In the city of Silwan, south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, there are around 59,000 Jerusalem-based men and women, 8,000 of whom face imminent dangers: the demolition of their homes, their expulsion and evacuation for the benefit of Israeli settlements and the construction of a recreational park. So far there are about 7,000 demolition orders.
Palestinian families are used to facing the bitterness of forced displacement. Some of those at risk of losing their homes to Israeli demolitions are refugees from Palestine who already saw their lands and property disappear during the Nakba of 1948 and the Naksa of 1967.
Khalil al-Basbous, 63, is a refugee from the abandoned village of al-Dawayma. He and his family survived the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, when the Israeli authorities occupied the village. As a result, the residents fled and became refugees from Palestine. Now, in 2021, the Israeli authorities once again threaten the al-Basbous family with their expulsion and demolition of their home, under the pretext of not owning it.
“In 1963 my father bought a piece of land in Silwan, an agricultural land without residential buildings. The purchase was legal in the presence of a notary and all the documents they prove our ownership of the land on which the house was built, something that happened during the period of the Jordanian government in Jerusalem ”. The Basbous family did not have any problems until 2013 when the Israeli authorities they were surprised with a lawsuit. It specified that they resided in an area whose property belongs to the association Settler Ateret Cohanim, an entity of Israeli settlers. “They are false accusations. Silwan was agricultural land when my father bought it and there were no properties belonging to absent Jews.
Despite the existence of documentation proving ownership of the land and the house, the Israeli courts deny it. “Every time I present the papers, they don’t admit them. They believe what they want and lie about what they want. As soon as they say that the extension of the land is four acres, about three. They don’t even know the exact limits of the land they claim to possess. ”
During these years, Basbous has paid more than 150,000 shekels (about $ 46,000) for violations attributed to the use of the house. Also it has suffered pressure and threats of demolition. All this represents the strategy with which they intend to force them to leave their home. Israeli settlers have tried numerous times to buy the land by offering him huge sums of money, but he categorically refuses. “This is the house that contains my memories and those of my family, I am not selling it for all the money in the world.”
Every time Khalil’s children ask him where they will go if they are evicted from their homes, the father of the family interrupts them so that they do not finish the sentence: “I cannot imagine demolishing my house or being expelled from it, and I cannot I want that day to come ”.
But Khalil is not the only refugee facing the threat of demolition and forced displacement. In the Al-Bustan neighborhood, also located in Silwan, live Nidal Al-Rajbi and his family, who resorted to living in this area after being displaced from their Al-Sharaf neighborhood, in the city of Jerusalem.
Nidal Al-Rajbi bought a piece of land in the 1960s where he wanted to build an apartment for himself and his children. Currently the Israeli authorities have decided to demolish the neighborhood to build a national park. Since then, residents have been under threat. But destroy their houses with their bare hands, the Israeli authorities will see to it and force them to pay heavy fines. The position of the people of the neighborhood has been clear on the matter and they have flatly denied.
At the end of June this year, the horror began for Nidal. He was arrested for opposing and refusing to demolish his own home and business, a meat shop. “The store employed 15 people. They have destroyed our jobs and the lives of 15 people who depended on this business. And not only that, we have received 4 new reports of threat of demolition of other homes. One report was for me and the rest for my father and my brothers ”.
The Israeli authorities practice most egregious violations against the population of Palestine, in this case in favor of construction to be carried out on the rubble of Palestinian homes. “Thousands of families will be evicted from their homes and thrown into the streets by a recreational park! We face beatings, repression and arrests on a daily basis. “
However, the position of Nidal and his family is firm: “If our houses are demolished, we will not abandon Silwan. And if they kick us out, we will sit in the streets of the town and sleep on the rubble of our houses. And even if they pay billions of dollars for us to surrender, we will stand firm, because this is the land of my father and my country, where I grew up with his love ”.