived since 1964. On January 19, the court ordered 22 members of another family to leave their home in what was thought to be a possibly precedent-setting ruling for the ongoing dispute over the fate of 700 Palestinian residents of Batan Al-Hawa whom Ateret Cohanim has been trying to evict.

In Wednesday’s ruling, Ehrenberg rejected the Palestinian residents’ arguments, among them that the statute of limitations had expired, claims regarding the status of the land according to Ottoman law and regarding the exact location of the land in question. As in previous cases, the judge decided not to impose court costs on the Palestinians “due to the harsh outcome of the process.”

The Batan Al-Hawa quarter was built on land that had once belonged to a Jewish trust known as the Benvenisti Trust, established in the late 19th century to settle families of Jewish immigrants from Yemen. The immigrants left in 1938 on the orders of the British Mandate government due to the deterioration of the security situation during the Arab uprising. The homes were demolished and over time the current quarters were built on the land.

Palestinian property abandoned in West Jerusalem during the Independence War was transferred to state authorities through the Abandoned Properties law. However, Jewish property that was abandoned in East Jerusalem during the same period remained in the hands of the Jewish owners. Thus, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court in 2001 accepted the petition of Ateret Cohanim to become the receivers of the trust. A year later, the custodian general released the land to the trust’s receivers, thereby putting hundreds of Palestinians living in the quarter at risk of eviction.

Most of the Palestinian families bought the land and built their homes on it, they assert, without knowing that the seller didn’t properly own it. Last year, Supreme Court Justice Daphne Barak-Erez rejected an appeal from Palestinian residents against the trust. Barak-Erez accepted some of the arguments criticizing the behavior of the state in the affair, like the fact that the land was handed over to the settlers without informing the Palestinian residents of this. Still, the judge ruled that the matter should not be decided by the Supreme Court, thereby permitting the continuation of the eviction process.