Monday September 1st 2014

Activists Preparing Ulpana Resistance

by Eitam Abadi

Beit El residents called upon their supporters Thursday night to head up to the endangered Ulpana neighborhood to resist government plans to demolish five apartment buildings by July 1.

“We must defend these homes with our bodies,” said Yitzhak Shadmi, who heads the Binyamin Citizens’ Committee.

“Everyone for whom the nation of Israel is dear should come,” he said. “If thousands are here there won’t be any demolitions.”

“This business that it is easy to tear down Jewish homes when thousand of unauthorized homes are being built nearby in Area C, this terrible discrimination has to be stopped,” he said in reference to rampant unauthorized construction by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the Gofna hills and other parts of Area C financed by the European Union.

Shadmi was speaking to journalists alongside Beit El Mayor Moshe Rosenbaum and residents of the Ulpana neighborhood at a press conference held in a large tent outside the apartment buildings slated for demolition.

Young resistance activists had already set up sleeping tents in the parking lot outside the homes and have begun stockpiling tires, which were lined up Thursday evening by the neighborhood walkway.

At the press conference, community leaders warned against a civil war even as they said they hoped their struggle would remain non-violent.

Rosenbaum warned that the danger of a civil war is the result of the decision to destroy the homes.

“The person who is responsible for this situation is the one who could neutralize this situation. It is in his hands,” he said in reference to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud).

“It is the right of the residents and the thousands who support them to sit in their homes and to passively resist this immoral, unjust and inhuman decision,” he continued. “And that is what is going to happen.”

Rosenbaum balanced his warnings with assurances that he opposed violence against Israeli soldiers and that he would do his best to prevent bloodshed.

“We are not an army,” he said. “We are citizens.”

Yiska Fattal who has lived in one of the endangered homes for five years said that residents have already undergone long difficult months. She is one of 30 families who face  eviction.

“No one wants a fight… It is difficult for us and it is difficult for them too,” she said, referring to the policemen or soldiers who may be ordered to forcibly expel the families.

She added that she was very disappointed to see politicians who had visited her home and promise that nothing would happen, now retract their pledges.

“We want to see politicians who stand by their word,” she said, emphasizing that the lives of Ulpana residents have been disrupted.

“They want to destroy our homes. We are moving we do not know when or how. Our neighbors will remain with the ruins,” she said.

She and others said they rejected the Supreme Court’s ruling that their homes had been built without permits on private property.

In May 2011, the state was ordered by the court to destroy the five apartment buildings in response to a 2008 petition by local political organizations funded by the European Union on behalf of a Palestinian land owner claiming that the buildings are on his property.

The Ulpana neighborhood was built between 2002 and 2008 on land purchased by the Beit El Yeshiva and the Amana construction company from Palestinian owners in 2000.

Because Arabs caught selling property to ethnic Jews are often condemned to death by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, however, the purchase was not immediately registered so as to give the sellers time to flee the country.

Upon discovering that the land had not been legally registered, the Yesh Din and Peace Now organizations found a cousin of the seller on whose behalf they could claim the property to the Supreme Court.

The court ruled in favor of the EU-backed organizations, who demanded that the homes be razed to the ground.

According to Fattal and other residents, the matter was not adjudicated and all that happened is that the court rubber-stamped the state’s written testimony to the court.

“We had expected this government to rule with justice,” she added.

Yair Nahliel, a community organizer from the nearby town Ofra, said that what happens in Ulpana would have an impact on other communities in Israel’s disputed heartland.

“We have to stop it here and now,” he said.