Israel admitted to the High Court of Justice yesterday that a decision to evict 700 Palestinians from their land after it was transferred to a settler institution was "flawed".
Seven hundred Palestinians from Batan Al-Hawa, part of the occupied Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan, are facing eviction after their land was transferred to a right-wing settlement organisation. To date, a number of families have already been evicted and dozens more are conducting legal battles to fight the eviction notice, according to Haaretz.
Their situation dates back to 2002 when Israel's Justice Ministry issued title deeds to the land in question to the Benvenisti Trust. The trust argues that it purchased the land in the late 1800s to settle Jews arriving to Palestine from Yemen. The trust is now controlled by Ateret Cohanim, a right-wing organisation that encourages Jewish Israelis to settle illegally in Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem.
The hearing at the High Court saw those Palestinians affected petition against this 2002 decision. Their petition argues that the original deeds pertained only to the buildings that were on the land prior to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, and not the land itself. Most of these buildings were subsequently demolished, meaning the trust would not have any rights to the land.
The Israeli government admitted during the hearing that the Justice Ministry had not investigated the nature of the trust, the Ottoman-era law that applies in the case, or the condition of the buildings now on the land before it issued the deeds that would evict the Palestinians now living in the neighbourhood.
A lawyer for the Palestinian petitioners, Muhammad Dahleh, questioned "how is it possible to evict them [the residents of Silwan] based on such a poor procedure, a procedure that the state today acknowledges making a mistake in?" reported Haaretz.
Attempts to illegally settle Israelis in Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem are rife. A new study by the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Studies has shown that illegal Israeli settlers own 186,000 flats in occupied East Jerusalem, while Palestinians only own 54,500, even though Palestinians represent a demographic majority in the city. Across Jerusalem and the West Bank, approximately 500,000 Israelis currently live on more than 150 Jewish-only settlements built on Palestinian land.
These settlements have been built since Israel occupied the West Bank and Jerusalem in the 1967 Naksa. International law states that an occupying power should not transfer members of its civilian population to the land being occupied and therefore considers all Jewish settlement activity on the land as illegal.