A new Jewish settlement was established this morning in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber (not too far from Jerusalem headquarters of the United Nations). Israeli police evicted the Palestinian family from their home and handed the property over to private guards working for the settlers.
The reason for the eviction? An Israeli court ruled that the house had been purchased a foreign company called “Lowell Investments,” registered in the Turks and Caicos Islands. And Lowell Investments is represented in Israel by David Be’eri, one of the leaders of the Elad settler organization, the well-funded and politically powerful settler organization.
The family says that the sale is fraud. Possible and also possible not. The court ruled it isn’t. Many sales are secret so Palestinians can have deniability. Many sales are also done in a sleazy manner – getting one family member to sell out ownership rights for the entire extended family.
A New Settlement in a New Area
With this acquisition, the settlers are completing a continuous Jewish presence – a chain of settlements and touristic projects – in the area south of the Old City. The new property is located only a little to the north of the ancient aqueduct/tunnel that is the site of a major tourist project run by the Elad association, and northwest of the house there is the “educational center” that Elad runs out of the “Hashalom Forest”. The new house, whether the settlers use it as a residence or a tourist center, completes a wide belt of settlements around the southern areas of the Old City.
20 years ago, when the settlers first started targeting properties in Silwan, the then-legal adviser of the government, Yossef Harish, wrote a legal opinion to the head of the police regarding the role of the police when the settlers want to enter to Palestinian neighborhoods. In his letter, dated 24th of November 1991, he wrote:
“When the police conclude that the implementation of the property rights will most likely cause a threat to the public security … the police are allowed, and maybe even obliged, to prevent the implementation of these rights”.
This means that even if the settlers have legally purchased a house in the middle of a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, they do not have the right to force their political agenda on the public by taking possession of the property if doing so will threaten the public peace.
Today’s eviction was well-organized and prepared in advance. There is no doubt that the police assistance in the eviction of the Palestinian family was approved at the ministerial level, and most likely at the level of Prime Minister Netanyahu himself.
The situation today in East Jerusalem is volatile. People are already fed up and fearful from pictures like those from Sheikh Jarrah – pictures of Palestinian families being evicted from the homes in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods by Israeli police who hand the properties over to extremist settlers. More of this, at a time when hopes for re-starting peace talks hang in the balance and a sense of despair and hopelessness is spreading in neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, could be disastrous. This provocation or the next one might just be one step too far.