Friday, June 27, 2008
A Case Study in hypocrisy within Israel's Judiciary
After 16 Years: Judge Postpones Session Over "Scheduling Clash"
Yitzchak Herskovitz, in his late 70's, has been waiting 16 years to move into his property in Jerusalem - but Arab squatters refuse to budge. The latest court session was abruptly canceled when the judge suddenly remembered he had another case scheduled instead.
The property in question is located in southern Jerusalem, at the edge of the Givat HaMatos neighborhood near Gilo and the Arab neighborhood of Beit Tsafafa. Herskovitz purchased it back in 1992 from a man who had bought it from the estate of an Armenian Christian. However, he soon found himself facing a clan of Arab squatters, who claimed it as their own; their claims alternated between "we received it when the Armenian defaulted on a loan" and "he sold it to us." Last year, after handwriting and document experts testified that the Arabs' documents were fraudulent, the Jerusalem Magistrates Court ruled in Herskovitz's favor, and that he could move to have them evicted.
"But the Arabs were smart," Attorney Anat Ben-Dror, who represents Herskovitz, told Israel National News. "The Magistrates Court judge refused to rule on actual 'ownership,' saying that this was merely a suit about eviction. So the Arabs promptly filed a suit in the District Court claiming they own the property! Unfortunately, District Court Judge Yosef Shapira is now refusing to accept the findings of the lower court, and is making us go through the entire process of bringing in our witnesses once again."
Lawyer: "Justice System is a Circus"
Ben-Dror said the justice system is being unfair: "It's a circus. The judges have many cases and apparently do not pay enough attention to each one. I'm sure he will realize his mistake in the end, but it will cost us another six months - as if Herskovitz has not waited long enough for justice."
Ben-Dror says there are other unbelievable aspects to the case: "Herskovitz has written letters to the police, to the Interior Ministry, and to everyone else, stating that Arabs who do not have Israeli citizenship are actually living in Israel proper - in the capital city of the country. Despite this, the offices don't even take the trouble to answer him - and have taken no action to deport these Arabs or to take other action against them."
Israel National News contacted the Justice Ministry to ask if it plans to apologize to the litigants for the delay caused by the court's scheduling conflict, and how it views the fact that this case - not unlike others - has gone on for so many years without justice being served. The Ministry spokesman's office received the queries Wednesday morning, and on Thursday stated, "We are dependent on others for the answers; we will inform you as soon as they are ready."
Good Sign for Herskovitz
Herskovitz's case did take a turn for the better on Wednesday, however: An order was handed down to the Arab squatters, informing them that if they do not pay the bond they had been previously ordered to pay, plus the total amount of outstanding rent that has amassed over the years - the injunction against the eviction will be withdrawn.
Attorney Ben-Dror said that the judge did not set a date for the money to be paid. However, she said she sent a letter to the Arabs' lawyer saying that if the money is not paid within ten days, "we will be free to begin proceedings" to remove them from the property.