On November 28th, Adnan Gheith, a member of the Al-Bustan Neighborhood Committee and a dignitary of Silwan, was served with a letter informing him that Yair Golan, the Israeli Home Front Commander, is intending to expel him from Jerusalem for a period of four months. The expulsion is to be executed based on an Administrative Order – with no charges and no evidence – by power of the Emergency Defense Orders established under the British Mandate. Gheith’s lawyer was informed that the expulsion is intended to curb Gheith’s political activity, since the security apparatus considers him to be a central instigator of unrest in Silwan.
Since the 1990s, Silwan has seen one of the most powerful settlement enterprises in the Occupied Territories. With the massive help of various Israeli authorities, many properties passed into the hands of right-extremist organizations – Elad and Ateret Cohanim – who also effectively control tourism and archaeology in the area (for details see here)
Al Bustan is a neighborhood in Silwan whose residents especially suffer from settlement in their midst. If the Israeli authorities’ severe neglect of this neighborhood were not enough, in the last years the police and the settlers’ private security forces have made the residents’ lives a waking nightmare. In recent years the municipality has also intensified the policy of housing demolitions in the neighborhood, and lately has been promoting a plan to erase a significant part of it, erecting instead a commercial and tourist site for use by the settlement and its visitors. For this purpose, the municipality intends to demolish 22 houses which are homes to Palestinian families. Scores of additional families may also find themselves homeless since they cannot meet the municipalities economic and administrative requirements (for details seehere).
To face this situation, a residents’ committee was created in the Al Bustan neighborhood several years ago. This committee works to promote the residents’ interests alongside other neighborhood committees, including those of Wadi Hilwa, Batn Al Hawa and others. These committees, including the Al Bustan committee, operate in two main fields. One is to promote and address community needs, and the other is to lead the nonviolent protest against the occupation in the village. As part of their struggle in recent years the residents have made their story public, garnering widespread Israeli and international support which in 2006 managed to halt the municipality’s intention to demolish more than 80 homes in the neighborhood.
One of the members of the Al Bustan neighborhood committee is Adnan Gheith. Adnan, 34 years old, was born and has lived in Silwan for his entire life and today raises his four children there. For years Adnan has been investing much of his time and energy in promoting the interests of the residents of Silwan in general and of Al Bustan neighborhood in particular. Two years ago, Adnan and his friends set up a protest tent against the municipality’s intention to demolish houses in the neighborhood. The protest tent is used by the residents to present their story and has become a symbol of the nonviolent struggle against occupation and discrimination. The tent has been visited in the last years by scores if not hundreds of Israelis, diplomats, members of foreign government and even the former presidents of Ireland and the USA, Mary Robinson and Jimmy Carter.
In view of the brutal tactics of repression employed by police against the community in the service of the Elad organization and the Silwan settlers, it is clear that Adnan Gheith’s expulsion constitutes an experimental exercise of power on part of the Israeli Police, the Shin Bet and the Israeli Army, intended to prepare the ground for massive home demolitions in the al-Bustan neighborhood and for a deepening Jewish settlement in Silwan.
In an attempt to stop democratic and legitimate protest, the State makes distorted and cynical use of the law. Despite months of repeated arrests, in which Gheith was led handcuffed to interrogation no less than seven times – and with courts releasing him time after time – the police has not managed to present the slightest bit of evidence against him. The State has now decided to no longer bother with the criminal procedure where evidence is required, but rather to circumvent it by using the security apparatus. With the expected approval of the order, Adnan Gheith will be expelled from his community, home and family without charges and with no evidence, using a draconian and anti-democratic Mandatory emergency law.
The expulsion order from Jerusalem, which General Yair Golan intends to issue against Adnan Gheith, tears yet another mask off the face of Israeli democracy, and will push the residents of Silwan between a rock and a hard place. In contrast to the security rhetoric employed by the authorities, this action will do nothing to promote the security of Jerusalem, but rather harm the already-shaken sense of security of the residents of Silwan. This cynical use of Mandatory law is not truly intended to secure Jerusalem, but rather to secure the future of Jewish settlement in Silwan.
Lacking any legal basis for action against Gheith, the security forces seek to criminalize him inevitably, as his very residence in his home will be considered a crime if the expulsion order against him is issued. If the military commander indeed issues the said expulsion order in the coming days, and if Adnan refuses to comply with it and remains within Jerusalem, he will be liable to criminal action.
It would seem as if the Israeli government is now turning to unconstitutional and undemocratic means in the face of Palestinian and international pressure to end settlement in East Jerusalem. Gheith’s expulsion from Jerusalem will not only exact an unbearable cost on him and his family, but also on the residents of Silwan. In addition, if this extreme step is taken, it would constitute another dramatic chapter in the crumbling of Israeli democracy.