|Yesterday, the Jerusalem District Court ruled on behalf of the Ateret Cohanim settler organization to uphold the eviction order of the 26-member Duweik family (five nuclear families) from their home in Batan al-Hawa, Silwan. This decision follows close on the heels of a similar ruling in the case of the Odeh and Shweiki families (three nuclear families) from the same neighborhood a week prior in which the court likewise rejected their appeal against the Magistrate's Court eviction order from February 2020. A total of eight families, comprised of 45 people, are under imminent threat of losing homes they built on legally acquired land decades ago in Batan al-Hawa. The families intend to submit an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court.
The Ateret Cohanim settler organization is waging one of the most comprehensive state-backed settler takeover campaigns in East Jerusalem through initiating mass eviction proceedings against Palestinian families in Batan al-Hawa. Eighteen families have already lost their homes with over 80 other households facing eviction demands, placing some 600-700 individuals of one community at risk of displacement. See Ir Amim’s and Peace Now’s joint report, “Broken Trust” for further details and analysis.
Via its management of the Benvenisti Trust - a Jewish trust which held title to properties in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Batan al-Hawa- Ateret Cohanim is advancing evictions of Palestinians from the area based on exploitation of the Legal and Administrative Matters Law of 1970. The law, also a primary legal displacement mechanism in Sheikh Jarrah, located on the opposite side of the Old City Basin, enables Jews to reclaim assets lost during the war of 1948 via the Israel General Custodian, while no parallel legal provision exists for Palestinians who lost property in West Jerusalem.
The rulings concerning families in Batan al-Hawa join a series of other court decisions over the past year which upheld eviction demands against Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, including the Sabbagh family (seven nuclear families) and four others. While yesterday the Sabbagh family's attorneys were able to obtain a last minute interim injunction which freezes the eviction momentarily, they have nearly exhausted all legal channels to prevent it from ultimately being carried out.
This year has seen an unprecedented number of court decisions upholding eviction demands against Palestinian families on behalf of settler organizations. Since the beginning of the year, the courts have authorized the eviction of a total of 30 Palestinian families from their homes in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, two of the most strategically located areas in the Old City Basin and the target of concerted settlement activity. While most families still have the opportunity to submit an appeal to a higher court, their options for legal recourse are beginning to diminish, which could usher in an alarming wave of evictions as of next year.
Beyond the humanitarian toll exacted on Palestinian families, evictions of Palestinians and the establishment of state-backed settler enclaves in the Old City Basin are reinforced by a constellation of touristic settlement sites, which together serve to further embed Israeli sovereignty in this area and foil the prospects of a future political resolution on the city. See Ir Amim's 2019 map below illustrating the tightening ring of settlement activity around the Old City Basin.