Thursday, May 4, 2006

Beit Shapira in Hebron - Justice at its best

Beit Shapira in Hebron - Justice at its best

May 4, 2006

Last March, just over a year ago, Hebron's Jewish community completed acquisition of a large house in the Tel-Rumeida – Admot Ishai neighborhood. The building, adjacent to a recently completed apartment complex and the neighborhood's caravan homes, was something of a coup. It is extremely difficult to obtain buildings from Arabs anywhere, but especially in Hebron. Arabs selling property to Jews are summarily executed. Of course, first they are tortured. So it was only a few weeks ago when Muhammad Abu al-Hawa, a 48 year old Arab, was found tortured and killed for having sold Jews property on the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem [,,251-2134917,00.html].

However, where there's a will, there's a way. It is a quite complicated process and necessitates much patience. Frequently, a successful transaction can take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to conclude.

Upon moving into the building, security forces arrived, demanding 'proof of purchase.' All the necessary documents were turned over to the police, army and 'civil administration' in charge of Yesha. Everything was legal, and we were quite sure that everything would work out.

The director of the civil administration, a wonderful man, met with his senior staff and told them, "you have to get them out of that building!"

One of those present, an expert on such affairs, responded, "We can't. I've gone through all the documents. They crossed all the 'tees' and dotted all the 'iis'. It's all legal."

His boss answered, "I don't care, Find a way to get them out."

Over course the Arab owner of the building claimed that the documentation was all forged and that he had never sold the property. These claims, for a good reason. Arabs who sell to Jews are murdered.

It didn't take long to dismantle his story. He was lying through his teeth and within a short time his version of things fell apart.

That was over a year ago, and despite a 'continuing investigation' the house and property are with us. They couldn't and didn't 'get us out.'

But the appetite was there, a big appetite at that. They waited.

Exactly a month ago the Hebron Jewish community carbon-copied the Tel Rumeida transaction. Following years of negotiations, a large building adjacent to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood was acquired, exactly as the Tel Rumeida property was acquired. Entrance into the building was held up until the attorneys gave their final O.K. – everything is kosher, the papers are in order – you have a green light. GO.

So, go we did. At nine in the evening a large group of Hebron residents dittoed the act of a year ago, and moved in. The building had to be cleaned; it was a real mess inside. But Hebron's population was highly motivated. Not every day do you successfully move into a new building in the city of the Patriarchs.

Of course, the police, army and civil administration showed up in full force, and received explanations and documentation, as a year before. And that was it. At least for a few days.

Several men were called in by the police for interrogation. They answers to most of the questions were fairly standard. 'The entire deal is legal – we have the papers to prove it – any questions concerning the details can be addressed to our lawyers. They are the experts.'

Following a few minutes of such conversation, a senior interrogator came into the room and started lecturing: "This time we are going to get you. Last time, we let you get away with it, but not this time. WE ARE GOING TO GET YOU!"

These words were repeated for about 40 minutes, over an over again, until he thought he'd gotten his point across. And that was it.

Last week we received notification that the police and others in the security forces 'decided' that the documentation was a complete forgery and that our presence in the building was illegal. They gave us notification: if you don't leave voluntarily, we will forcibly expel you.

Why now? According to the law, there is a procedure whereby tenants can be removed from a building within 30 days of their entrance. After 30 days, it becomes much more difficult to legally expel tenants from the home or building. Our '30 days' ends tonight.

For the past month, three families, about 25 people, have been living in Beit Shapira. Tonight, depending on the ruling of the Israeli High Court of Justice (the Supreme Court), between 1,500 to 2,000 police and soldiers are planning on throwing them out.

Here then, is a summary of the facts concerning Beit Shapira, (named in memory of Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhak Shapira, killed next to the house by Arab terrorists during Succot, 2003).

1. The Jewish presence in the building is legal.
All necessary legal documentation is available and held by the claimants. Tremendous amounts of money were invested in the building, and the decision to expel us, based upon empty, false complaints of the previous owners, comprises thievery and improper utilization of authority by powers that be.

2 . We accuse the previous Arab owner of false claims.

The fact that the previous owner denies the transaction is a normal and frequent occurrence. This, due to the fact that their lives are endangered. Such a denial is accompanied by a complaint issued with the police. The police investigation should then take place in accordance with this fact, which is well known to them, and they should not reach hasty conclusions.

3. We accuse the investigators of a tendentious investigation and improper use of their authority. The police and the civil administration hastened to draw conclusions, without any factual basis for their conclusions, while refraining from any objective, professional investigation of the facts. Despite the fact that they were not able to ascertain that the documentation was forged, as claimed by the previous owner and did not conduct any kind of true investigation of the facts, the police reached one-sided conclusions.

We are one hundred percent convinced that, given the opportunity to present the facts and documentation in an authorized court of law, the undisputed conclusion will be reached that the property is legally held by the Jewish community of Hebron. We therefore are requesting that the Supreme court prevent the proposed expulsion and transfer the case to the proper court of law.

4. We are facing a classic case of improper use of authority by the authorities, who are utilizing their positions in a clearly biased manner, without any fairness or objectivity.

5. It is only proper that the question of legal possession and tenure, and the determination as to the authenticity of the documents, be determined by an appropriate court as soon as possible. Such decisions should not be made by 'field court-martial' with overtly political overtones.

6. Concerning the last point, it must be stressed that the question at hand is not legal, rather it is strictly political. The decision to expel us from the building was taken by outgoing Defense Minister Shaul Mufaz and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert immediately following our entrance into the building, prior to any examination of the legal documents or claims. The police then began a one-sided investigation before any claims or complaints were filed by the previous owner.

This being the case, we expect the high court of justice to accept our petition and order the police to refrain from any and all expulsion of Jewish families from Beit Shapira in Hebron.

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