MK Uri Ariel (National Union) told the Knesset Wednesday that the time has come to execute a court order to evict Arab squatters from the old Yemenite synagogue in Silwan, Jerusalem – and that he and other nationalists plan to do it themselves on July 4.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to be visiting U.S. President Barack Obama on that date, and the timing would cause him some awkwardness, or worse, during their meetings. It is not clear whether the date was chosen purposely for this reason or not; the plans had been in the air for a while, but today was the first time that a date has been set.
The synagogue, which stands 150 meters away from Beit Yehonatan and Beit Dvash, the only two Jewish-populated buildings in the area, is now occupied by four Arab families, some of whom have been there since 1938. The building was built in 1890 by the Yemenite Jewish community, which was forced to abandon it in the late 1930s because of Arab pogroms.
In late 2008, a court ruling was issued ordering the police to cooperate in evicting the Arab squatters, and to raze the additional rooms built there illegally over the years. “The court ordered the building restored to its original state,” Assaf Baruchi of the Ateret Cohanim Association told Arutz-7 several weeks ago, “but since then the police have done nothing, and so if we have no choice; we’ll do it ourselves.”
It now appears that that threat will be actualized 12 days from now – plenty of time for the police to make all proper preparations, MK Ariel said. He was speaking at a special Knesset session dealing with his claim that when it comes to building violations, Jews in Jerusalem are discriminated against in comparison with their Arab neighbors.
“There are fewer than 50 illegal Jewish structures,” Ariel said, “while the number of illegal Arab buildings is estimated in the thousands. With these numbers, it is unfair to demand one Jewish demolition for each Arab demolition… In addition, demolition orders for Jews are rushed up, while those for Arabs happen much more slowly…”
Specifically, Ariel noted that the orders to raze or seal up Beit Yehonatan have been given high priority, while those pertaining to the Yemenite synagogue lie dormant.
Another spokesman also noted the “discrimination in everything having to do with the illegal construction enforcement policy. It is not clear why the State insists on evacuating [or sealing up--ed] Beit Yehonatan even though there is a compromise proposal, while at the same time the same authority does not execute a court order to evacuate Arabs from a Jewish-owned property [the synagogue].”
Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch defended the policy, saying that there is “no connection between the two other than geographic proximity.” He acknowledged that building demolitions are scheduled in accordance with various considerations, “including political issues that have to do with general political and diplomatic sensitivity.”
Minister Aharonovitch hinted that perhaps MK Ariel’s parliamentary immunity would enable him to take part in the eviction, but others would not be exempt from prosecution. However, the court ruling does not say that police permission must be received before implementing the eviction.