Settlers take over East Jerusalem homes

On 2 August 2009, the police evicted two Palestinian families from their houses in the Sheikh Jarah neighborhood of East Jerusalem : the extended Hanun family, 17 members who lived in three apartments, and the extended Alghawi family, 29 members who lived in six apartments. Immediately following the eviction, settler families took over the houses under heavy police guard. The evicted families refuse to be removed from the neighborhood and have stayed in the street since then.The two families are the descendents of refugee families from 1948, the Hanun family from Haifa , and the Alghawi family from Sarfarand (Tzrifin). These families were part of a group of 28 families, which now amount to 550 persons, who were settled in the neighborhood in 1956 by the Jordanian government and UNRWA.

The eviction followed the Israeli Supreme Court’s determination that the families were living in property belonging to the Jewish community that lived close to the tomb of Simon the Just until the 1930s. This property is registered to the name of the Sephardic Community Committee and the Knesset Israel Committee. These committees transferred their rights in the land to the Nahalat Shimon settlers’ organization, which has been engaged over the past decade in evacuating Palestinian families in the neighborhood from their homes, and holds five other compounds in the neighborhood.

After the Palestinian residents are removed from the area around the tomb of Simon the Just, the Nahalat Shimon organization plans to build a 200-apartment Jewish neighborhood on the site. This plan complements other plans of settler organizations Elad and Ateret Cohanim, which are supported by government ministries and governmental authorities, to surround the historical basin around the Old City with compounds controlled by settler organizations. The state funds the guarding of the compounds in which the settlers live and allocates security forces that enable the taking over of Palestinian properties.

Settler organizations are also seeking to advance two other plans in Sheikh Jarah. The first is the project involving the Shepherd Hotel, a property owned by Irving Moskowitz. Recently, the Jerusalem Municipality approved a request to renovate the hotel, turning it into a 20 apartment building. There is also a plan, not yet approved, for the site that includes 90 apartments, a synagogue, a nursery school, and day-care centers. The second plan is in the Mufti’s Vineyard (the al-Husseini Vineyard), which the Israel Lands Administration has leased to Ateret Cohanim.

Another part of the settlers’ plan to gain control of the area, under government auspices, was the appointment of the Elad organization to operate the Ir David Archeological Garden in Silwan, and the organizations’ involvement in operating the Tzurim Valley National Garden , which is situated east of Sheikh Jarah and encircles the Old City from the east. In this context, the Jerusalem Municipality has begun planning the King’s Valley Archeological Garden on area on which Palestinian houses stand in the al-Bustan section of Silwan, south of the Old City , near the Elad settler compounds in Silwan.

The implementation of these plans, with government support, is especially grave given the government’s discriminatory planning policy in East Jerusalem , which stifles any possibility of building and development for the Palestinian population. If they are indeed realized, the result will increase the physical isolation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and will intensify the harm to the Palestinian population.



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