Jews claiming ownership of Hebron building file suit

Palestinian claimants Faez Rajbi and Abdelkader Shawar argue that the sale had not been completed.

Hebron building 248.88 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Hebron building 248.88
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Attorney Nadav Ha'etzni, who represents the Jews claiming ownership of the disputed building on Hebron's "Worshipers' Way," filed an ownership suit in Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday and asked the High Court to postpone a hearing scheduled for Wednesday to consider the claims of both sides. Ha'etzni represents Tal Construction and Investments-Karnei Shomron and the Society for the Renewal of the Jewish Community in Hebron, who say they bought the four-story structure, which they call Beit Hashalom, for $700,000 from a Palestinian intermediary who acted on behalf of the previous owners. Meanwhile, the Palestinian claimants, Faez Rajbi and Abdelkader Shawar, argued that the sale had not been completed and the building still belonged to them. Recently, the state declared that the purchase documents that the settlers presented to police as proof of ownership were forged and that the last person who had been in legal possession of the building was Ayub Jabber, the middleman allegedly acting in the name of the owners. Ha'etzni, however, said that according to an expert handwriting analyst, Mordechai Vardi, the police Crime Identifying Unit had published a hasty and vague report that neither clearly explained its reasoning nor "lived up to the required professional criteria." Vardi, who according to the settlers is frequently brought in as an expert handwriting analyst by the court, added that in his experience, "the court does not tend to attribute any value to expert opinion, submitted as evidence, unless it has the details and arguments to back its claims." According to Ha'etzni, since the High Court of Justice does not examine evidence, the proper place to determine the ownership of the building is in the district court, which does hear testimony and evidence. Thus, even though it was the settlers who originally petitioned the High Court against the state's intention to evict the building's Jewish inhabitants, Ha'etzni asked the court to postpone hearing the case until the district court ruled on who actually owned it. On March 29, hundreds of the settlers' supporters moved into the building overlooking the road leading from Kiryat Arba to the Cave of the Patriarchs. Ten families and many yeshiva students currently live there. For many months, the police did not act to remove them in despite a law that states that trespassers can be evicted by the owner, with the help of the police, during the first 30 days after they take it over, when the trespass is "fresh." Afterwards the procedure for evicting trespassers is more complicated and takes longer. The state did not immediately evict the setters because they were unsure who owned the property. After months of investigation, they determined that it was the Palestinians. The settlers then petitioned the High Court against the state's decision to give the building back to the Palestinians. It is this same petition that they now want to postpone, in the hopes that the district court will rule in their favor.