Lone Palestinian farmer battles settlement over land

Beit Ijza resident Sabri Agrayeb, Givon Hahadasha trade Court petitions.

Farmer Sabri Agrayeb 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Farmer Sabri Agrayeb 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sabri Agrayeb is not enjoying peace and quiet in his old age. Not only is the 67-year-old Palestinian farmer's home surrounded on three of four sides by a chain-link fence, but his neighbors from the settlement of Givon Hahadasha on the other side of the fence want the IDF to throw him out of his home. The army, which two years ago wanted to do just that, has since relented. Now, all it wants is to close off the fourth side of the house with an iron gate topped by a camera that would obstruct Agrayeb's contact with his three children who live in another house 45 meters to the south. The reason for Agrayeb's woes is that he had the bad luck of being born in the village of Beit Ijza, just west of Givon Hahadasha. Givon Hahadasha, located along the road linking Jerusalem and Givat Ze'ev, was built on land, part of which had been purchased by Jews in the 1920s. According to attorney Osama Halabi, Agrayeb built his house 27 years ago on land he owned, and with a permit from the IDF's Civil Administration. Givon Hahadasha literally took shape around him. Several years ago, the army built the chain-link fence to separate Agrayeb from his Jewish neighbors. When the government decided to build the separation barrier, it originally wanted to expel Agrayeb from his home. Agrayeb petitioned the High Court of Justice to block the move. Meanwhile, the route of the barrier cut right through the middle of a 40-dunam, or 10-acre, plot of land belonging to Agrayeb situated several hundred meters west of his house. According to Halabi, the IDF offered a deal. If Agrayeb would agree to move out of his house, the army would reroute the barrier so as to leave the 40-dunam plot more or less intact and on the West Bank side of the fence. Agrayeb refused. The army then proposed another solution. Agrayeb could stay in his home, but the army would build an iron gate and erect a camera on the one side of the house that was not fenced in. However, it said it would go back to the original plan to run the barrier through the 40-dunam plot. During a hearing on Wednesday, Halabi asked the High Court to take into consideration the two blows that the separation barrier was causing his client - to his house and to his plot of land - and to rule that the damage caused was disproportionate. Another front was opened two weeks ago, when Givon Hahadasha petitioned the High Court against the army and Agrayeb, demanding that the farmer be removed from his home. In the petition, attorney Renato Yarak, a member of the Ramat Gan firm of Michael Piron, asked "why the army and the Defense Ministry do not exercise the authority vested in them by international law applicable in an area given over to belligerent occupation, to seize possession of the house where Agrayeb lives inside Givon Hahadasha, in return for full compensation, for the period that the security separation barrier will exist, and to evacuate him for that said period." The court has yet to rule on either petition.