Will the real Ayyads please stand up? A Palestinian family forced to prove to Israel that they are not absent
The Cliff Hotel is situated on a small hill on the Western edge of Abu Dis, overlooking Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock. Originally the family home of Abdulhadi Ali Ayyad, it evolved into a commericial venture that benefited from its picturesque location: work to convert the building into a hotel began in 1958.
In 2003, the Israelis began building the separation barricade through the West Bank--and the Cliff Hotel’s strategic position at a crossroads gave them the impetus to site the wall through the Hotel’s backyard. At first, the Israeli authorities had tried to appropriate the Ayyad’s on the grounds that it was “absentee property”-- yet this was an entirely fictitious ruse.
By claiming that the hotel lay within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries-- which no government in the region, including Jordan’s, ever suggested before -- notwithstanding that the Ayyads in question all hold West Bank IDs, the Israelis effectively made the Ayyads disappear with a stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen.
The Ayyads rejected outright the idea of abiding by this decision, and filed a petition with the Israeli High Court contesting that they were well and truly present--and that at least one of Abdulhadi Ali Ayyad’s children always lived within a few hundred meters of the property. The Cliff Hotel’s owners were able to secure a court ruling, stipulating that the Israeli military could not use the building as a base for operations, but even the Israeli Court’s authority was disregarded by the IDF.
When Netanyahu won renewed election as Prime Minister in 2009, his Finance Minister passed an order appropriating the Hotel--bringing the whole farce of absentee property into full focus. The Ayyads continued to wait for their day in court--scheduled for some time later this year - biding their time.
On Thursday, 8 February, however, Israeli bulldozers began turning over mounds of earth around the building, and preparing for the continued construction of the Israeli Separation Wall around the family abode-cum-hotel. Here again, the Ayyads’ lawyer intervened--and it was at this point that the family uncovered the Israeli Finance Minister’s latest expropriation order, dated 29 January, 2013.
The Ayyads’ persistence has meant that their lawyer was able to stop works anew but, as Ali Abdulhadi Ayyad puts it: “Ours is not the first case of its kind in Palestine, nor will it be the last.” Ayyad added that the family was only able to have any success it did due to the media attention and diplomatic support--from the British Consulate in Jerusalem in particular--they were able to garner. For now, the family is waiting for its day in court, which is a subject which only antagonises further the hotel owner Ayyad: “How is it that we are supposed to appear in court for a case which only erupted because we were deemed to be ‘unpresent’?”.
While the indicators of the family’s ability to hang on to its birthright do not seem promising for now, they seem determined, like other Palestinians, to stand in the face of overwhelming odds while the Israelis draft--and then violate--laws at their own will.
Israeli state bodies contacted for this article declined to comment.
Have your say- is this another Palestinian struggle with the state of Israel bound to end in homelessness and defeat or can this family stand its ground and keep its hotel? Will those 'present' stand up and fight their corner in the so-called absentee property case?