HCJ 10139/17 Fahida et al. V the IDF Commander in the West Bank et al
Petition submission date: 27.12.2017
On December 27, 2017, the head of the Palestinian village council for Ras-Karkar together with two residents of Deir Ammar and human rights organizations Emek Shaveh and Yesh Din petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ), demanding the Court order the Civil Administration to clear the infiltration and remove installations built illegally on lands belonging to the villagers, adjacent to the site of Nabi Aner, after repeated requests to evacuate the illegal construction at the site were unsuccessful.
Nabi Aner is an archaeological site located northwest of Ramallah, partly on land owned by residents of the Palestinian villages of Ras Karkar and Deir ‘Ammar. The settlements of Neria, Talmon and Dolev were established nearby. Remains of an olive press, winepresses, burial caves and ruins from a rural Arab village have all been found there, as well as a system of springs whose waters were collected and channeled by the local farmers from the end of the 2nd millennium BCE to the present in a system of aqueducts, canals, and pools and used in the past to irrigate the agricultural lands of residents from nearby villages. The mosque was named after the Muslim prophet ‘Anir, and areas residents used to attend it for prayers and for religious and social ceremonies.
Since the early 2000s, when the unauthorized outpost of Zayit Ra’anan was established, Palestinian landowners from nearby villages have suffered severe violence at the hands of Israeli civilians. Documented instances include attacks against shepherds and farmers, theft of livestock and damage to olive trees.
This recurring violence has made it hard for the landowners to access Nabi Aner. Israeli residents of the area have exploited this state of affairs to turn the site into a recreation spot and tourist attraction. According to the Hebrew-language Facebook page “’Ayanot Aner – Gan Hashlosha”, which is allegedly run by residents of Neria, renovations at the site began in the summer of 2014, “led by local youth together with the pre-army preparatory yeshiva at Eli and the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council”. The renovations included illegal digging of pools, paving of pathways and instalment of benches and gazebos. After the three Israeli teens Gilad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach were murdered, the site was dedicated to their memory.
In an August 2016 newsletter for the Neriah settlement, residents even expressed pride in the dispossession of local Palestinians:
“We are happy to announce the end of another stage (we are nearing the end) in the renovation of ‘Ayanot Aner. To our delight, the site has become a familiar recreation spot known to the public at large. What is more, our ‘dear’ cousins [“cousins” is a derogatory term for Arabs] are by now hardly ever seen there.”
The petition further describes the widespread practice of Israelis appropriating privately-owned Palestinian sites and declaring them tourist attractions. “The respondents are bound by both local law and international humanitarian law to protect cultural assets in the territories under their control. Yet, much to the dismay of the petitioners, the State is disgracefully refraining from enforcing the law”, read the petition.
During hearings in this petition, the state requested to delay law enforcement against the illegal invasion of the site and refrain from demolishing the structures, claiming that the Regularization Law applies to these structures. On June 9, 2020 the Israeli High Court accepted the petition and struck down the law with a majority of eight versus one. Following this ruling, the state announced it would demolish the illegal construction within 90 days.
Petition status: Pending