Silwan faces crisis-point: two simultaneous evictions + evacuations

The East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan is facing a new crisis point.

According to a late-night report from the Silwan Information Center (Silwanic), posted on their website here, “Silwanic has been informed that the illegal settlement of Beit Yonatan in the Baten al-Hawa neighborhood of Silwan will be evicted at 9am either tomorrow [16 January] or [Monday] 17 January. Beit Yonatan is not the only illegally-built settlement in the area, it has stood at the heart of the settlement issue in Silwan, its continued existence a telling example of the double standards of the Jerusalem Municipality, who have issued hundreds of demolition orders to date to Palestinian homes on the strength of questionable licensing issues”.

We have previously reported on this matter on this blog, including here.

Late last week, Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein — who has previously pressed Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to execute court orders requiring the eviction of several settler families from Beit Yonathan, and the sealing of the building which does not comply with Jerusalem municpal building codes — again called on Mayor Barkat to carry out the evacuation order.

YNet reported, here, that Weinstein hinted that the Mayor could be charged with violation of the law if he failed to act to enforce the court order. Weinstein reportedly stated that “the implementation of the order was ‘an obligation set by the court’.”

At the beginning of the new year (2011), Barkat linked the eviction and evacuation of Beit Yonathan with the the fate of the Abu Nab family, whose 60 members have been living for decades in a compound they built that includes a structure that formally served as a synagogue for Yeminite Jews in Silwan before the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 (when all Jews were evacuated from the area).

Barkat, who continues to want to implement an earlier plan he has proposed for the Silwan neighborhood that would reduce the number of pending Palestinian home demolitions [from something like 88 to something around 20] in exchange for retroactive “legalization” of all other structures there (including Beit Yonathan), did manage to temporarily persuaded the Aterit Cohanim settler organization to withdraw a civil suit they had filed to compel the eviction of the Abu Nab family.

YNet reported last week that “Despite a compromise proposed by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat the State insists on implementing the sealing order imposed on Beit Yonatan in east Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein sent a letter to Barkat Thursday stating that a date in the near future must be set for the implementation of the order”.

But, the Attorney General has apparently accepted the logic of the Mayor’s linkage of the fate of the two neighboring structures — one inhabited by East Jerusalem Palestinians, and the other one housing Israeli Jewish settler familes and their private (though state-salaried) security guards.

YNet reported that Weinstein added: ” ‘I have asked the enforcement elements to try and have the implementation of the order be performed at the same time another order is being carried out‘ … He was referring to the evacuation of Arab residents from the Abu Nab house which is adjacent to Beit Yonatan. He stressed that the sealing order must be implemented ‘without the intervention of unauthorized elements’ and noted that he has informed the political rank of this decision. Weinstein even hinted to Barkat that he should be careful for his actions over the Beit Yehonatan issue could come to criminal proceedings. He referred the Mayor to the Attorney General’s directive which stated that “an elected representative’s attempts to intervene in favor of one defendant or another in criminal proceedings carried out by the criminal prosecution has no place and is inappropriate. ‘These actions harm the independence of Israel’s criminal prosecution system and could harm the parity of the criminal process, coloring it with political opinions, if in essence, if outwardly and in certain cases, the actions themselves could become a felony. Last month Barkat prevented the evacuation of Beit Yonatan at the last minute after the Ateret Cohanim foundation lifted its demand to evacuate the residents of Abu Nab house which previously served as a synagogue. Barkat declared that should the foundation not agree to temporarily withdraw their demand he will evacuate both sites on the same day”.

Silwan organizer Adnan Gheith, who is also a Fatah activist, withdrew his appeal at the end of December — apparently with the support of the Fatah movement — to an Israeli military order banning him, or deporting him, for a period of four months from his home and from all of the “Greater Jerusalem Municipality”, and arrived in Ramallah this week.

Quote of the day – 13th in our series: Israeli MK at press conference in Silwan

“It’s a shame and a disgrace that we have to travel in bulletproof vehicles inside of Jerusalem, the holy city, because of a few auto mechanics who are throwing rocks”.

Today’s quote comes from Israeli MK [Knesset Member] Ya’acov Katz, one of four members of the National Union Party who are presently serving in the Israeli Knesset or parliament, said at a press conference in Beit Yonathan in Silwan, East Jerusalem today.

Referring contemptuously to the adult male Palestinian residents of Silwan as “auto mechanics” explains quite a lot about the present conflict…

The Jerusalem Post, which reported on this press conference here, also wrote that “On Monday, the neighborhood saw the regular amount of rock throwing and tear gas”.

Meanwhile, criticism — and amazement — persist over the deal imposed by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who strategy seems to be based on his determined intent to pursue his own plan for the Silwan neighborhood, while the Israeli Attorney-General and an opposition member of the Jerusalem Municipal Council say the Mayor cannot ignore court orders.

Yesterday, Israeli commentators were worried about a “conflagration” erupting if orders to evacuate Beit Yonathan were carried out — or, if an order to evacuate the Palestinian Abu Nab family from their compound built on the site of what was a Yeminite synagogue in the 1940s, before the area fell under the control of Jordanian forces in the fighting that surrounded the proclamation of the State of Israel in mid-May 1948..

Crisis, talk of possible "conflagration", in Silwan today – defused by nightfall?

Israeli Border Police in large numbers were deployed in and around the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan today, as a constellation of pending events portended possible grave troubles ahead.

In the morning, the Police delivered a military notification to Silwan community activist Adnan Gheith that an order to expel him from his home for four months would be executed by 5 pm today. The measure was taken under emergency military orders issued in 1945, during the British administration of the Mandate of Palestine, prior to the proclamation of the State of Israel (in mid-May 1948).

Haaretz reported today that a letter handed to Gheith by the Police on behalf of the IDF Home Front Command a few weeks ago stated: “On November 25, security forces presented the military commander with defense-related material regarding your activities in the Jerusalem sector,” the letter read. “In light of the information contained herein, the military commander, the Home Front Commander [Maj. Gen. Yair Golan], is considering making use of the authority granted to him – and to order your removal from the Jerusalem city limits and its environs for a period of four months”.

According to Haaretz, Gheith was told earlier this week by the police “that he had two weeks to appeal the decision. ‘They claim to have classified information and all sorts of things’, he said. ‘But the truth is that I’m not leaving Jerusalem. Nobody can take a person away from his home and his family’.”

East Jerusalem Attorney Rami Othman said that a decision arrived this morning saying that the order would be carried out by 5 pm today. Othman then made an emergency appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court.

UPDATE: In the late afternoon Sunday the Court issued a temporary injunction against Gheith’s expulsion from Jerusalem by 5 pm.

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