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As Israel clamps down on East Jerusalem, police evict Palestinian family for new settlement

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Israeli police and barking dogs woke Abdallah and Fatima Abu Nab from inside of the couple’s bedroom shortly after daybreak Monday morning, and told them to immediately and permanently leave their house in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, bringing an end to a seven year legal battle with Israeli settlers.

“They did not allow me to put clothes on, I almost got shot trying. I told them to get out and let my wife dress, they refused and told us to leave now. I told them over my dead body would I allow my wife to leave the house,” said Abdallah Abu Nab the following afternoon from a cramped apartment across the street. The four-room flat was rented by relatives for the family of four—Abdallah, Fatima and twin nine-year old boys. Scattered across the linoleum floor sat cardboard boxes of crushed kitchenware, clothes, and broken furniture that Abdallah and his neighbors collected off of the street as Israeli police cleared out the home.

“At least 300 Israeli forces were on the street watching over us,” estimated Abu Nab, “My children’s piggy banks—their savings, laptops and electronics were stolen. They purposefully destroyed all our belongings,” he said.   

As Abdallah detailed the family’s rushed exit, I could see Israeli workers arranging pipes on the roof of his former house through a window behind him. Abdallah anticipated in a matter of weeks settlers will move into the property. Israelis already control two more units on the same narrow street, barely wide enough for the armored private security vans (paid for by the municipality of Jerusalem) to transport settlers in and out Silwan, one of East Jerusalem’s most congested and underserved neighborhoods.

Abdallah Abu Nab sits in the living room of his family's new apartment, across the street from the home he was evicted from on Monday. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Abdallah Abu Nab sits in the living room of his family’s new apartment, across the street from the home he was evicted from on Monday. (Photo: Allison Deger)

More than 55,000 Palestinians live in Silwan, stretching over two hilltops east of Jerusalem’s Old City walls.  They are residents of Jerusalem, a special standing Israel gave to Jerusalemite Palestinians after the June 1967 war. East Jerusalem Palestinians do not hold Israeli citizenship.

Also residing in Silwan, 400 Israeli settlers live in 40 units that were either purchased from Palestinian families, or use was won through Israeli courts during the past decade. The settlers submitted documentation of Ottoman-era deeds that showed prior to the state of Israel’s establishment in 1948, Yemenite Jewish families owned homes in Silwan. Yet the Jewish families abandoned the properties in the heat of the 1929 Arab riots when over 200 were killed in political turmoil surrounding access to Jerusalem’s holy sites.

In the hearings the heirs of the Yemenite Jews, the Moshe Benvenisti family trust, argued Palestinians illegally took over the forefathers’ homes and one local synagogue, which until last week was the Abu Nab’s house.

Daniel Lauria, a spokesperson for the Israeli NGO Ateret Cohanim that seeks to “facilitate the return of Jewish life” in East Jerusalem neighborhoods, said the Abu Nab house is hekdesh, or consecrated property. According to Lauria, the status of a hekdesh is irrevocable; land sales and leases are not valid.

The Abu Nabs say their family started legally renting the home over a century ago. Abu Nab added, up until the eviction settlers offered him nearly $800,000 for the home, which he said validates his claim to the building.

Ateret Cohanim confirmed the Benvenisti endowment did buy out the Abu Nab’s neighbors for an undisclosed amount, but Abu Nab refused a similar proposal.

Abdallah Abu Nab. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Abdallah Abu Nab. (Photo: Allison Deger)

“They want to make us feel like they are strong and buy us out, but we did not sell,” Abu Nab said. “However, they still took our home by force and cheating the law. Netanyahu says this country has a legal system, but every one steals and cheats.”

Silwan under siege?

The Abu Nab’s house is in East Jerusalem and is considered occupied Palestinian territory under international law. The Palestinian government says Israeli-Jews have no right to claim 100-year old properties, and warn that the Israeli court ordered evictions in Silwan are part of a wider process to build a Jewish presence in East Jerusalem that undermines their ability to make it the capital of a future Palestinian state.

“Israeli policies and escalating practices in Silwan aim not only to alter the historic character of the area and to consolidate Israeli control over the Old City of Jerusalem, in particular al-Aqsa mosque compound, but also to contribute to the systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem,” said the PLO in statement.

In the 1980s Israel annexed East Jerusalem through legislation, although no country recognizes territorial expansion during warfare.

Today, East Jerusalem is the center of bloody conflict where more than 40 Palestinians, and eight Israelis have been killed in shootings and attacks since the start of October. In an attempt to deter future attacks on Israeli citizens Israel erected over a dozen of checkpoints inside of East Jerusalem last week that Palestinian leaders and Palestinians in East Jerusalem say are a form of collective punishment.

In Silwan, there are three new checkpoints and last Friday Israeli police prevented Palestinians from leaving the neighborhood.

“It is not normal to see checkpoints inside of Silwan, it’s like a big jail,” Tala Serhan said, an office manager for the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan.

Serhan said the checkpoints have kept many in Silwan from reaching their places of work in other areas of Jerusalem. Serhan said last Thursday Israeli police denied Palestinians driving access out of the neighborhood. Serhan had to parked her car by the checkpoint and walked uphill to reach the Old City. 

Back at the Abu Nab’s rental, the family drank tea from plastic cups—all of their china is smashed from the evictions—and pondered how they will assemble their bed frames. Israeli police hammered the hinges out of place during the eviction.

“They destroyed the house, and you call this a country with law?” Abu Nab scoffed. He sees his eviction and the curfews and closures across Jerusalem as part of a wider period of difficulties faced by Palestinians in East Jerusalem that ramped up when Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came into office in 2009, with Israel’s most right-wing parliament in tow. 

Under the Netanyahu government settlements growth has increased at a near-unprecedented rate that critics say diminished the possibility of a viable Palestinian state.

Netanyahu is responsible for “opening of the settlement floodgates,” by approving the first settlements in a Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem since 1967, wrote Americans for Peace Now’s Lara Friedman and Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran.

“Netanyahu stole our home to make the settlers happy. Look at the trouble he has created in Jerusalem, it is a military base,” Abu Nab continued.

Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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8 Responses

  1. Rusty Pipes on October 22, 2015, 7:23 pm

    The PLO’s statement nails what Netanyahu’s provocations are all about — the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem:

    “Israeli policies and escalating practices in Silwan aim not only to alter the historic character of the area and to consolidate Israeli control over the Old City of Jerusalem, in particular al-Aqsa mosque compound, but also to contribute to the systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem,” said the PLO in statement.

    Taking a page from the playbook of his mentor, Ariel Sharon, Netanyahu has been trying to provoke a third intifada for years by enabling Jewish settler and IDF violence against Palestinians on the Al Aqsa Plaza. When he finally got a violent reaction from isolated Palestinian individuals, Netanyahu claimed to be protecting Jewish citizens from Arab violence by locking down “Arab neighborhoods” of Jerusalem and inflicting collective punishment on the families of those accused of being attackers. Conveniently, these “Arab neighborhoods” appear to be in the Old City, Silwan and Sheik Jarrah, areas that the Israeli government has been slowly ethnically cleansing by a variety of tactics for decades.

    And American MSM just gives us a variety of Zionist angles on the story with an occasional human interest bit about a particular Palestinian or a passing statement at the end of the story that the Palestinian Authority disagrees with Netanyahu’s perspective.

  2. MaxNarr on October 22, 2015, 7:36 pm

    This headline seems biased against the legal owners of the property, the Jewish community who has owned it for over 150 years.

    Why is it that Arabs have a so called “right of return” to kick Jews out of their current homes in Israel, yet you reject this same right for Jews to return after the 1929 Hebron slaughter?

    • thedirtydemocrat on October 23, 2015, 12:59 pm

      Max there you go again. Taking the side of the Racist Zionists is your style and only answer. Forged documents don’t make it.
      But in Israel the Palestinians are out of it anyway. According to them Palestinians are lower than sewer water.

  3. Boo on October 23, 2015, 12:17 pm

    There’s nothing new about taking advantage of widespread chaos in order to perpetrate injustices that would never pass muster in ordinary circumstances. So it’s scarcely surprising that these summary evictions and demolitions are occurring now.

    Ground facts have a way of trumping years of litigation and rendering them moot. But those who usurp property rights via bulldozers and at gunpoint ought to be aware that they’re acquiring their earthly fiefdoms unjustly and at the cost of forfeiting any right to the heavenly kingdom.

  4. Hermies Purrbuckets on October 24, 2015, 11:09 am

    There’s only three things wrong with “their” basic premise; that they are “God’s Chosen People.” 1/ there is no “God.” 2/ they could not therefore be “chosen” or special. 3/ they are definitely not “people,” at least in the sense of a civilized group of human beings. A better moniker for them might be “Delusional Self-Entitled Monsters.”

  5. just on October 24, 2015, 2:38 pm

    James Zogby:

    “… In reality, the roots of the violence in Jerusalem are deeper and far more complex. For decades now, Israel has been strangling East Jerusalem denying its Palestinian inhabitants freedom, opportunity, dignity, and hope, with devastating impact. Before Israel closed Jerusalem off from the rest of the West Bank in 1994, the city had served as the hub of Palestinian life. Not only was the city important for its religious role, all of the major Palestinian economic, social, cultural, educational, medical, and service institutions were located in the city.

    Jerusalem was Palestine’s heart, and the flow of people in and out was its lifeblood. Jerusalem’s people and its businesses and institutions were sustained by Palestinians from the West Bank who entered daily to work or shop, to visit or take advantage of the services it provided. And Palestinians from the rest of the West Bank were, in turn, nourished by all that the city had to offer. The choking impact of the closure was felt almost immediately. It became so difficult and humiliating to pass through checkpoints to get into Jerusalem, that people stopped making the effort. This was compounded by Israeli orders requiring Palestinian institutions to leave the city and reopen in Ramallah.

    Israel didn’t stop with closure. They also intensified the hardships faced by the Arab population of the city. Palestinian residents who couldn’t find work in Jerusalem were forced to look elsewhere for employment. But when Israelis discovered that an Arab was not permanently residing in the city, they revoked his or her residency – denying their right to return to Jerusalem. 14,000 such revocation orders have been issued.

    In the past several decades, Israel has also confiscated one third of Palestinian-owned land in and around Jerusalem to build Jewish-only colonies and a network of highways connecting them to Israel. These colonies now house over 200,000 Jewish settlers. At the same time, Israeli authorities in Jerusalem have routinely denied building permits to Palestinians thus forcing them to build, without permission, new housing for their growing population. The Israelis have, at will, issued demolition orders against these “illegal” homes. Thousands of such orders have been issued, and in the past decade alone more than 2,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem have been rendered homeless by demolitions.

    Further compounding this state of affairs has been the effort by ultra-nationalist Israeli groups, supported by American Jewish “charities”, to seize homes and properties in the heart of older Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and the Old City and to populate them with extremist settlers. These seizures often occur in the dark of night under the protection of the Israeli military. In recent years 119 of these provocative “projects” have been settled by almost 2,000 hardliners. Because they are in the heart of Arab neighborhoods and are guarded by Israel forces, they result in nightmarish disruptions to daily life.

    The impact this has had on East Jerusalem’s Palestinian population can been seen in ways both physical and spiritual. Arab Jerusalemites have become impoverished, with three-quarters of them living below the poverty line. Unemployment is in the 40% range, with most of Palestinians from East Jerusalem only able to find menial jobs in West Jerusalem. Educated young Palestinians are given a stark choice – either accept employment as a waiter or a taxi driver or give up residency in Jerusalem to find a job in their field outside of Palestine.

    This has taken a profound toll on the soul of Arab Jerusalemites, young and old. Denied dignity and hope, both despair and anger have set in. While some older Palestinians in the city have become cynical and resigned, younger Palestinians have become angry, seeking revenge. They are resentful of and feel humiliated by the settlers who have moved into their neighborhoods, closing off streets and moving about with a sense of entitlement. While Palestinian attacks on Israelis are reported in great detail, the attacks on Palestinians by settlers (140 in October, alone) have largely been ignored.

    Young Palestinians see their parents in despair and know that their futures are, at best, devoid of promise for a better life. All of this has set the stage for the epidemic of violence that has now unfolded in Jerusalem.

    To be sure, the provocative invasions of the Haram ash Sharif by hardline Israeli ministers and their extremist followers have aggravated the situation. But to identify the root cause of the violence as either Palestinian “incitement”, “blood lust” or “paranoia” and to ignore the profoundly unsettling existential incitement faced by Palestinians is unconscionable.

    Make no mistake, the stabbings cannot be justified and should be condemned. They accomplish nothing other than to take lives or cause bodily harm to others. But the Israeli response which has been to bring down even more harsh and repressive measures on an already much violated captive people is no solution. And neither are the lame appeals to “restore calm”. More repression will not cure an ailment that has been caused by too much oppression. And “restoring calm” is embarrassingly hollow since it promises nothing more than a return to the pre-existing state of affairs than spawned the violence, in the first place.

    In many ways, the tragedy unfolding in Jerusalem reminds Palestinians of what has occurred in Hebron. First, settlements and checkpoints choked off Hebron from its surroundings. Then heavily guarded compounds of fanatics entered the heart of the city, shutting down the main street killing its commerce. The final blow came after an extremist settler massacred 29 Muslims at prayer in Hebron’s mosque. The Israeli response was to divide the mosque into Jewish and Muslim sides. While Jews were able to enter freely, Muslims were forced to endure humiliating security before entering – with the mosque being declared closed to Muslims, whenever the Israelis decide. …”

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