UN coordinator condemns Palestinian evictions

Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory Maxwell Gaylard denounces Beit Hanina eviction.

Sheikh Jarrah protests (R) 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Sheikh Jarrah protests (R) 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory Maxwell Gaylard condemned the eviction of Palestinian families in Beit Hanina Wednesday.
“Evictions of Palestinians from their homes and properties in occupied territory contravene international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, and should cease," Gaylard said in a statement.
Senior UN officials, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, have repeatedly called for an end to Israel’s eviction policy, saying that the settlement of Israeli citizens in occupied Palestinian territory is clearly prohibited under international law.
Tensions rose in the normally quiet Beit Hanina neighborhood of east Jerusalem after an Arab family was evicted from its home on Wednesday morning, and a half dozen young activists from the Israel Land Fund moved into the house immediately afterwards.
Khaled Natche, his wife, Lubna, and their nine children were evicted after an eight-year legal battle found that the land was legally purchased by Jews.
The eviction of the Natche family is the first step toward creating a Jewish complex of 50 apartments in the predominantly Arab neighborhood, according to Israel Land Fund director Aryeh King. King said a Jewish man purchased two buildings in the neighborhood 35 years ago. The properties also belonged to Jewish residents prior to 1948, he said.
Natche’s brother, who lives in the adjacent building, heeded the court decision and left a number of weeks ago. The court ordered the families to pay NIS 250,000 to the Israel Land Fund for damages resulting from the court case, but King promised to waive the debt if the families moved out voluntarily.
Natche refused to leave, and told The Jerusalem Post two weeks ago that he would never give up the keys to his home.
Natche said police arrived at his home at 9 a.m. and detained him for questioning at the Neveh Ya’acov police station for two hours.
While he was being questioned, officers removed the family members from the house and put their belongings in a truck. The eviction was completed without violence.
At noon, Natche sat in his car outside of his former home with his wife and four of his youngest children, and said he did not know where he would sleep that evening.
“What can I do?” he asked. “I can’t do anything. These are the results of an occupying government, this is a mafia.”
Natche’s lawyer, Khalid Masalha, petitioned the Jerusalem District Court for a temporary injunction to stop the Jewish activists from moving into the home, but the petition was denied around 3 p.m.
“We’re 35 years late, but better late than never,” King said just before the activists moved into the home. “I hope it will continue this way.”
The two buildings sit on approximately six-tenths of a hectare of land (1.5 acres) in the Hashakrir neighborhood of Beit Hanina, which is located 400 meters from the capital’s light rail line.
The Israel Land Fund head hopes to build a Jewish neighborhood called “Nof Shmuel,” or View of Samuel, with 50 apartments. The name refers to the tomb of the Prophet Samuel north of Ramot, which is visible from the neighborhood.
A local taxi driver, who requested anonymity, said the residents were aware that some of the land now belongs to Jews, and they worried that their neighborhood would turn into the next Silwan, with children throwing stones at private security guards and frequent patrols by border police to guard the Jewish residents. Beit Hanina is a quiet, leafy neighborhood and one of the wealthiest areas of east Jerusalem, and generally not involved in violent clashes.
On Wednesday, King said he had already received approval from the municipality and the Interior Ministry for the project and was awaiting a construction permit from the city, the last step in the approval process. Construction could begin within a year, he said.
In 2009, a similar controversy arose over the Shimon Hatzadik homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where the courts awarded contested ownership to Jewish owners. The eviction of three Arab families there prompted nearly two years of weekly protests and the founding of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement.
Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.