Occupied Jerusalem, ALRAY - 30 Palestinian families face the threat of expulsion from their houses constructed on their lands 60 years ago, near the Kidmat Zion settlement, east of Jerusalem, Haaretz paper reported.
An Israel Lands Administration document from the 1980s showed that the land is owned by Palestinians.
The families have been living in the Palestinian al-Sawahra neighborhood for 60 years, which borders the southern part of the Kidmat Zion settlement.
The eviction orders were sent by the Administrator General’s office, which was assigned to manage the property by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court in a classified proceeding.
Five generations of the Qunbar family have lived in those homes. Naif Qunbar, 68, said his grandfather bought the land and the family has lived there for 60 years. He has 12 children, six of whom also live there.
He said settlers had tried to buy the homes for “a lot of money” in 2000, and again in 2010, but the families refused.
The Israel Hayom daily reported in August that the administrator general had gone through great efforts to prove that the land in al-Sawahra is part of the land purchased by the homeowners’ association, even hiring private investigators.
But a document from 1982 that was discovered by Ir Amim showed that the Israeli authorities had already looked into this question, and the answer was negative. In that document, in response to an inquiry from a Jerusalem city official, the head of the Israel Lands Administration’s regional mapping office wrote that “I haven’t found any evidence of ownership under the name Homeowners Association.”
There’s also no evidence that the land was registered by either the Turkish government that ruled the area until 1917 or the British Mandate that succeeded it, the letter continued. And the Jordanian custodian of enemy property “didn’t intervene in the initial land registration process,” meaning it didn’t think the land was Jewish-owned.
A five-year plan to develop East Jerusalem that was approved in 2018 included provisions to register land in that area with the Israeli land registry, something that hadn’t been done in all the years since Israel gained control of East Jerusalem in 1967. But a process initially intended to make it easier for Palestinians to obtain construction permits soon became a drive to register land as Jewish-owned.
"Israel often claims that eviction suits against Palestinians – for instance, in Sheikh Jarrah or Silwan – are nothing more than real estate disputes between settler organizations and Palestinian families,” said Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher at Ir Amim. “This case clearly shows it’s a state initiative in which non-negligible resources have been invested.
“The unclassified material shows no justification for evicting the families or registering the open areas in the administrator’s name, while the material that ostensibly justifies the claims of Jewish ownership has been deliberately concealed by the state,” he added. “The government has done all this to justify evicting 150 people from the homes they have lived in for 60 years already.”