The Palestinian taxi driver crucial to Jewish settlement in E. Jlem (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Nir Hasson 05/11/12)
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Mohammed Nabulsi´s paper trail has been catching up with him, which
is making it difficult for Jewish settlers and their state patrons to
take over East Jerusalem homes.
Starting in the 1970s, Nabulsi, an East Jerusalem taxi driver,
provided settler organizations with affadavits claiming that
Palestinian owners of East Jerusalem homes were "absentees" residing
in enemy countries, which the state used over and over to expropriate
the properties and turn them over to settler organizations.
On Tuesday, Nabulsi´s work was cited unfavorably by a Jerusalem
District Court judge in ruling against the Elad settler organization,
Jewish National Fund and various government agencies that have been
trying for 25 years to evict a Palestinian extended family from a
home in the heart of City of David National Park in Silwan.
Overturning a previous court´s ruling and determining that the
Roweidi family, not Elad or the JNF, were the Silwan property´s
rightful owners, Judge Miriam Mizrahi said Nabulsi´s affadavit, which
was crucial to Elad´s case, looked awfully suspicious.
Nabulsi was shot by a Popular Front activist in the 1990s, but
survived. His services to the settlers continue to this day to make
the lives of Palestinian families in Jerusalem miserable. Mizrahi´s
ruling joins a number of other rulings and legal opinions excoriating
the use of shady affadavits to evict Palestinian families in the
capital. But so far no one has been able to stop it.
It is hard to know how many cases Nabulsi has been involved in
because in many cases the person giving the affidavit remains
anonymous. The Roweidi family, for example, only discovered Nabulsi´s
involvement 16 years after their eviction process started. One
another East Jerusalem family currently faces eviction based on
In 1992, the custodian of absentee properties, Aharon Shakarji, told
the Knesset State Control Committee that he had received between 10
and 15 affidavits of this type from Nabulsi, on the basis of which a
property owner was declared absentee, placing his family (usually
more than one family ) in danger of eviction.
In most cases the homeowner did not even know he had been declared
absentee. Some found out only when the police and the new, Jewish,
residents came to the house in the dead of night to evict them.
In light of the criticism, no more affidavits have been taken from
Nabulsi since the early 1990s, but the declarations he had already
made continue to be valid.
Invoking the Absentee Property Law is considered the most dubious way
settlers´ associations in East Jerusalem have of obtaining property.
The law, passed in 1950, allowed the state to take control of
property abandoned by Arabs who left the country during the War of
Independence. It was extended to East Jerusalem in 1967 but not
invoked until 1977, when the government of Prime Minister Menachem
Begin, encouraged by Ariel Sharon, began to make use of it.
According to the law, it is enough to prove that a property owner was
residing in an enemy country - including any Arab country or the West
Bank - at the time East Jerusalem was annexed to Israel in 1967 for
them to lose their rights to the property.
The decision is made by the custodian of absentee property, whose
department is now part of the Finance Ministry.
This is the way most of the real estate in Silwan and the Old City
were transfered - via various bodies including the Development
Authority (a government agency that manages absentee property ), the
Jewish National Fund, the public housing agency Amidar and others -
to settlers´ associations.
Nabulsi provided the custodian with the pretext to declare the
landowner absent - a short affidavit that the owner is living in
Jordan or the territories.
Another important figure is this saga is attorney Eitan Geva, who for
years has represented settlers´ associations and the Jewish National
Fund. Geva would obtain Nabulsi´s signature on the affidavit and
defend the procedure in endless court appearances, including the case
of the Roweidi family.
"Nabulsi did the leg work and so he knew," Geva told the court at the
last hearing to explain how Nabulsi knew the disposition of the
However, in her verdict, Mizrahi wondered about Nabulsi´s motives and
his ability to amass such a huge amount of information in his head.
In 1987,for example, he wrote in an affadavit: "I am familiar with
lot 51, bloc 30125 in Silwan. This area is 370 square meters and a
two-story building with three apartments is built on it, to be called
below, ´the asset´. In 1957 the asset was registered with the
Jordanian property tax authorities to one Mahmoud Salim Darwish and
It is unreasonable, Mizrahi ruled, to assume that anyone would amass
such information under normal circumstances unless they were working
in the service of others "who used him as a mouthpiece for
information to base the ostensible claim of absentee status."
In 1992, Shakarji admitted to the Knesset State Control Committee
that such claims by Nabulsi were used, with no other supporting
evidence, to declare a property owner as absentee, and that the
custodian of absentee property was "unable to check" if this were
true or not.
In the same year, the Klugman Committee, appointed by Yitzhak Rabin´s
government, confirmed that such affidavits were not verified, that
the custodian did not visit the properties in question, and that the
signature on the affidavit was obtained by Geva, who had been
representing the Jewish National Fund.
Three years later, then-Magistrate´s Court Judge Ayala Procaccia
ruled that the custodian had been making decisions on absentee status
that "did not have a leg to stand on." She recommended that the
attorney general study her verdict to determine whether an
investigation should be launched, but apparently none was.
Dozens of judges over the years have discussed Nabulsi´s methods;
none has heard the man himself defend them on the witness stand.
In 1995, after attorney Daniel Zeidman, an advocate for Palestinian
rights in Jerusalem, asked the High Court of Justice to stop the use
of these affadavits to expropriate property, the state responded that
it had launched an investigation. However, nothing changed and the
The question of what Nabulsi received in exchange for his services
has come up repeatedly over the years. Among the Roweidi family,
there is no doubt Nabulsi did it for money - which Geva confirmed in
"A person is entitled to payment for his efforts which he made in
clarifying the facts and giving them to the custodian," Geva told the
court. In the last court hearing, he reiterated that Nabulsi was
reliable, and that "no verdict determined that Nabulsi´s affidavit
Asked about the validity of these affadavits, Shakarji said he did
not remember cases from years ago and that he made his decisions
based on evidence that was presented to him.
Regarding the Klugman Committee´s findings that the affadavits were
unreliable, the Elad association said: "The Klugman Committee worked
for a short time, and wrote its recommendations based on partial and
missing information (which it notes in its report ) after refusing to
hear from representatives of the association in relevant issues."
Elad said that at any rate, the committee´s report did not touch on
the group´s rights to the property it now owned. (© Copyright 2012
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