Sunday, July 24, 2011

Palestinians have more restitution rights than Jews

Aerial photo of Jerusalem taken in the early 20th century shows that much of 'Arab East Jerusalem' was then empty fields (via Yakov Lozowick)

The Los Angeles Times recently gave a platform to Hagit Borer, an Israeli-American participant in the Gaza flotilla. In its rebuttal of Borer's distortions, the media watchdog CAMERA demonstrates that Palestinians are still more likely to get compensation and restitution from Israel than Jews who lost property in Arab countries.

She (Hagit Borer) bemoans the fact that today's Jerusalem is "different" than the city she grew up in before 1967, charging that now "It is not [the Palestinians'] Jerusalem, for it has been taken from them." Nevermind that the city is now more Arab and less Jewish than it was on the eve of the Six Day War. Nevermind that Arab building has outpaced Jewish building in the city since 1967. Nevermind that no part of Jerusalem was ever ruled by Palestinians.

About Sheik Jarrah, she selectively reports:

In Sheik Jarrah, a neighborhood built by Jordan in the 1950s to house refugees, Palestinian families recently have been evicted from their homes at gunpoint based on court-sanctioned documents purporting to show Jewish land ownership in the area dating back some 100 years.

Contrary to Borer's historical inversion (she writes of "the Jewish neighborhood of Shimon Hatzadik, as Sheik Jarrah has been renamed"), the Jewish presence at the site long preceded the 1950s arrival of Palestinian refugees. As reported by Nadav Shragai for the JCPA:

For hundreds of years the Jewish presence in the area centered around the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik (Simon the Righteous), one of the last members of the Great Assembly (HaKnesset HaGedolah), the governing body of the Jewish people during the Second Jewish Commonwealth, after the Babylonian Exile . . . .

For years Jews have made pilgrimages to his grave to light candles and pray, as documented in many reports by pilgrims and travelers. While the property was owned by Arabs for many years, in 1876 the cave and the nearby field were purchased by Jews, involving a plot of 18 dunams (about 4.5 acres) that included 80 ancient olive trees.10 The property was purchased for 15,000 francs and was transferred to the owner through the Majlis al-Idara, the seat of the Turkish Pasha and the chief justice. According to the contract, the buyers (the committee of the Sephardic community and the Ashkenazi Assembly of Israel) divided the area between them equally, including the cave on the edge of the plot.

Dozens of Jewish families built homes on the property. On the eve of the Arab Revolt in 1936 there were hundreds of Jews living there. When the disturbances began they fled, but returned a few months later and lived there until 1948. When the Jordanians captured the area, the Jews were evacuated and for nineteen years were barred from visiting either their former homes or the cave of Shimon HaTzadik.

Borer then goes on to falsely claim:

But no Palestinian proof of ownership within West Jerusalem has ever prevailed in Israeli courts. Talbieh, Katamon, Baca, until 1948 affluent Palestinian neighborhoods, are today almost exclusively Jewish, with no legal recourse for the Palestinians who recently raised families and lived their lives there.

In fact, Palestinian Arabs who in 1948 lost their homes within Israel, including in West Jerusalem, do have legal recourse. Indeed, some have opted to take advantage of the Absentee Property Law, which entitles them to compensation. According to the Israel Lands Administration, as of 1993, 14,692 Arabs claimed compensation under the Absentee Property Law and the Validation and Compensation Law. Claims were settled with respect to 200,905 dunams of land, a total of NIS 9,956,828 had been paid as compensation, and 54,481 dunams of land had been given in compensation (Israel Lands Administration Report for 1993).

Borer (pictured) fails to explain that the Palestinian refugees residing in Jewish-owned homes in Sheik Jarrah/Shimon Hatzadik were evicted by the courts because for decades they failed to pay rent to the Jewish owners. Shragai reported:

After 1967, control over Jewish-owned property in the Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood that had been seized by Arabs was transferred from the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property to the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property. In 1972 the Israeli Custodian released the land back to its owners (the Committee of the Sephardic Community and the Ashkenazi Assembly of Israel). In 1988 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the 28 Arab families living on the premises enjoy the status of "Protected Residents," but that the ownership of the land belongs to the two Jewish organizations.

Ten years later, in 1998, Jews entered deserted houses in the neighborhood. At the same time, a slow process of evicting Arab families who apparently refused to pay rent to the two Jewish organizations was begun. The Jewish groups involved in the area presented a power of attorney from former Knesset Member Yehezkel Zackay (Labor) and from the heads of the Sephardic Committee permitting them to remain on the site and to rebuild it. Zackay explained that the Arabs there had treated the premises as if it were their own private property, building without authorization, entering houses which were not theirs, and had even tried to destroy the abandoned synagogue located in the middle of the neighborhood.

Similarly, the New York Times reported:

In the 1950s, Jordan and the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees gave 28 refugee families homes there. The families say that Jordan promised them full ownership, but the houses were never formally registered in their names.

In the early 1970s, the Israeli courts awarded two Jewish associations ownership of the compound based on land deeds that were a century old. The Palestinian residents were allowed to stay on as protected tenants on the condition that they paid rent to the Jewish groups.

Rejecting the court ruling, many of the Palestinian families refused to pay rent, making them eligible for eviction.

True, those Palestinians who lost their homes in Talbieh and Katamon cannot return, while Jews have successfully reclaimed Jewish property inhabited by Arabs who failed to pay their rent. (It is worth noting that just a couple of weeks ago the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court rejected a Jewish bid to evict an Arab family from a Sheikh Jarrah home because the judge ruled that it could not be proven that the family did not pay rent to the Jewish owners.) If Borer were truly interested in comparing the two situations -- restitution to Jewish refugees versus restitution to Arab refugees -- she would ask: Have any of the hundreds of thousands Jews evicted from their homes in Arab countries, where, in her words, they "recently raised families and lived their lives," received compensation, as have some 15,000 Palestinian Arabs received compensation from Israel? What legal recourse is available to Jewish refugees from Arab lands who lost their properties when they were expelled or fled from their homes? Of course, even this situation is not a true parallel, since the Jewish refugees from Arab countries did not instigate any war aimed at destroying a state.

Read article in full


Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Berber neighbors in Yafran, Libya, remember Jews.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Hagit Borer distorts the history of Jerusalem. "She bemoans the fact . . . that now 'It is not [the Arabs'] Jerusalem, for it has been taken from them.'" In fact, Jews have been the majority in Jerusalem since 1853 at least. If it was the Arabs' city [we ought not say palestinian which is a term now fashionably applied to the Arabs in the Land of Israel although in the 1940s the Arab spokesmen explicitly the name "palestine" for the country], then only part of it was Arab, the eastern and northern parts ethnically cleansed of Jews by forces starting in December 1947 and lasting until 1967.

Or one might say that the city belonged to the Arabs despite the Jewish majority, since both Ottoman and British regimes in the country appointed Arab mayors to control the city although Arabs were the minority in the city from 1853 on.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

correction, word left out of comment:

. . . .in the 1940s the Arab spokesmen explicitly REJECTED the name "palestine" for the country. . .