State backs Palestinian owner in Hebron dispute

State to High Court: Both sides lied about facts in ownership dispute for building on Worshipers' Way.

Hebron building 248.88 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Hebron building 248.88
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Both sides claiming ownership of a disputed building on Hebron's Worshipers' Way lied about the facts, the state informed the High Court of Justice in a brief presented this week. Nevertheless, the state said, the Palestinian owner of the building was undoubtedly in possession of the property when settlers took it over on March 19, 2007. The brief was presented in response to a petition by the Tal Construction and Development Company and the Society for the Renewal of the Jewish Community in Hebron against eviction orders issued against the building's occupants. In its response, the state presented the following arguments in defense of its decision to recognize the takeover by the settlers as a "recent trespass" and help the owner, Faez Rajbi, evict them as quickly as possible: • There was insufficient evidence to prove that the sale of the building to the Jewish purchasers had been completed. The parties - Rajbi and a Palestinian partner on the one side, and Ayub Jaber, a Palestinian intermediary for the purchasers, on the other - did indeed sign a contract for the sale of the building in return for 460,000 Jordanian dinars. However, the receipts the purchasers showed to police fell "far short" of the property's full price. • Many documents the alleged Jewish purchasers presented to the police Crimes Investigation Unit were forged. "We are talking about large-scale forgeries of many documents that were supposed to support the petitioners' claims," wrote the state's representative, attorney Gilad Shirman. • At some point, Rajbi began to renovate the building. The petitioners claimed they had hired him to carry out the renovations. However, they did not provide proof that the work had been conducted after ownership had passed to Jaber. Therefore, the facts indicate that Rajbi was in possession of the building on the day of the takeover. • The petitioners claimed that the settlers did not use force to take over the building, because they had a key to the door - proof that ownership had passed to them. The state argued that Jaber had purchased a lock and the key in question and used them to chain the gates of the building. However, the army had then broken the chain, and the building was left unprotected when the settlers entered. Therefore, the fact that Jaber had a key to a lock that he had purchased and which was neither needed nor used to enter the building on March 19 was meaningless. In response to the state's brief, Orit Struck, a representative of the Society for the Renewal of the Jewish community in Hebron, said, "The decision to forcibly evict the Jewish owners and hand the building back to the Arab seller, who is a liar, is based on a distorted, tendentious and wicked interpretation of the facts. The state prosecution would not dare apply such an interpretation to any other case. It is reserved only for files having to do with the denial of the basic rights of the settlers in Judea, Samaria and Gaza." The court is scheduled to hold another hearing on the petition on January 17.