(photo credit: ahmad gharabli )
In a "hearing" that lasted about two minutes, the High Court of Justice issued a show-cause order instructing a military appeals court to explain in detail why it was allowing Jewish families to continue squatting in stores in downtown Hebron despite eviction orders from the civil administration.
Meanwhile, Yosef Ezra, 75, who was born in Hebron and lived there until the end of the British Mandate, asked the court to include him as a respondent, claiming he was the rightful owner of the stores and that he permitted the settlers to live in them for the time being.
The petition against the appeals court was filed by Peace Now and two Palestinians, Abdel Jawad el-Avivi and Abdel Razek el-Avivi, who maintained that they had rented the stores from the Custodian of Properties in the West Bank.
In 1994, after Baruch Goldstein opened fire on Muslim worshipers in the mosque at the Cave of the Patriarchs, the army prohibited Palestinian storekeepers in the el-Hisbe market from entering their shops. The shops have been closed ever since.
As early as 2001, two of the shops were broken into from the back. One of them connected to the home of a Jewish settler living in the Avraham Avinu complex, while another family moved into the other store.
In March 2007, the petitioners, represented by Attorney Michael Sfard, wrote to the Hebron chief of police and the West Bank military commander complaining about the alleged trespass.
On July 22, the West Bank legal adviser declared that the stores had indeed been rented to the two Palestinians and ordered the settlers to leave.
Five days later, the Non-Profit Organization to Renew the Jewish Community in Hebron appealed to the military appeals committee against the order. The group claimed it represented the families who had lived in Hebron before the 1929 massacre and that, as such, it was entitled to take over the buildings.
On August 23, the committee ruled that the eviction order should be suspended until it investigated the claims of the settlers.
The Palestinian shopkeepers and Peace Now then petitioned the High Court on September 11, asking it to nullify the appeals court decision and implement the eviction orders immediately.
Recently, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz told the court that he agreed with the petitioners and would not defend the appeals court.
Two days ago, Ezra submitted his request to the court to be accepted as a respondent.
He claimed that his family, who returned to the city after the Hebron riots and lived there until the 1947 partition, had owned property that included the stores in question and that the Avivi family, who had served as shepherds during Ezra's father's time, had stolen the house and the stores when the Jewish family left Hebron.
Ezra accused the government of ignoring his claims to the property.
"How dare the state prosecution ignore me, disregard my property rights and dispossess me of it, while at the same time insisting that the Arabs who stole my home be included in the legal procedures because it recognized their so-called property rights," said Ezra.
He insisted that until the government recognized his rights to the stores, more Jews from the old city of Hebron should be allowed to live in them and those already living there should not be evicted.