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Beit Hanina, the new Sheikh Jarrah? (JERUSALEM POST) By MELANIE LIDMAN 04/01/12)Source: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=264364 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
A number of Jewish activists with the right-wing Israel Land Fund will move into a house in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of Jerusalem in the coming days, as the first step towards creating a new Jewish complex of 50 apartments in the predominantly Arab neighborhood.

According to Israel Land Fund director Aryeh King, two buildings, each with two apartments, were purchased by a Jewish buyer 35 years ago and also belonged to Jewish residents prior to 1948. An eight- year court battle with the current residents, begun in 2004, recently concluded with the court’s decision to award ownership of the house to the Jewish buyer. The family in one of the buildings heeded the court decision and evacuated, per King’s promise to waive the NIS 250,000 debt the court awarded to the Israel Land Fund for damages resulting from the eight-year court case. The second family, headed by Khaled Suliman Natche, is refusing to evacuate.

Natche said police have been harassing him non-stop since Thursday in a fear campaign to get him to leave the building. Police accused him of having weapons and drugs in the house, a claim he denies. “Even if [King] gave me a million shekels I wouldn’t give him the keys,” said Natche. “I’m not going to leave, I will die here. Whatever they want to do, they can do. Whatever they want, I’m not leaving the house. If they kill me, they kill me,” he said. Natche added that because land transactions in his neighborhood between Arabs are generally not filed with the municipality, they could not prove their ownership of part of the land.

King said the residents were aware of his work in the neighborhood for years and that the eminent entrance of Jewish residents did not come as a surprise. The two buildings sit on approximately six dunams of land (1.5 acres) in the Hashakrir neighborhood of Beit Hanina, which is located close to the light rail. King hopes to build a new Jewish neighborhood called “Nof Shmuel” on the land with 50 apartments. The name means “View of Samuel” in English and refers to the tomb of the Prophet Samuel north of Ramot which is visible from the neighborhood.

In response, a number of left-wing activists have taken up guard shifts in the Natche family’s home to prevent the eviction, which could happen in the coming days. “This is a totally new settlement,” said activist Michael Salsbury, who compared the story to the controversial evictions of three Arab families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in the summer of 2009. “If there will be an eviction we’ll continue to demonstrate there like we demonstrated at Sheikh Jarrah,” he said. The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, which was born out of that struggle, organized weekly protests in the neighborhood for over a year.

Salsbury pointed out that the planned complex in Beit Hanina is disconnected from any other Jewish neighborhood, effectively creating a new Jewish presence in a historically Arab area. “We won’t let it happen,” Salsbury vowed. “We won’t let the settler organizations endanger the future of our children. We want peace for our children. According to the organization, they’ll go house by house in order to have Jewish control over Jerusalem. Any other place this would be racist but in Israel it’s done according to the law,” he said.

City Councilor David Hadari (Habayit Hayehudi), who is president of the municipality´s finance committee and has been active in the fight against illegal Arab construction in east Jerusalem, welcomed the plans for the new neighborhood. “Jews can live in every place, especially when they do it on land that belongs to them and according to the law,” he said.

The condemnations of left wing activists didn’t faze him, Hadari said. “The city of Jerusalem needs to remember that every government talks about a united Jerusalem, that means that Jews can build in every place, and we’ll continue to build through the entire city,” he said. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 04/01/12)

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