Saturday, December 16, 2017

Palestinian home remains occupied by settlers as Israeli government fails to uphold court rulings


By Rhiannon F. - November 05, 2017
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Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [Hebron] [settler violence] [Occupation]

It’s hard to miss the family home the Israeli settlers have occupied in Hebron. From the façade of the building drape Israeli flags, and a large banner reading "House of Machpela," marking a sustained conflict with the rightful owners for over six years. Israeli forces sit on plastic chairs outside a café they have erected in the ground floor of the house, surrounded by police barriers. Their job is to protect the settlers from Palestinian 'terrorists,’ though their main task seems to enjoy a never-ending tea party.

The home now occupied by settlers was built more than 650 years ago by the Abu Rajab family. When the settlers first came the family were sleeping. They heard screaming and shouting as they started breaking in the door. As they looked through the window they saw more than 200 settlers, coming with sticks, pistols and knives, ready to invade the house. The Abu Rajab extended family escaped through the back door of the house and the settlers took over.

With nowhere to go, the family of fourteen people reconstructed a small adjoining shop next door to the main part of the house. While their home had the equivalent of ten apartments in it, the converted shop has three floors; the top one also houses settlers. Hazzm Abu Rajab, 27, has lived in the family home his whole life. He now lives on the second floor of the shop space with his family.

“Life here is not easy,” Hazzm Abu Rajab said as he brought out Arabic coffee and fresh dates. “Close your eyes, and imagine your neighbour is the most fanatic and aggressive neighbour in all of the world. What do you feel?,” Abu Rajab asked.

Not only have they lost their home, the Abu Rajab family are also subject to frequent attacks by their new neighbours. “In 2014, the settlers invaded [where we live now] while my wife was pregnant. They threw stones at us and she was put in hospital for 5 days,” Abu Rajab remembers painfully.

Abu Rajab explains he has kept photos since the December 29, 2012, in order to make the courts understand the hell they live through. “I have a video of a soldier on the roof, him urinating onto our balcony below. This sort of thing shocks the judge. How can you be the problem if you are the one documenting this?”

Hazzm Abu Rajab sits in the small apartment he shares with 14 other people, next door to his family home.

Since the time the settlers invaded the Abu Rajab home, Hazzm has been working with six lawyers from Hebron, Jerusalem and Israel to try and fight their occupation in the Israeli Supreme Court. The receipt-like proof he has to show his family owns the house is so old it’s inscribed on animal skin. “When the judge saw this he was so shocked he couldn’t say anything. It’s like an archeological artifact,” Abu Rajab describes it. “The settlers came with no paper, and they think the house is theirs.”

The settlers say they purchased the building from a member of the Abu Rajab family. But the Abu Rajabs say he had no right to sell the house, and the Palestinian Authority later arrested him.

Even though the Abu Rajab family has proof of ownership and the court made the decision to evict the settlers based on this, they still remain in the house. “The court decided the settlers should leave the house from the beginning, 6 years ago. The settlers didn’t listen to the court though and the government supports the settlers,” Abu Rajab explains. “Neither of them respect the decision of the court. That’s why the soldiers still [sit outside and] protect the settlers from the 'terrorists.’ The settlers have filed an appeal seven times now, and each time the court has to give them more time. “It’s a strategy,” Abu Rajab said.

One organisation who stands in solidarity with the Abu Rajab family is Youth Against Settlements (YAS). In mid October they staged a sit-in protest, in order to resist the occupation of the Israeli settlers. The Israeli army came shortly after its commencement and detained YAS Director Issa Amro as well as banning him from the area.

Abu Rajab appreciates the support from YAS, when “no one else helps.” “Direct action, demonstration and protest, is a stress on the government. It supports my cause. If we have more people write and talk about this issue, it will be easier for my family to have the settlers move out of the house,” Abu Rajab expressed.

“No one gives us justice,” Abu Rajab laments. “Only Allah gives justice,” Abu Rajab’s faith in God gives him hope for the future. “I have nothing to lose, I’ve already lost everything, that’s why I keep strong and fight and resist. I believe the settlers will leave this land. They occupied our land and house, and in the end, the land will come back to the owner.”

The Abu Rajab have 120 olive trees, now ready to harvest at the back of their occupied home. They fear attacks from the settlers while the family is picking. 

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