(photo credit: INIMAGE)
Following a protracted and contentious legal dispute over the rightful ownership of an east Jerusalem property, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday ruled against an Arab family that sought an injunction against its owner, the Elad Foundation.
The property in question, acquired last September by the foundation, a right-wing organization that uses funds from Jewish supporters in the US and elsewhere to buy residences in Arab districts, is located next to the City of David National Park, outside the Old City’s walls.
In her ruling, Judge Tamar Bar-Asher-Zaban dismissed the claim brought by members of the Qareen family, who are related to the Arab family that sold the property to Elad, as being without basis, and removed a temporary injunction.
“Not only did the plaintiffs hide information from the court, but it has also been determined that the plaintiffs do not possess any legal right whatsoever to the property in question and, as such, had no right to seek an injunction,” Bar-Asher-Zaban stated.
The court further ruled that the plaintiffs must pay Elad’s legal expenses.
Also known as the Ir David Foundation, Elad was established in 1986 to preserve and develop the City of David and its surrounding areas, including the Silwan neighborhood and the Mount of Olives.
In response to the ruling, Ze’ev Orenstein, Elad’s director of international affairs, lauded the court’s decision as a condemnation of intimidation tactics that are frequently carried out by the Arab community upon the legal procurement of properties by Jews.
“We applaud the legal ruling, and will continue working to develop the City of David and ancient Jerusalem for the benefit of people from all faiths and backgrounds,” he said.
Orenstein emphasized that the property was acquired in full compliance of the law, adding that the decision sheds light on the difficulties faced by the organization after legally procuring homes in predominantly Arab neighborhoods.
“Unfortunately, there are elements both within the Arab community in Jerusalem, as well as within the Palestinian Authority, who are willing to resort to threats, violence, and the filing of unfounded lawsuits all in order to prevent Jews from legally acquiring property in the vicinity of the City of David,” he said.
The ruling follows a recent decision by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decreeing a life sentence at hard labor for “anyone diverting, renting, or selling land to an enemy state, or one of its subjects.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been steadfast in his support of Jews purchasing property in the area.
“I have no intention of telling Jews they can’t buy apartments in east Jerusalem,” Netanyahu recently said. “This is private property and an individual right.
There cannot be discrimination – not against Jews and not against Arabs.”
Last September, Elad made headlines when police were forced to escort several Jewish families past Arab protesters into seven homes it purchased in Silwan. Approximately 90 Jewish families, totaling some 500 people, live in Silwan among an estimated 50,000 Arabs.
While conceding that Elad’s purchases are legal, Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians’ chief peace negotiator, has decried its practice of buying Arab homes for Jewish families as an attempt to erase Palestinian identity in east Jerusalem.