Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Two completely different stories from Hebron - of the same event

Yesterday, a group of Jews in Hebron moved into a house that they say was paid for legally. An Arab man disputes that, saying he owns the house.

Reading these two accounts - from YNet and from Arutz 7 - show not just differing details, but completely different stories. First YNet's account of the Arab viewpoint:
The strife over the disputed house in Hebron continues to pick up steam and Fais Rajabi – who claims ownership of the structure – fails to understand how the situation deteriorated so far.

Rajabi claimed he purchased the house some 15 years ago and planned to begin inhabiting it next week with his three wives and 22 children. Rajabi said he bought the house from four brothers who inherited it and he has been renovating it since he made the purchase. It's his life's work, he says.

Rajabi estimates he has invested over $1 million in the project. "I bought this house with my hard-earned money, no one ever made any claims in the past, but apparently the settlers saw that all I had left to do was finish tiling and they decided that this is the right moment for them to steal the house," he said.

When asked how he felt about loosing his investment Rajabi said: "May Allah help me. Something that you nurture for years, invest enormous funds in, invest so much work and energy into, a dream that was the center of your life – that's robbed from you with empty claims and lies."

Rajabi vehemently rejects the settler's claim that they purchased the house and own the deed to it. There is no chance he was deceived by the original owner, he said, no chance it was also sold to the settlers.

"I cannot believe there is a man who can sell-out his faith like that, his conscious and his religion. The house is mine and mine alone. The documents I showed the police prove my ownership. The documents the settlers have, fake or not, purchased for money or not – that's not of interest to me. I am the sole owner of the house, and I sold nothing to anyone."

Rajabi claims that the settlers have recently begun observing the house. "I never imagined that it was towards stealing it. I will take this to the Israeli High Court – and if justice is not found there then I will go to the highest court in the world. This will not go on in silence. The house is mine, all of it is mine and only mine, and I will never give it up. This house is my entire life," he said.

The IDF, the Civil Administration and the police said they were looking into documents provided by Rajabi and the settlers, who both claim to be the rightful owners of the house.
And now Arutz-7:
Over 200 Jews, mostly yeshiva students from the Hevron area, entered a four-story building in the City of the Patriarchs Monday night, and have named it "Shalom House." MK Chaim Oron (Meretz) says the government must throw them out.

The house, which is only partially built and stood empty, was purchased by the Jews from its previous Arab owner two years ago. It is strategically located, in a spot overlooking "Worshippers Route" leading from Kiryat Arba to the Cave of Patriarchs. According to one report, the decision to enter the building now was reached after the Jews of Hevron received information that Arabs intended to enter the building in the near future.

"Shalom House" has a floor space of over 3,500 square meters (over 37,000 square feet - EoZ). It was reportedly purchased by a Jewish American businessman through a Jordanian real estate agency for about $700,000. Officials are looking at the documentation to ascertain its validity, and at present no evacuation of the Jews is foreseen.

The house's top floor had been used by the IDF for a lookout point. Twelve IDF troops and local Jewish residents were ambushed and killed by Arab terrorists on the Worshippers' Route in November 2002.

Upon entering the building in the evening hours, the new residents began singing and dancing. One of the youths told a reporter that he and others had reached the building by running through an Arab village. The Hevron Jewish Community's spokesperson, Noam Arnon, said the entry into the house was not meant for provocation but for peaceful residence by Jews. "We already have a long waiting list of potential residents," he added.

"This is a house that has been under construction for several years. No one lives in it yet, so no one was evacuated from it," said Arnon. "Right now there are young people living there, but in the future, after we renovate it, families will live there, like in other areas of Jewish settlement in Hevron."

Hevron has long had a lengthy waiting list for families who wish to move into the Jewish neighborhood, and well over 40 small families can easily fit into the building.

MKs Gideon Saar (Likud) and Otniel Shneller (Kadima) visited the youths and the new building this afternoon, and both expressed their support. Shneller said that forming a contiguous Jewish presence between Kiryat Arba and Hevron is in keeping with Kadima Party policy: "It is a very important contiguity; exceptional. The government should have done it itself... Kiryat Arba and Hevron are a Jewish bloc that will remain Jewish in any future settlement; this is how I understand Kadima's position."

The Yesha Council – the umbrella group for Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria – congratulated the house's new occupants. "The people of the Jewish Community are continuing in the path of the Patriarch Abraham, who paid full price for the Cave of Machpela," the council noted.

The Yesha Rabbis Council praised the new residents for "meriting to restore Hevron homes to Jewish hands and fulfilling in a practical manner the commandment of settling the Land."

MK Uri Ariel (NU/NRP) said, "Any act of strengthening the hold of Jewish roots in the City of Patriarchs is a blessing for the people and the land." He added that because the purchase was carried out legally, "this is a moment of trial for the government: shall it make the law subject to its political whims, or will it prove that the government too is subject to the law, and allow the Jews to remain in their house?"

MK Chaim Oron (Meretz) said today that the issue is not whether or not the property was legally bought, but the separation of populations. He called upon the government "to throw them out of there fast."

An Arab claiming to be the house's owner denies the house was ever sold to Jews. "The house is all mine," claimed Baez Rajabi, "and I have all of the documents proving it." However, another Arab man, Mohammed Al-Baradei, is also quoted in some media outlets as saying the house is his: "I handed all of the documents over to police after making copies," said Baradei.
So which is more reasonable?

The fact that two Arabs claim to own the house already makes their claims suspect, although it seems very possible to me that some Arab did sell the house multiple times. This is a huge structure and it strains credibility to think that an individual Arab there has a million dollars to sink into this project and to wait so many years to move in - even with 22 kids and three wives, the house is much larger than he needs.

It is also interesting that YNet didn't report the competing Arab claims, and so is Meretz' reason for wanting the Jews out of Hebron. Kadima's support of Hebron Jews was also a bit surprising. And YNet was remiss in not mentioning that for an Arab to admit thathe sold a house to a Jew is a literal death sentence.

A question to the Israel haters: should Jews be allowed to legally purchase land in Hebron? And do you support the PalArab death penalty for any Arabs that sell land to Jews?