Dozens of Israeli settlers with crowbars descend on two homes in the old city of Hebron. Israeli authorities remove them a day later.
The phrase “settler takeover” is used fairly often by the international media to discuss a common occurrence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But rarely do the cameras actually capture just how this kind of thing is done. That’s why the sight of dozens of Israeli settlers with crowbars descending on two homes in the old city of Hebron is as surprising as it is disturbing.
The settlers, who took over the buildings on Thursday, claimed to have purchased the properties, located near the Cave of the Patriarchs. Israeli authorities were not previously informed of the takeover. According to Israeli political analyst Tal Schneider, the decision to take over the two homes was orchestrated by high-ranking members within the ruling Likud party, none of whom actually live in West Bank settlements.
Israeli security forces removed the settlers on Friday morning, with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon calling them “intruders” who “trampled the law” for not taking the necessary legal measures required to move into the houses. None of the settlers were arrested, however.
The last major settler takeover in Hebron occurred in April 2014, when three Israeli families moved into a contested home, following a years-long legal battle that culminating with an authorization from Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
Palestinians claimed the property was purchased using forged documents, but Israel’s Supreme Court rejected that claim. Settlers often buy Palestinian land through front companies, the most famous of which is named Al Wattan (homeland in Arabic). Read more about fraudulent settler land purchase tactics here.
Earlier this month settlers used a front company meant to appear like a Swedish church group in order to purchase property for a new settlement in between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Defense Minister Ya’alon eventually approved that purchase, to the chagrin of the United States.
Settlers in Jerusalem often use similar tactics to take over Palestinian property, even when the buildings themselves aren’t abandoned, such as the case of the Sub Laban family, whom settlers nearly expelled from their Old City home in March of last year.
In late 2014, Israeli settlers took over three empty apartment buildings in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem. They moved in under the auspices of Ateret Cohanim and Elad, respectively, two settler organizations based in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City that seek to create a Jewish demographic majority in East Jerusalem.
The buildings were purchased by foreign companies at the behest of the Committee for the Renewal of the Yemenite Village, which claims to want to re-establish the Yemenite community that lived in the area before the establishment of the State of Israel.