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Nakba 1948-2009

“There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. But the pauper had nothing except for a little lamb he had acquired. He raised it, and it grew up alongside him and his children. It used to eat his food, drink from his cup, and sleep in his arms. It was just like a daughter to him. When a traveler arrived at the rich man’s home, he did not want to use one of his own sheep or cattle to feed the traveler who had come to visit him. Instead, he took the pauper’s lamb and cooked it for the man who had come to visit him.”
–Samuel II, 12:1-4

Shaya familys latter-day Nakba (Daniel Tchetchik)

Shaya family's latter-day Nakba (Daniel Tchetchik)

So you think the Nakba ended in 1948?  Think again.  There are a few brilliant Israeli bureaucrats who are happy to perpetrate ever-newer mini-Nakbas on contemporary Palestinians.  The Shaya family of Jaffa is a case in point.  They are Palestinian Israelis and have resided in this neighborhood for generations:

Tziona Tajer Street in Jaffa…begins with a lush park and ends in a narrow picturesque alleyway bounded by refurbished old homes. One of these houses, behind a heavy blue gate, belongs to the Shaya family. Hanging by the entrance is a large portrait of the family patriarch, Salim Khoury Shaya, a priest who served in the 1920s as the spiritual leader of the Christian Arab (Greek Orthodox) community. Around that time he also built the house on a hill in Jaffa.

In 1948, when so many Palestinians were driven from Jaffa into exile, the Shayas remained.  But what the Nakba then couldn’t achieve government bureaucrats in cahoots with real estate speculators are happy to do today.

While Ajami has for decades been a depressed backwater compared to its sister city Tel Aviv, in recent years due to its beachfront location, property values have skyrocketed.  Poor Arab residents have been evicted by the hundreds to make way for real estate speculators who tear down shacks and shanties and build sleek modern properties which they sell for millions.  But these are tenants and not owners who the municipal and national government dispose of.  It’s harder to do that with owners like the Shayas.  But where there’s a will there’s a way and bureaucrats have found one through a unique piece of subterfuge.

After the 1948 war, the Israeli government took over the property of Arabs who had fled including the Shaya home (even though most of the siblings still lived in it).  After much wrangling, in 1959, the State agreed to create a partnership and retained a 40% stake in the ancestral home (given that several siblings could not return from Lebanon after 1948).  Don’t ask why a government which expelled its own residents and prevented them from returning should presume to take ownership of property that is not properly the government’s to being with, especially when family members remain in the home.

In the ensuing decades the Shayas sued the government for restitution of full ownership even offering to pay for the 40% share it didn’t own.  No deal.  Here’s where the subterfuge comes in:

…In 2007, some bureaucrat looking through old case files discovered the Shaya family’s vulnerability and hatched a plan — slap them with an exorbitant demand for years of back rent for the 40% of the house “owned” by the government and then demand that the “partnership” be dissolved through sale of the house to a third party. The Shayas don’t want to leave their ancestral home, but…now Amidar and the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) have taken them to court. They want them out.

This is where the story of the Pauper’s Lamb which opened this post comes in.  The family’s Israeli Arab solicitor offered this Bibilical passage as part of his argument in court on behalf of his clients.  In other words, the Shayas built this home with the sweat of their brow.  In it they raised a family many of whom have integrated themselves fully into Israeli society working for the Tel Aviv municipality and the police force.  At home, they speak both Arabic and Hebrew.  And this is the thanks they get.  When the moneygrubbers at Amidar and the ILA see dollar signs in their property inventory, they think nothing of slaughtering the lamb that should never have been theirs to being with.

If Israel ever wants to achieve real integration of its minority Palestinian citizens into the nation’s ethnic fabric, this quotation from one of the family’s current residents in the  home should be a permanent stain:

“I have no doubt that if we were Jews the state would not be doing this. Our whole lives we have felt that we are part of this society. Even as a member of a minority I never considered anywhere else home. But it’s clear to me that if I were to convert, they would behave differently.”

The Shaya’s lawyer also told the court that the ILA has usurped its original role, which was meant to be temporary to protect abandoned property from looting.  He notes that members of the first Knesset were distinctly sensitive to the notion of expelling and dispossessing residents as they had the experience of what happened to the Jews at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust right before their eyes.

Ironic isn’t it that a state of the Jews could perpetrate the same dispossession on its Arab inhabitants.  The case continues in Tel Aviv magistrate’s court in January.  You may express your support to the Shaya family directly.  H/t to Didi Remez.

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{ 25 comments… add one }

  • Mary November 24, 2009, 6:18 AM

    Thanks, Richard, for an excellent example of a court case showing the duplicity of the Israeli government. There are some people I dearly wish would read this.

  • Rabbi Brian Walt November 24, 2009, 6:24 AM

    This is just so painful to read. It reminds me of the families in the Sheikh Jarah neighborhood in East Jerusalem who are being expelled for the second time.
    There will never be any peace till Israel fully confronts what happened in 47-49 and the ways in which Israeli policy especially since 67 has continued the process of dispossession.
    Rabbi Brian Walt

    • Shirin November 25, 2009, 12:51 AM

      Rabbi Walt, with respect, the Israeli policy of dispossession of non-Jewish Palestinians did not worsen after 1967. In fact, many times more Palestinians were systematically dispossessed prior to 1967 than after. Your statement leaves one with the impression that you cling to the myth so popular among liberal Zionists that Israel changed radically for the worse after 1967 when in fact it has always been what it is.

      • Richard Silverstein November 25, 2009, 1:28 AM

        With all due respect, do get off yr high horse. You see the title ‘rabbi’ & you make assumptions about someone’s views of Zionism. Brian Walt is not a liberal Zionist & you’ve done him a disservice to lump into that category. He was the N. American director of Rabbis for Human Rights and is one of the most principled rabbis I know regarding this subject.

        • Mary November 25, 2009, 6:14 AM

          I agree, Richard, but with one little caveat. Shirin makes an excellent point that is indeed overlooked often, and that is that many people assume everything was peachy in Palestine prior to 1967. The year 1967 was a turning point because Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza strip, which were possessed by Jordan and Egypt up until that time. It also took the Golan Heights. All Palestinian refugees living in those places came under military occupation in 1967, so things actually went from bad to worse.

          I am aware of Rabbi Walt’s reputation, and I welcome him to any discussion.

          • Shirin November 27, 2009, 1:35 AM

            Yes, Mary, that was exactly my point. So many people believe with all their hearts that Israel behaved wonderfully morally and ethically untill 1967, at which time it suddenly transmogrified into something completely different than it had ever been before. Their only references for Israel’s history prior to 1967 are the very romantic propaganda materials with which they were so heavily indoctrinated, and the glowing reports of Khaki-shorts-clad returnees from the carefully choreographed year-on-a-kibbutz experiences that American Jewish youth were expected to undertake.

        • Shirin November 27, 2009, 1:24 AM

          It is you, not I who have made assumptions. I know exactly who Rabbi Walt is, which is why I expressed my respect prior to making my comment. Believe me when I tell you that I do not automatically express respect for people simply because they have religious titles. It is also why I used the phrase “leaves one with the impression”. I do not always express myself perfectly, but I usually give considerable thought to my choice of language, and this is a case in which I did so.

          • Richard Silverstein November 28, 2009, 2:43 AM

            Perhaps I missed something in yr comment toward Rabbi Walt’s remarks. I sometimes read these comments faster than I should & may miss nuance. But I didn’t detect any expression of respect. That’s why I felt the need to add some balance. But again, this might’ve been due to my hasty reading.

          • Shirin November 28, 2009, 9:18 AM

            But I didn’t detect any expression of respect.

            How about my first four words? Pretty explicit, I thought. :o}

            As for the rest, I can see how they could have been taken differently than I intended them. Perhaps I should have been more clear that I was not talking about Rabbi Walt’s views, but the impression his comment left.

  • Shirin November 24, 2009, 5:04 PM

    If Israel ever wants to achieve real integration of its minority Palestinian citizens into the nation’s ethnic fabric…

    Israel does not want to achieve full integration of Palestinian citizens into the nation’s ethnic fabric. Israel has never wanted to achieve full integration of its Palestinian citizens, and Israel never will want to achieve full integration of its Palestinian citizens as long as Israel’s raison d’etre is being The Jewish State (or a Jewish state). Israel has never had any reason for being except as a Jewish ethnocracy. It was established to be a Jewish ethnocracy, and even its most “progressive” supporters insist that it must remain a Jewish ethnocracy.

    By their very nature ethnocracies can never fully integrate citizens of other ethnicities. At best they will tolerate other ethnicities as citizens, but they will never have full rights, and will never be integrated fully. In order for Israel to fully integrate its Palestinian citizens into the ethnic fabric it will have to cease being an ethnocracy. In other words it will have to cease being a Jewish state. It is magical thinking to believe you can have it both ways.

    • Richard Silverstein November 25, 2009, 1:08 AM

      Israel never will want to achieve full integration of its Palestinian citizens as long as Israel’s raison d’etre is being The Jewish State

      You’re arguing either w. yrself or a straw man. I agree w. everything you wrote. But unlike you I believe that Israel will at some pt in the future stop being THE Jewish state & become a state of all its citizens which will mean it will be a multi ethnic state in which all ethnicities will find a homeland. It will have to acknowledge, at least in part that it is the home of several religious groups & that these religions play a critical role in some way in that state. Hopefully, it will also be a secular state or at least a state in which religion does not imprison its citizens. A very tall order. I don’t know if it’s possible. But that’s what my goal for Israel would be.

      • Shirin November 25, 2009, 7:15 AM

        Richard, why would you assume that I must of necessity be arguing “with” – as in “in opposition to” – you or anyone? You and I have had this conversation before, so I know we agree at least in principle if not on all the details.

        • Richard Silverstein November 25, 2009, 7:16 PM

          I’m sorry if I misunderstood who yr comments were directed to. I thought they were meant for me.

          • Shirin November 27, 2009, 1:16 AM

            It is not that my comments were not directed to you. They were directed to you as much as to anyone since they were a response to something you had said. However, I was not disputing you so much as “riffing” on your remark.

  • Brett November 24, 2009, 8:06 PM

    This is a good bit to use against many of the Israel apologists I’ve read who like to brag about how “good” the Palestinians in Israel have it. It’s not a secret that they’re more or less second-class citizens (if that), but always good to have some concrete examples of it.

  • Mary November 24, 2009, 11:27 PM

    This is similar to the case of the Arab family in East Jerusalem who were evicted a month ago from their homes. 29 people were put out into the street. There was another case in August where a family was evicted after having lived in the house for 50 years. This is beyond outrageous; Israel violates international law and then complains when the world notices and condemns it. What is wrong with this country, why such an obviously diseased mentality?

    • Shirin November 25, 2009, 12:16 AM

      Of course, the case of the Shaya family is different from the cases in East Jerusalem for the reason that the Shaya family are citizens living inside the Green Line (what we used to call “Israel proper”). The cases you cited are certainly violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, among other international instruments, given that they took place in occupied territory. Both types of cases are egregious, but the Shaya and other similar cases speak volumes about the true nature of Israel’s so-called democracy. This is the inescapable nature of an ethnocracy.

  • Shirin November 25, 2009, 12:42 AM

    the ILA…was meant to be temporary to protect abandoned property from looting.

    What utter bunk! I hope that lawyer knows what rubbish he is talking and is only doing it to mollify the State in an effort to get a proper judgment for his client. The ILA was, in fact, part of the mechanism by which “abandoned” property was looted for the State, often through the Orwellian concept of “present absentees” that allowed the State to confiscate the property of any Palestinian who had left their property for any length of time for any reason even though they had returned and were living on the property. As for preventing looting of the personal property, give me a break! It was mainly the State that looted homes and businesses of everything that was not nailed down, including furniture, kitchenware, dishware, fine china and crystal,bedding, clothing, musical instruments, and even family photographs. These items were then distributed to new Jewish immigrants, as were the homes from which they were stolen.

    The ILA has not usurped its original role, it has merely continued to fulfill it.

    • Richard Silverstein November 25, 2009, 1:26 AM

      The ILA was, in fact, part of the mechanism by which “abandoned” property was looted for the State

      The Shayas’ lawyer & I were talking about the Knesset debates during which the ILA was conceived, not the actual practice & behavior of the ILA which are 2 diff. things. I don’t know enough about earlier Israeli history to know whether the original intent was as you say or whether it was as the Knesset debates would have it. To me, all that matters now is the practice & behavior of the ILA. But if you want to argue that the State and all its institutions are unmitigated evil then I guess it’s important to you to argue as you have. But that doesn’t interest me.

      • Shirin November 27, 2009, 2:07 AM

        Richard, surely you do not believe that the ILA was created to safeguard Palestinian property on behalf of its Palestinian owners. I am sure you do not disagree that in 1947-49 the Israelis systematically drove out by one means or another some 85-90% of the non-Jewish indigenous population, and that they clearly had no intention of allowing their return (IOW, they conducted ethnic cleansing). Among other means of preventing the refugees’ return they made a regular practice of razing villages and neighborhoods to the ground after depopulating them. Walid Khalidi and his team documented more than 400 villages that received this treatment, resulting in the book All That Remains.

        They also in many cases rushed to move Jews into “abandoned” Palestinian homes often within days. In addition, they quickly moved into “abandoned” Palestinian homes to collect the belongings left behind, including furniture, bedding, appliances, kitchen implements and appliances, dishes and silverware (which in many cases, particularly in places like West Jerusalem consisted of fine china, crystal, and sterling silver flatware), jewelry, clothing, artwork, and musical instruments, and even family photographs, and distributed them to Jewish immigrants. And then, of course, there is the little matter of the “present absentees” which was nothing but a pretext to allow the property of non-ethnically-cleansed Palestinians to be taken by the ILA and the real estate handed over to the JNF to be held as property “of the Jewish people in perpetuity”. So surely you do not believe that the Knesset created the ILA in order to protect Palestinian property.

        I know quite a bit about early Israeli history as it pertains to Palestinians and their property, and regardless of whatever supposedly took place in the Knesset debates, the ILA always served as part of the very deceptive mechanism for the looting by the State of Palestinian property, and the State confiscation of Palestinian real estate.

        • Richard Silverstein November 28, 2009, 2:48 AM

          I make no claim to be an expert on the 1948 era though of course I do know about it and have read extensively about it. So I would not dispute any of what you wrote above. Again, I wasn’t making a judgment about whether the Knesset debate was honest or whether the ILA’s real mission was to dispossess Israeli Palestinians. I was merely reporting what the Shaya’s lawyer quoted fr. those debates and riffing off that in terms of the resonance bet. the dispossession of the Holocaust era and of the those Palestinians dispossessed of their homes & property.

      • Mary November 27, 2009, 7:15 AM

        It appears to be true, Richard. The ILA is an umbrella organization under which other agencies such as the JNF operate. The JNF, as we know, has administered land grabs since before 1948, including the acquisition of private Palestinian land. Ilan Pappe gives a great historical narrative of the JNF and its activities in his fine book, “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”. The ILA and the JNF are racist organizations who are prohibited from leasing property to non-Jews; hence, if a property comes under the administration of either of these organizations and the lease holder is an Arab or Palestinian, the Israeli government can evict them.

        • Shirin November 27, 2009, 9:31 AM

          Yes, thanks Mary. Ilan Pappe does go into that in The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, and I believe he also goes into it in an earlier book. If memory serves Tom Segev, Ian Lustick, and Sabri Jiryis, among others, also describe the mechanisms by which the Israeli State used the ILA and the JNF to “redeem” (i.e. steal) Palestinians’ land for “the Jewish people in perpetuity”, as well as the State’s looting of the contents of “abandoned” homes for distribution to new Jewish immigrants. And, of course, the invention of the Kafaesque notion of “present absentees” during the late ’40′s and the ’50′s was purely a (successful) attempt by the State to justify theft of the personal and real property of Palestinians who were not ethnically cleansed.

          It is not a matter of the State and all its institutions being evil, mitigated or unmitigated, it is a matter of historical fact and reality, and reaching logical conclusions based on fact and reality.

    • andrew r November 25, 2009, 5:04 PM

      Even though you’re right, I think the laywer is doing exactly what the situation calls for, turning the high-minded language against the usurper. The Knesset must have employed boilerplate hypocrisy because they wanted to minimized public knowledge of the nakba as states who commit such crimes usually do. Sharett had the gall to write a letter against the expulsion from al-Faluja and Iraq al-Manshiyya because Israel signed an international agreement not to, when he should’ve just wrote a letter against Zionism altogether.

      • Shirin November 27, 2009, 2:12 AM

        …I think the laywer is doing exactly what the situation calls for, turning the high-minded language against the usurper.

        Yes, I think you are probably correct here. I hope what the lawyer is doing is using the States own lies and propaganda against it. Nevertheless it is galling to hear this kind of nonsense, even when it is being thrown back into Israel’s face.

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