Palestinians lose Jerusalem home in 'David and Goliath' court case

Family forcibly evicted from their home in occupied East Jerusalem after court ruled in favour of City of David Foundation

A Palestinian member of the Siyam family arranges furniture that was thrown out of their home during their eviction, in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan in east Jerusalem near the Old City on July 10, 2019. The Palestinian Siyam family was evicted on July 10, after Israeli settlers won a court battle that stretched more than two decades. The Silwan apartment was home to a 53-year-old woman and her four children, according to Israeli NGO Peace Now, which opposes Israeli settlement expansion. Police arrived and evicted the residents from the apartment and they will at least temporarily stay with relatives. An Israeli court found that the Elad foundation, which seeks to increase the Jewish presence in mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem, had legally purchased that portion of the property and ruled in its favour. / AFP / AHMAD GHARABLI
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A Palestinian family were forcibly evicted from their home in occupied East Jerusalem by Israeli police on Wednesday, after a court ruled in favour of an Israeli group that helps to settle Jews in Palestinian areas.

The City of David Foundation, or Elad, had been battling the Siyam family in court for 30 years over control of their home in Silwan, near Jerusalem’s Old City.

The Israeli government calls the neighbourhood the City of David after the biblical king, who was said to have lived there. 

Elad has bought parts of the property from members of the family and acquired it through Israeli courts using regulations that rights groups say are designed against Palestinians.

They include an absentee property law that penalises those living abroad by taking away their property ownership.

The last straw in the Siyam case was a court ruling last month, which found that because the organisation had bought three quarters of the property, the remaining tenant, Elham Siyam, must leave.

An Israeli court rejected an appeal and ordered that Ms Siyam, a single mother of four, and her family should pay nearly $3,000 (Dh11,010) in legal fees to Elad.

One of the extended family members is Jawad Siyam, a prominent Silwan activist.

“The story of Silwan properties is a David and Goliath story,” left-wing Israeli NGO Peace Now said.

“An NGO rich in resources uses the best lawyers to file lengthy, exhausting lawsuits against hard-up Palestinian families.

"These families have to spend a lot of money to try to protect their home and to pay lawyers and experts for expensive legal proceedings, at the end of which they are also required to pay court costs.

“The Custodian of Absentee Property is helping the settlers to take control of the homes.”

The case comes soon after US ambassador to Israel David Friedman inaugurated a new City of David Foundation project in Silwan.

Palestinians criticised Mr Friedman's move as yet another sign of US support for Israeli sovereignty over the disputed city of Jerusalem. 

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged not to disband any Israeli settlements. 

"We will not allow any community in Israel to be uprooted," Mr Netanyahu  said at a ceremony honouring the anniversary of a West Bank council.

"No communities will be uprooted. Not those of Jews, and by the way, not those of Arabs. We're through with that nonsense."

At the event, Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, which represents West Bank settlements considered illegal under international law, said that now was the time to “extend sovereignty on Judea and Samaria”.

Samaria is the biblical term for the West Bank used by the Israeli government. 

“Not just over the communities that make up only 3 per cent of the territory, but on the empty lands and state lands that await Jewish settlement,” Mr Dagan said.

Before the general election in April, Mr Netanyahu vowed to annex parts of the West Bank if he won.

He was unable to form a government and Israel will hold new elections in September, for which he will need to secure the support of his right-wing base.