Waiting for his land

Resident of Dura al- Qara hopeful that by July 1, Israel will remove 5 apartment buildings in Ulpana outpost.

HARBI HASEN 370 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Harbi Hasen, 71, is waiting to return to his land.
The retired Palestinian businessman said he has wanted to do that for close to 20 years.
“Why can’t I go there?” he asked.
The resident of Dura al- Qara, near the Beit El settlement, is hopeful that by July 1, Israel will remove five apartment buildings, which he said were built as a Jewish outpost there without his permission or knowledge.
For the residents of Beit El, the hill where Hasen’s land lies is nicknamed “the Ulpana,” and is part of their community.
The High Court of Justice, however, has sided with Hasen and has ordered the state to remove five buildings there, because they were built without the proper permits on private Palestinian property, including that which belongs to Hasen’s family.
Activists and politicians fighting the edict plan to ask the Knesset on Wednesday to pass legislation that would retroactively legalize the homes and offer the Palestinian claimants compensation.
But on Monday, as he sat under a tent on the edge of Dura al-Qara talking to reporters, Hasen said that it was land and justice that he wanted, not money.
“I am an old man, what would I do with the money?” he asked. “I have never offered my land for sale. It is land I inherited from my father.”
He said that he was one of 13 inheritors of the land in his family. He speaks easily and well in English, having lived in Florida, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico for a number of years.
He returned to the region close to 20 years ago, but not to his land, which Beit El had fenced off. It was impossible to see what was happening on the property, said Hasen.
When he along with other owners of the hilltop, two members of the Yassin family, understood the Israelis had built on it, they turned to the High Court with the help of Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights.
The Israelis, he said, presented purchase documents, which were shown to be fraudulent. The court refused to accept these documents, he added.
The state now needs to enforce the court ruling, said Hasen who has followed the issue closely.
People on both sides have placed the issue within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said.
But getting back his land was a matter of democracy and human rights, he said. He is hopeful that once the land is cleared, he will be able to return to it.
Israel, he said, often boasts that it is the only democracy in the Middle East.
“One of the things that democracy is built on, in any country in the world, is respect for private property,” he said.
“Do people have the right to private property here or not?” Hasen asked.
If Israeli law sanctions taking property away from a Muslim today, tomorrow it will be a Christian property owner and the next day a Jewish one.
“Then we can say goodbye to democracy,” he said.