Palestinians petition Court again over ‘illegal’ synagogue

The synagogue was built without a permit by the Ayelet Hashahar organization on a plot of land just south of Givat Ze’ev.

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December 22, 2011 02:13
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Security fence near Jerusalem [illustrative]

Security fence near Givat Ze'ev 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

 
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Palestinians from El-Jib petitioned the High Court of Justice on Wednesday, claiming the state has reneged on its promise to enforce demolition orders against a synagogue built illegally on private land.

The synagogue was built without a permit by the Ayelet Hashahar organization on a plot of land just south of Givat Ze’ev, a West Bank settlement five kilometers northwest of Jerusalem with some 11,200 residents.

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Petitioner Rabah Muhammad Asaf Abd al-Latif, who lives in El-Jib, southeast of Givat Ze’ev, says the land on which the synagogue was built is his, and that the state has done nothing to enforce several demolition orders served on the building.

This is the second time Abd al-Latif has filed a petition in the High Court over the synagogue.

Both petitions were filed with the assistance of Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights.

The first, served in 2008, was withdrawn by mutual agreement after a November 2009 hearing in which the defense minister, the IDF commander in the West Bank and the head of the civil administration told the court they were committed to enforcing demolition orders against the synagogue.



In that 2009 decision, the court said it was not in a place to intervene since the state had committed to enforcing the law.

Yesh Din attorney Shlomi Zachary told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the court’s decision was made after the state informed the court it did not dispute petitioners’ claims that the synagogue was built illegally on Abd al-Latif’s land.

In response to the first petition, the Givat Ze’ev Municipality also conceded that the construction was illegal but said the land in question was outside its jurisdiction, Zachary added.

Significantly, while the petition was withdrawn, the court ruled that the interim injunction ordering the Ayelet Hashahar organization to refrain from additional construction would remain in force pending the demolitions.

However, Zachary said that no demolitions have taken place and Abd al-Latif still cannot access his land.

“The final judgement in the previous petition was based on the state’s commitment to enforcing the demolition of the building,” Zachary said.

“But over 25 months later we haven’t seen any steps taken to enforce those demolition orders.”

After the 2009 court ruling to withdraw the petition, Zachary said Yesh Din sent letters on behalf of Abd al-Latif to the West Bank authorities asking them to take steps to ensure the synagogue’s demolition, as they had promised to do in the High Court hearing.

Zachary also noted that the police had reopened an investigation into allegations that the Ayelet Hashahar organization forged ownership documents of the land, and said he has been informed that the Jerusalem District Attorney’s office is currently examining the matter.

“The state says that it will work according to its priorities regarding enforcement,” stated Zachary. “But so far nothing substantial has happened, and we filed a new petition, because it seems the state’s commitment is meaningless unless the High Court enforces it.”

In its new petition, Yesh Din accuses the state of a policy of “deliberate and conscious non-enforcement” against illegal construction on Palestinian land.

“The authorities’ resounding failure to prevent the colossal lawbreaking described in the petition, despite the issuance of stop work orders because the building is illegal and located on private Palestinian land, is an ongoing failure that follows years of non-enforcement by the authorities,” the petition reads.

Yesh Din said that this time, they hope the court will decide to intervene and order the state to enforce the demolition orders by a specific date, which Zachary says will make it harder for the authorities to postpone or ignore the issue.

“It’s time to give real meaning to those undertakings that were given wholeheartedly to the High Court,” he said.

David Harosh, the Ayelet Hashahar representative named as a respondent on the petition, was unable to be reached for comment on Wednesday. However, a member of the local community who preferred not to be named said the synagogue was a community building serving everyone in the local Givat Ze’ev neighborhood.

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