Palestinians offered apartment in exchange for abandoning home

By Julien Sibars, CNN • Updated 9th May 2016 Two Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, a West Bank neighborhood located close to the Old City, are opposing a police order that forces them to…

Palestinians offered apartment in exchange for abandoning home

By Julien Sibars, CNN • Updated 9th May 2016

Two Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, a West Bank neighborhood located close to the Old City, are opposing a police order that forces them to leave within 24 hours.

The families have accepted that they will move out of a large apartment in the Sheikh Jarrah area after 27 years in their current home, in response to a police offer of rent-free accommodation in a nearby building owned by Jewish Israelis.

However, the families have rejected a proposal by the Israeli high court of appeal to evict the families rather than allow the police to forcibly remove them.

The families, an extended family of Palestinian Bedouins and their two young children, were granted Israeli residency in Sheikh Jarrah more than 15 years ago, and have no intention of leaving their home.

They have denied the housing demand by the police and the Israeli court is a pretext to evict them.

Reluctant, gradual abdication

The Palestinian Bedouins live in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood with Arab squatters, who are often elderly and homeless.

The Bedouins live in tents on the Bedouin area’s plots of land and with a patchwork of stone and concrete buildings on the streets.

About 70,000 Bedouins live in the West Bank under Israeli military occupation. The Bedouins have been evicted and forced from their homes repeatedly over the last fifty years.

Most Bedouins who have been forcibly removed and displaced do not continue to live in their original lands. Instead, they move to the West Bank, often alongside Jewish settlers.

In the early 1990s, Arab squatters in Sheikh Jarrah were ejected from their homes, and their lands were confiscated for Jewish construction.

Their replacements — mostly Jewish immigrants from Russia and Ethiopia — were highly unlikely to provide alternative housing.

Nevertheless, the Arab squatters and Bedouins negotiated a deal with the Israeli authorities, agreeing to leave their homes and buildings in return for the demolition of about 40 synagogues on land belonging to Jews.

No option but appeal to High Court

Despite this, an Israeli court still orders them to leave the area.

The families fear this will leave them at the mercy of the Israeli courts, which can force them to leave, under threat of arrest.

“We have no option but to appeal to the High Court of Justice,” the family members say in a statement.

“We have learned that we will be forced to leave our homes as the Bitton family’s lawyers filed a petition with the High Court of Justice, demanding that we be allowed to demolish the building and displace us.”

According to the police, the families have been notified to move out by April 10. A police order dated April 8 seeks to force the families to vacate their homes and moved to the next available building.

The police order seeks to turn over to the new owners the adjoining land in which the building and the families’ home sit.

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