ARCHITECTS & PLANNERS
FOR JUSTICE IN PALESTINE
1 December 2011
Ambassador Daniel Taub
Embassy of Israel
2 Palace Green
London W8 4QB
Dear Ambassador Taub
Re: House evictions and demolitions in Silwan and the ‘City of David’ (Wadi Hilweh)- with reference to the Sumarin family house.
I am writing to request your urgent action to help ensure that the State of Israel ends its evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes and families in annexed East Jerusalem, and throughout the West Bank, especially in Area C. These criminal acts must cease, not temporarily but permanently. They have been internationally condemned by all governments, including the US, the UK and the EU and especially by human rights organizations, from B’Tselem, to Amnesty International, and Rabbis for Human Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, ICAHD and UN commissions, to name a few. Yet Israel continues with these brutal policies regardless, and continues its extensive housing expansion in the settlements around East Jerusalem and deliberately within Palestinian neighbourhoods, with the intent of permanently displacing them. This makes a mockery of any possible negotiations towards peace.
The latest bombshell of eviction orders was received by the Sumarin family in Wadi Hilweh. Despite the fact there are legal documents clearly stating that the land is owned by them, the land has been declared “absentee property” and thus subject to confiscation. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/palestinian-family-given-two-weeks-to-vacate-east-jerusalem-home-1.395590 To then apply a 2 million shekel fine on this family is cruel and absurd. Yet this family are clearly the owners of the property.
The JNF (KKL) or in this case, its West Bank persona Himnuta, has been trying to evict this family since 1991. The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity movement, which has been helping the family, said that Himnuta's "eagerness to throw people out of their home in the service of the settlers is another expression of the current government's thuggish rule. We'll continue to suffer from the destructiveness of this racist policy until the public rises up against a government that sabotages our future."
It looks like Israel is conducting a ‘price tag’ against all Palestinians who have homes in places desired by the State, and who stand in the way of a complete takeover by Jewish settlers of the Holy basin. The Absentee Property Law is an unjust ‘legal’ manoeuvre, that has no basis in international law, that allows the Israeli state to divest Palestinians of their homes and land. This device, used by the JNF and the state to expropriate 93percent of the land conquered by Israel in 1948, cannot be used in the post- 1967 occupied Palestinian territories. Immediately after the annexation, then-Attorney General Meir Shamgar issued an opinion that there was no justification to apply the Absentee Property Law to East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Many land cases underlined this position. http://www.adalah.org/PressReleases_full_eng.asp?ID=2774&category_id=307
Now that Himnuta, subject to pressure and protests has decided to delay the evictions, http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/jnf-delays-eviction-of-palestinian-family-from-east-jerusalem-home-1.397923 it is hoped that the eviction notices will be totally rescinded, as is quite possible to be done, and that all eviction and demolition notices issued to Palestinians in Silwan, Al Bustan, in Sheikh Jarrah and Ras-El Amud - in fact throughout the West Bank- will be rescinded. Further it is imperative that all the properties that were appropriated by the JNF and handed to the Elad settlers or the state under the Absentee Property Laws will be returned to the Palestinians who were forcibly evicted from them, for the National Park of the ‘City of David’. This includes land and property sold on to groups like Ateret Hacohanim.
Both the City of David Archaeological Park and the proposed King’s Garden project for Al-Bustan,(where 89 homes are under threat of demolition) like all the Israeli settler’s neighbourhoods in annexed East Jerusalem and the West Bank, are illegal under international law and numerous UN Resolutions. Settlements constructed beyond the ‘Green Line” established in 1967 violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998) defines "the transfer directly or indirectly by the Occupying power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies" as a War Crime indictable by the International Criminal Court. (Article 7, Crimes Against Humanity.)
Article 46 of the Hague Convention prohibits the confiscation of private property in occupied territory. The confiscation of land by the Israeli government for settlement construction is in violation of this article. (Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague II); July 29, 1899)
Article 55 of the Hague Convention stipulates that the occupying power cannot take over or use territories or private properties in the occupied territories to serve the interests of its civilian population. (Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague II); July 29, 1899)
As recently as 22 March 2010, the UN General Assembly has reaffirmed “the illegality of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, including in East Jerusalem, which is applicable de jure to Palestinian and all Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem”.
On Demolitions and Evictions: Occupying Powers are prohibited from destroying property or employing collective punishment. Article 53 of the Geneva Convention reads: “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons…is prohibited." Under this provision the practice of demolishing Palestinian houses is banned, as is the wholesale destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure. Yet these demolitions continue in their thousands.
The JNF, due to the state’s clearing of Bedouin off their land in the Negev, are participating in the intended transfer and ethnic cleansing of 30,000 Bedouin from the Negev to substandard townships, and are benefiting from the expropriation of their land in ‘unrecognized villages’ for further Jewish settlement projects and forests. They are laying themselves open to having their charitable status removed and their undeserved reputation being further sullied by their actions in Israel and by its subsidiary Himnuta in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, as the truth is revealed.
I only hope that, for a start, you will use your greatest efforts to remedy even these few out of a daily catalogue of war crimes and breaches of human rights that are being committed by agents of the Israeli state. You have an opportunity to end these practices, if Israel really wishes to earn the right to be classified as a democracy, and create the scenario for a just and lasting peace with equal rights for all in that region.
Abe Hayeem, Chair APJP