For Immediate Release
For months the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA), with funding from the settler organization ELAD, has been digging under the private property of Silwan residents in occupied East Jerusalem. The owners of the land were not informed nor did they give their consent to the digging that has already resulted in damage to the walls of their homes. The damage to buildings and infrastructure has reached a state where the main road caved in recently under the weight of the winter snow. Letters sent by Attorney Sami Ershed on behalf of the residents to the IAA requesting information about the digging taking place on their land have not been answered.
On Friday, February 7th Silwan residents established a protest tent on a privately owned plot adjacent to the ELAD visitors center where digging has been taking place. Yesterday, February the 10th, Silwan residents appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court for a temporary stop work order.
Late last night, police raided the village, and arrested four people. Three of them were land owners who had submitted the appeal to the Supreme Court. They were charged with sabotaging ELAD’s property, didn’t see a judge, and ended up signing conditions, placing them under house arrest for five days. The gross irony is the land they are charged with sabotaging, is their own.
Israeli Human Rights Attorney Gabi Laski stated: “When, in a politically sensitive place like Silwan, the settlers are being allowed to build and dig without permits and the law is not being enforced. And when people who want to complain about this to the police are the ones who are arrested, it indicates that there is something wrong with how the law is being enforced.”
MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz) also came to see the dig yesterday; he asked the IAA to allow him to have a look into the archaeological site, but was told that ELAD would not allow him to enter.
On Sunday workers arrived at the land to continued digging, but left after the owner of the land told them to leave his land. Later an Israeli settler from ELAD came with a worker. The owner of the land again attempted to tell the workers to stop, but this time the settler began cursing and pushing him, forcing him to call the police.
The police arrived and told the villagers to come with them to the police station to file a complaint. The owner of the land left with another Silwan witness and an Israeli activist from Tayush to file the complaint. But when they arrived at the station they found themselves under arrest for assault. The three were held overnight and brought today to court where they were released without restrictions, on NIS 2500 bail. The settler was not arrested.
After the three where arrested the workers returned and resumed the digging, only this time with police protection. Attorney Sami Ershed explained, “Under Israeli law the landlord of a property can prevent anyone from entering his own land by using reasonable force, the police were obliged to help them in doing that, but instead the police breached property rights by protecting the trespassers while they broke the law.”
On Monday afternoon, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled against a temporary stop work order, to keep settlers from digging on other peoples’ property. Instead they gave the settlers 14 days to respond to the complaints.
Fakhri Abu Diab said, “We, as Silwan residents, will not be silenced by this attempt to intimidate us from protesting the settlers attempt to take over our land. The settlers are building on our land without permits, and we are arrested when we complain about their activities. We will continue our vigil at the protest tent until our rights are restored.”
For more information contact:
Fakhri Abu Diab 0522.206.227 (Silwan Resident)
Attorney Gabi Laski 0544.418.988
Attorney Sami Ershed 0524.204.350