On 18 April, the Palestinian Natsheh family was evicted from their home in Beit Hanina, a Palestinian neighborhood in the north of occupied East Jerusalem The eviction was carried out by the Bailiff’s Office with police back-up. Beit Hanina’s first forced removal left two parents and nine children homeless.
Maxwell Gaylard, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, immediately released a statement condemning Israel’s unlawful act. “Evictions of Palestinians from their homes and properties in occupied territory contravene international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, and should cease,” he said.
A few days later, the European Union missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah followed Gaylard’s example. The EU missions expressed their deep concern about the plans to build a new settlement in the midst of Beit Hanina, reported press agency AFP. The missions reiterated the EU position that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law.
Family has been on land since 1940s
The eviction follows a court case brought against the Palestinian families by Aryeh King, founder of the right-wing settlement organization Israel Land Fund. King claimed that the property belonged to Jewish residents prior to 1948 and were purchased by a Jewish buyer 35 years ago. Palestinian owner Khaled Natsheh could not prove his ownership of his property because land transactions in Beit Hanina between Palestinians are generally not filed with the municipality, he told the Jerusalem Post. Members of the Natsheh family possessed the land as far back as the 1940s.
The Jerusalem Magistrate Court decided to grant ownership of the property to King’s “client.” Following the court decision one Palestinian family “voluntarily” left their home after King promised to waive the NIS 250,000 debt the court awarded to the Israel Land Fund for damages. However, the Natsheh family refused to move. “Even if [King] gave me a million shekels I wouldn’t give him the keys,” said Natsheh. “I’m not going to leave, I will die here. Whatever they want to do, they can do. Whatever they want, I’m not leaving the house. If they kill me, they kill me,” he told the Jerusalem Post.
The Israel Land Fund plans to build 50 apartments for settlers on the land which is located close to the Jerusalem Light Rail. King advertised the Israel land Fund’s illegal business in Beit Hanina on twitter on 28 March:
Screenshot of Arieh King’s tweet with a photo of the Natsheh family home.
Judaizing Beit Hanina
The photo in King’s tweet shows the house of the Natsheh family. In Judaizing’ Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem, with backing from Americans, Jeff Halper described the harassment of the Natsheh family.
Driving Palestinians out of their homes in “east” Jerusalem is, as you can imagine, a dirty business. But its not terribly difficult. The Palestinians are a vulnerable population, poor (70% subsist on less than $2 a day), completely unprotected by the law or Israeli courts, and targeted by determined Jewish settlers with all the money and political backing in the world – much of its coming, of course, from the US, mainly from orthodox Jews and Christian Zionists. Over the past few days settlers led by Arieh King have been harassing Palestinian residents of Beit Hanina, according to King, settlers will “very soon” take over four houses, plus an additional two houses in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where violent nighttime evictions aided by the Israeli police have become commonplace. The immediate target of window-breaking, curses, violent encounters and now a police search of the home “for weapons” is the Natsheh family of Beit Hanina.
The illegal practices in Beit Hanina of King’s Israel Land Fund are welcomed by the Jerusalem Deputy Mayor David Hadari. “The city of Jerusalem needs to remember that every government talks about a united Jerusalem, that means that Jews can build in every place, and we’ll continue to build through the entire city,” he told the Jerusalem Post.
However, East Jerusalem is occupied territory under international law and Israel has no right to demolish Palestinian property, to evict Palestinians from their homes or land, or to build on Palestinian land: no walls, no settlements and no light rail. To condemn these violations of the rights of the Palestinians is not sufficient.