Friday, December 03, 2010

OPT: Settler organizations take control of two houses in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem

Police evict Qara'in family from their home in Jabal Mukabber. Photo: Wadi Hilweh Information Center, 23 Nov. 10.

Source: B'TSELEM - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

On 23 and 24 November 2010, settler organizations took control of two houses in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. In the first case, the Qara’in family, 14 persons, were evicted from their home, which is located next to the UN compound in Jabal Mukabber. The eviction was carried out in accordance with court order and with police assistance. The building had been purchased by a foreign company that is registered in the Cocos Islands and is represented in Israel by David Be’eri, one of the heads of the Elad settlers’ organization, even though some of the owners of the property contend that the transaction was made without their knowledge and approval. Settlers have taken over another house in the village.

In the second case, settlers took control of the second floor of a building in a-Tur that had been unoccupied in recent years. The first and third floors are occupied by Palestinian families. Entry of the settlers was allowed by the District Court. Nearby is another house that settlers have taken over, which they have dubbed Beit Hachoshen. See map

The settlement enclaves in East Jerusalem, including these latest takeovers, surround the Old City Basin from the south, east, and north, and some of them are positioned on main roads leading to the Old City, enabling control of movement along these routes. Also, settlement enclaves have been established in the Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City, with the objective of surrounding the Temple Mount. It is apparent that the aim of the settler enclaves is to thwart division of the city in any possible political arrangement.

The main enclaves are in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, in Silwan (Ir David), in Ras al-‘Amud (Ma’ale Zeitim and Ma’ale David), in a-Tur (Beit Orot), in Abu Dis (Kidmat Zion), and in Sheikh Jarrah (Nahalat Shimon). It is estimated that some 2,000 settlers live in these enclaves. The actions of these organizations in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods generate violent friction and constant tension in those neighborhoods.

While the initiative for establishing the enclaves comes from the settler organizations, they have benefited from extensive Israeli state assistance and support. The organizations have gained control of Palestinian property with the assistance of authorities such as the Custodian of Absentee Property, have purchased from Palestinians, sometimes by questionable means, and have demanded that control of property that was Jewish-owned before 1948 be transferred to them.

The government and the Jerusalem Municipality support the settlement efforts in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and in the Old City by allocating private security guards, paid for by taxes, to protect the enclaves; by sending security forces to accompany takeover of Palestinian assets and houses; by funding and promoting building and development projects in the enclaves; and by transferring government assets, such as the Archeological Garden around the Old City, to the control of the organizations. This support illustrates the institutional, systematic discrimination against residents of East Jerusalem by Israel, as the state and the municipal authorities choke planning for the Palestinian neighborhoods and refuse to supply their residents with many basic services.

The enclaves severely and continuously infringe the right of the local Palestinians to freedom of movement, privacy, and security. The settlers’ security guards intimidate the residents and limit their movement near the enclaves, even of children wanting to play near their homes. In buildings in which settlers live alongside Palestinians, the Palestinians’ movement is also restricted inside the buildings themselves. Security cameras installed by settlers violate the privacy of the other occupants, sometimes even filming events inside their apartments. In addition, the police discriminate against Palestinians. When friction occurs between the two populations, they routinely protect only the rights of the settlers.