THIS IS NOT A NORMAL COUNTRY !!!
No one in their wildest imagination would make this up. “Kafkaesque” does not begin to capture the towering, sublime absurdity: An Israeli court is requiring an Arab-Palestinian family in East Jerusalem to share their home of 60 years with some nice right-wing Israeli settlers (“Don’t worry, it’s just the bedroom and the front yard.”). I mean, there have been many outright evictions, not to mention home demolitions — these are part of the “normal” everyday perversities of Jerusalem, but this takes the cake. The madness! I will not presume to comment, since people can figure out for themselves (and most eventually do) what is going on over here…
Wait, WAIT — I think this has all the makings of great Reality TV! (You can make up your own title for the show.): Set the cameras rolling, and we can tune in week by week to see how the Hamdallahs and their new court-imposed house-guests, the Feinbergs (or whoever) are getting on together. Should be riveting stuff. Episode 3: American multi-millionaire (from the for-profit healthcare and gambling casino ‘industries’), Irving Moskowitz, comes for a visit to witness first-hand the joy and harmony he has brought to the Holy City.
Pardon my rant and the sardonic tone, but, honestly, sometimes one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry… The link to today’s Haretz story on-line is here; I have pasted the text below. More background is available from the Israeli NGO Ir-Amim, here. NEW: After the article, see the SEP 2012 UPDATE.
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Palestinian family ordered to share East Jerusalem home with Israelis
Authorities expected to force Palestinian family to evacuate house after 11-year court battle leans in favor of American millionaire and settler patron.
By Nir Hasson
Right-wing Israelis are expected to move into a room in an East Jerusalem Palestinian family’s home on Monday, after a court sided with their claim.
The Hamdallah family and American millionaire and settler patron Irving Moskowitz have been fighting an 11-year court battle over the home. Now, authorities are expected to force the Hamdallahs to evacuate a room and their yard to make way for Israelis, who are likely to encumber their neighbors’ day-to-day routine.
The yard leads to the home’s entrance.
The Hamdallah home abuts Ma’aleh Zeitim, an enclave of 100 Jewish families encircled by a wall deep in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Ras al-Amud. Nearby, a construction project that includes 14 housing units for Jewish families in what was once the West Bank police headquarters is nearly done.
The home and Ma’aleh Zeitim are on land that was purchased by Moskowitz in 1990. The American acquired the property from Chabad and the Volhynia Hassidic dynasty, who proved they owned the land before 1948.
The Palestinian family has lived in the area since 1952. Through his representatives and emissaries in Israel, Moskowitz has waged a multi-year legal battle to evict the family.
In 2005, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the Palestinian family was legally obligated to evacuate parts of the home built after 1989. They would keep older parts of the home due to the statute of limitations on Moskowitz’s claims.
Eitan Geva, an attorney who represents Moskowitz, convinced the bailiff’s office that this includes one bedroom and the front yard.
The Palestinian family’s attorney, Shlomo Lecker, argued that the bailiff had wrongly determined which parts should be evacuated, and said that the Palestinians had already emptied out a chicken coop and a storage shed that the court deemed belonged to Moskowitz.
Nonetheless, the bailiff set this Monday as the date for the evacuation.
Sixteen Palestinians live in the disputed home. A couple and a child live in the bedroom that the court ordered vacated.
“Three people live in this room,” said Khaled Hamdallah, a family member. “We don’t know what to do. I don’t even care anymore. I feel like dying. They want to throw us out completely. The police is with them, the judges are with them. So what’s the point?”
“The settlers used a trick,” said Lecker. “Geva submitted an affidavit [to the bailiff] that does not match the court’s ruling. They will evacuate the room and bring in a family and two armed guard. I think [the settlers] want to make their lives hell until they finally are forced to leave.”
“There are no disputes regarding the property that needs to be vacated, save from those in Mr. Lecker’s imagination,” said Geva. “There is a clear aerial photo in which the building that needs to be evacuated is marked. The family can enter the home unhindered by way of a walkway in the area deemed off limits by the statute of limitations.”
UPDATE / 14 SEP 2012
If you thought this couldn’t happen, it’s too crazy — think again. It’s happening…
Double Take / Too close for comfort in East Jerusalem
Jewish claims to a house in East Jerusalem have left its Arab residents feeling crowded out.
By Joel Greenberg | Sep.14, 2012 | 9:21 AM
One of the front lines of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict runs through the house of the Hamdallah family in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud.
Coils of barbed wire separate the front entrance from a courtyard, a bathroom and a room that are being renovated for Israeli settlers after a court ruling earlier this month awarded them part of the house following a years-long legal battle.
The Hamdallahs live next to Ma’aleh Hazeitim, an imposing housing complex for Jews that was built inside Ras al-Amud with funding from Irving Moskowitz, a Miami businessman who backs Jewish settlement in Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods to help cement Israel’s hold on the entire city.
Settlement activists have set their sights on the Hamdallah home, a lone house sandwiched between Ma’aleh Hazeitim and a Catholic-run pilgrim hostel. They went to court to oust the Hamdallahs, arguing that their house is built on land Moskowitz bought from Hasidic Jewish groups that owned the property before 1948.
Shlomo Lecker, an Israeli attorney who has represented the Hamdallahs, has succeeded in sparing the family an eviction, but he was not able to salvage the courtyard and room, which the court ruled belong to Moskowitz and had to be vacated.
One afternoon this week, a woman and her daughter from the Hamdallah family returned home from shopping to the sound of a sledgehammer pounding a wall shared by the family and the settlers. A Palestinian laborer and several Jewish workmen were gutting the bathroom on their side in preparation for renovation. Wearing large knitted skullcaps, the Jews declined to talk when asked about their work.
“May they die in an earthquake,” said the 50-year-old woman, who refused to give her name. “They want us to leave, but we’re staying in our house.” From the trash-strewn street outside, a majestic view opened up of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque, above the walls of the Old City.
Lecker says the Hamdallah case, in which Jews have moved into property on the basis of ownership claims dating to the pre-state era, highlights the disparity between Israelis and Palestinians when it comes to reclaiming such properties in Jerusalem.
While Jewish settler groups have succeeded in obtaining court backing for pre-1948 ownership claims on houses in East Jerusalem, in some cases ousting Arab residents, Palestinians have no such access to their former properties in the western part of the city.
Whole neighborhoods of what were formerly Arab houses, such as Talbieh, Bak’a and Katamon – now populated by Israelis – are protected under Israeli law from claims by the previous Palestinian property owners. Their holdings, an estimated 10,000 homes, were taken over by the Custodian for Absentee Property and later sold to Israelis.
Pressing Jewish claims to East Jerusalem homes like the Hamdallah house “is very dangerous, because it opens the 1948 file, which ultimately can work very much to our disadvantage,” Lecker said, referring to vastly larger areas of Arab property in West Jerusalem that were lost to Israel when the state was established.
“Today we’re the strong party,” Lecker added, suggesting that the current balance of power in Jerusalem could one day conceivably shift under altered political or demographic conditions. In such circumstances, claims to restore pre-1948 properties to their original owners could become a double-edged sword.