After a twelve-year court battle, Israeli police evicted a Palestinian family on Tuesday that had been squatting in a Jewish-owned house in East Jerusalem.
Left-wing demonstrators and Arabs attacked police with stones as they carried out the court order in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Yoni Yosef, the grandson of the late Chief Rabbi and Shas party spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef, was one of the Jews moving to occupy the house. He told Israel National News that he was undaunted by the opposition.
“We’ll take these blocks and use them to build even more homes in eastern Jerusalem and elsewhere across the Land of Israel,” Yosef said. “The Jewish people has returned to its land, despite the stones and knives. We’re here to stay, and we won’t be deterred by [Arab] harassment.”
The house and the surrounding neighborhood near the Tomb of Shimon HaTzadik (Simeon the Just) was originally purchased in 1876 by the committee of the Sephardic community and the Ashkenazi Assembly of Israel. In 1947, the invading Jordanian Army forced the Jews out of their homes. Under Jordanian rule, these properties moved under the jurisdiction of the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property and rent was collected.
When Israel re-conquered the territory in the 1967 Six Day War, the Arab families refused to vacate their illegally occupied residences. Under Israeli law, if Jews can prove their families lived in Jerusalem homes before the 1948 War of Independence, they can demand that Israel’s general custodian office release the property and return their ownership rights. Nonetheless, evicting the Arab squatters involved a lengthy and costly court battle that few Israelis were willing to endure.
Though many properties in Israel were legally owned by Jews since before the establishment of Israel, the legal process is prohibitive and the last eviction of this kind was eleven years ago.
Shimon and Dalia Hubara decided to sue for their ancestral home after their 26-year-old daughter Odelia was killed by a Palestinian terrorist in February of 2005. When the Hubara family took them to court, the Shamansha family claimed they had lived in the house since 1964. However, the Shamansha family could only prove residency from 1972.
After an eight-year battle, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Jewish claimants in 2013. The Hubaras then sold the property to another Jewish buyer. Despite being ordered by the court to pay rent, the Arab family refused, leading to eviction proceedings. In 2015, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the family to vacate the property but they again refused the court order.
Despite ample proof of Jewish ownership, the legal battle has been harshly criticized by the European Union, the United Nations, and various Western governments. Scott Anderson, head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) West Bank operations, decried the eviction, claiming Jerusalem was an illegal settlement.
“We all support the two-state solution and a negotiated peace process,” Anderson told AFP. “The expansion of settlements is not helpful to that end.”
The anti-Israel Israeli nongovernmental organization (NGO) Peace Now said that such evictions jeopardized the creation of a Palestinian state inside Israel with Jerusalem as its capital.
“The eviction of the Shamasna family, who resided in the house since 1964, is not only brutal but it is also indicating a dangerous trend that could threaten a future compromise in Jerusalem,” Peace Now said in a statement.
Jerusalem Councilman Aryeh King explained to Israel National News that the eviction was justified and necessary.
“Seventy years have passed since the Hubara family was expelled from its home [in Shimon Hatzaddik],” said King, “and after the owners of the property let Arab tenants live in the property for about five years without paying any rent, and after the tenants caused damage [to the property], harming the owners financially, this eviction was unavoidable.”
King promised more actions of this kind in the near future.
“I expect more evictions this year of residents who refuse to recognize the Jewish owners of the properties where they are living. With the opening of the new National Insurance Institute nearby, the Nahalat Shimon (Shimon Hatzaddik) neighborhood is going to see a significant expansion of Jewish settlement, which residents of Jerusalem have waited for years to see.”
There are currently six houses in the Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood occupied by Jews but many others owned by Jews are still occupied by Arab squatters.