Beit Hanina, the new Sheikh Jarrah?

Court Eviction of Arab family in Jerusalem neighborhood makes way for new Jewish neighborhood; left-wing groups vow protests.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
April 1, 2012 19:22
3 minute read.
Sheikh Jarrah protests

Sheikh Jarrah protests (R) 311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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A number of Jewish activists with the right-wing Israel Land Fund will move into a house in the Beit Hanina area of Jerusalem in the coming days, as the first step toward creating a new Jewish complex of 50 apartments in the predominantly Arab neighborhood.

According to Israel Land Fund director Aryeh King, a Jewish buyer 35 years ago purchased two buildings, each with two apartments.

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The properties also belonged to Jewish residents prior to 1948, he said.

An eight-year court battle with the current residents recently concluded with the court’s decision to award ownership of the house to the Jewish buyer. The family in one of the buildings heeded the court decision and evacuated, per King’s promise to waive the NIS 250,000 debt the court awarded to the Israel Land Fund for damages resulting from the court case.

The second family, headed by Khaled Suliman Natche, is refusing to move.

Natche said police have been harassing him nonstop since Thursday in a fear campaign to get him to leave the building. Police accused him of having weapons and drugs in the house, a claim he denies.

“Even if [King] gave me a million shekels I wouldn’t give him the keys,” said Natche. “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 said.

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Natche added that because land transactions in his neighborhood between Arabs are generally not filed with the municipality, they could not prove their ownership of part of the land.

King said the residents were aware of his work in the neighborhood for years and that the eminent entrance of Jewish residents did not come as a surprise. The two buildings sit on approximately six dunams of land (1.5 acres) in the Hashakrir neighborhood of Beit Hanina, which is located close to the light rail.

The Israel Land Fund head hopes to build a new Jewish neighborhood called “Nof Shmuel,” or View of Samuel, on the land with 50 apartments.

The name refers to the tomb of the Prophet Samuel north of Ramot, which is visible from the neighborhood.

In response, a number of left-wing activists have taken up guard shifts in the Natche family’s home to prevent the eviction, which could happen in the coming days.

“This is a totally new settlement,” said activist Michael Salisbury-Corech, who compared the story to the controversial evictions of three Arab families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in the summer of 2009. “If there will be an eviction we’ll continue to demonstrate there like we demonstrated at Sheikh Jarrah,” he said.

The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, which was born out of that struggle, organized weekly protests in the neighborhood for over a year.

Salisbury-Corech pointed out that the planned complex in Beit Hanina is disconnected from any other Jewish neighborhood, effectively creating a new Jewish presence in a historically Arab area.

“We won’t let it happen,” he vowed. “We won’t let the settler organizations endanger the future of our children. We want peace for our children.”

Salisbury-Corech said that according to the organization, “they’ll go house by house in order to have Jewish control over Jerusalem. [In] any other place this would be racist, but in Israel it’s done according to the law.”

City Councilor David Hadari (Habayit Hayehudi), who holds the Financial Portfolio and has been active in the fight against illegal Arab construction in east Jerusalem, welcomed the plans for the new neighborhood.

“Jews can live in every place, especially when they do it on land that belongs to them and according to the law,” he said, adding that the condemnations of left-wing activists did not faze him.

“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.”

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