Monday, February 6, 2012
In a detailed ruling spanning 22 pages, the Administrative Court in Jerusalem (under the Honourable Judge Yigal Marzel) accepted the petition submitted in March 2011 by Attorney Sami Ersheid in the name of public petitioners, the refugees of Lifta and Israeli human rights organizations (Sons of Lifta Jerusalem Association, Rabbis for Human Rights, Jafra Association, Dr. Daphna Golan, Ilan Shtayer, Salah Siam, Abed Elrahman abu Lail, Radwan Barakat, Daud Abidi, Jalal Aqel and Mohammad Odeh).
In its ruling, the Court ordered that the tender of the Israel Land Administration (number 405/2010) be annulled. Thus in essence the Court fully accepted the petition and prevented the marketing and sale of the Lifta village lands and abandoned homes to private entrepreneurs. It should be noted that this tender was publicised one year ago by the aforementioned Attorney Sami Ersheid, and the tender was frozen following an injunction prohibiting the Israel Land Administration (ILA) from continuing to market the lands. In today’s ruling the Court annulled the tender.
In their petition against the ILA, the petitioners requested Court intervention to prevent the transfer of Lifta lands and property to private hands for the establishment of an exclusive real estate project, and to halt destruction of the village, which represents a last testimony of the Arab villages, scenery and culture widespread in Israel throughout history until the beginning of the 20th century.
According to the petitioners, “given the situation according to which the village of Lifta is an abandoned village whose original owners live as refugees only several hundred metres from their village, it was appropriate to desist from all construction in the village and certainly to desist from construction that would result in destruction of the village and total dispossession of the original residents of their rights”. The petitioners further wrote that “the marketing of land for construction in the village of Lifta and as a result the establishment of new buildings on village lands and in place of the existing village, thwarts both the ability to preserve the existing village and any possibility of renovating the historic structure of the village and everything related to this”.
The petitioners requested that the Court order the annulment of the tender for the sale of land in Lifta and to order the ILA to desist from any action which would damage the physical and cultural heritage of the place, pending conduct of a comprehensive planning process of the village area, which will include planning preservation of the site in accordance with professional standards and with public cooperation.
To the petition was annexed a professional opinion of five senior architects, planners and preservation experts in Israel, concerning the serious preservation mistakes in the tender. They concluded in their opinion that the ILA tender does not meet preservation standards accepted in Israel and the world, and that full data is lacking to permit the marketing of land and issuance of building permits. The authors of the professional opinion determine that the tender process must be frozen pending completion of a detailed documentation process of Lifta, the preparation of a building and development plan and the signing of a development agreement between the ILA and Jerusalem Municipality.
During the Court hearings the ILA altered its position following the stance of the Antiquities Authority that it is preferable to conduct a complementary preservation and documentation survey of Lifta prior to giving the lands to private bodies.
A rare civil coalition of Lifta refugees, conservationists, environmentalists, human rights activists and planners coalesced around the struggle to save the Lifta village, everyone agreeing that the totality of human and environmental factors must be taken into account when discussing Lifta and its future.
Attorney Sami Ersheid responded that today’s Court decision is first and foremost a huge victory for the lengthy and just legal struggle for the heritage of the village and to prevent destruction of an important layer of history of this land and of Jerusalem. This is a ruling of special meaning which represents a precedent demonstrating that preserving the heritage of Lifta is also important for future generations.
For more info-
Att. Sami Ersheid - 0524204350
Ilan Shtayer - 0545602059
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