Illegal Arab construction in Qalandiya (WND Photo)
JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and senior members of his Kadima party have hinted the past few days the Israeli government may agree to divide Jerusalem, noting that some eastern neighborhoods have an Arab majority, with some even housing refugee camps.
But WND had learned key Jerusalem neighborhoods mentions as slated for possible evacuation are owned by a U.S. Jewish group that over the years has allowed tens of thousands of Arabs to illegally squat on its land, resulting in the current Arab majority.
The Jewish National Fund, or JNF, purchased the land now up for possible Israeli withdrawal using Jewish donor funds for the specific purpose of Jewish settlement.
On Monday, Olmert hinted he would withdraw from parts of Jerusalem by asking whether it was “necessary” to retain certain Arab communities, specifically mentioning Shoafat, a Jerusalem neighborhood.
“Was it necessary to also add the Shuafat refugee camp, Sawakra, Walaje and other villages and define them as part of Jerusalem? On that, I must confess, I am not convinced,” stated Olmert, speaking at a special Knesset session to mark the sixth anniversary of the assassination of former government minister Rehavam Ze’evi, who drew up the 1967 map.
Vice Premier Haim Ramon, a member of Olmert’s ruling Kadima party, last week reportedly mapped out a future partition of Jerusalem under a deal with the Palestinians, stating Israel may give up Jerusalem’s Shoafat and Qalandiya neighborhoods, among other communities.
Ramon was quoted by the popular YnetNews.com Israeli website as writing in a letter to Jerusalem City Councilman Nir Barkat that under his plan, “The Jewish neighborhoods (of Jerusalem) will be recognized as Israeli and under Israeli sovereignty. Accordingly, the Arab neighborhoods will be recognized as Palestinian.”
But some of the areas mentioned as slated for possible evacuation – hundreds of acres in Shoafat and Qalandiya – are owned by the JNF, a nonprofit that purchases property using donor funds.
The JNF lands have been utilized for the illegal construction of dozens of Arab apartment buildings, a refugee camp and a U.N. school. The properties recently were blocked off from Jewish sections of Jerusalem and isolated to Arab neighborhoods by Israel’s security fence.
Qalandiya is located near an old Israeli airport; the Jerusalem suburb of Shoafat is adjacent to the Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev. The lands were purchased legally on behalf of JNF using Jewish donations in the early 1900s, immediately after the organization was founded in 1901 with the specific charge of repurchasing and developing the land of Israel for Jewish settlement.
A tour of Qalandiya found dozens of Arab apartment complexes, a Palestinian refugee camp and a U.N. school for Palestinians constructed on the land.
U.N. school for Palestinians illegally built on Jewish property (WND photo)
According to officials in Israel’s Housing Ministry, Arabs first constructed facilities illegally in Qalandiya and Kfar Akev between 1948 and 1967, prior to the 1967 Six-Day War during which Israel retook control of the entire city of Jerusalem.
Qalandiya, still owned by JNF, came under the management of the Israeli government’s Land Authority in the late 1960s.
Ministry officials say the bulk of illegal Arab construction in Qalandiya took place in the past 20 years, with construction of several new Arab apartment complexes taking place in just the past two years.
Neither the Israeli government nor JNF took any concrete measures to stop the illegal building, which continues today with at least one apartment complex in Qalandiya under construction.
Jerusalem’s Shoafat neighborhood, which has an estimated value of $3 million, was also purchased by JNF in the early 1900s and fell under the management of the Israel Land Authority about 40 years ago. Much of the illegal Arab construction in Shoafat took place in the past 15 years, with some apartment complexes built as late as 2004.
In Qalandiya and Shoafat, Israel’s security fence cordons off the Arab sections of the JNF lands from the rest of Jewish Jerusalem.
Internal JNF documents obtained by WND outline illegal Arab construction on the Jewish-owned land. A survey of Qalandiya summarized on JNF stationery conducted in December 2000 and signed by a JNF worker states, “In a lot of the plots I find Arabs are living and building illegally and also working the JNF land without permission.”
The JNF survey goes on to document illegal construction of Arab apartment complexes and the U.N. school under the property management of Israel’s Land Authority.
Group misleading donors?
In response to a WND exclusive report on the JNF’s alleged mismanagement of the properties, JNF CEO Russell Robinson sent statements to concerned donors that the illegal construction occurred during periods the Jerusalem land was occupied by Jordan.
“During that time the Jordanian government oversaw all activities, including the U.N. building. Under international law, this makes matters pertaining to the land more complicated than what [WND describes],” states Robinson’s letter
Jordan, together with other Arab countries, attacked Israel after its founding in 1948 and administered eastern sections of Jerusalem following an armistice agreement until Jordan attacked again and Israel liberated the entire city of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. During the period of Jordanian control, some new construction took place, including in areas previously purchased by Jews.
1991 photo of Shoafat shows region entirely forest land
But WND obtained aerial photos of the two JNF sites in question, Shoafat and Qalandiya, which Robinson claimed were illegally built upon prior to 1967.
A photo taken in 1991 of one of Shoafat shows the entire area was a forest – meaning all illegal Arab construction took place after 1967 while the land was under Jewish control.
1967 aerial photo of Qalandiya region
An aerial photo taken in 1967 of the second site, Qalandiya, which is now a large Arab town, finds construction of a U.N. building but few other sites, indicating the vast majority of Arab construction – dozens of large apartment complexes – occurred under JNF control. WND originally reported some of the construction took place prior to 1967, but the bulk of the building occurred the past few years, under Jewish management.
Robinson did not return phone calls seeking comment.
‘Leftist millionaires’ influencing JNF?
Illegal Arab construction on Jewish-owned lands is not limited to Jerusalem. Arabs reportedly are building without permits on JNF-owned property in the Galilee and in areas outside Bethlehem. Due to Israeli military laws, Jews are barred from building on the JNF lands near Bethlehem. Also, Arabs are living illegally in JNF-owned apartments in strategic areas in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Asked to explain why the esteemed Jewish organization would allow Arabs to illegally occupy strategic land purchased for Jews, one JNF source involved in land acquisition pointed to what he claimed was the “disproportionate influence” over the organization by a small group of Jewish multimillionaires in New Jersey who lead major public fundraising efforts for JNF.
The source said the group of wealthy New Jersey Jews, all of whom are real estate moguls and many of whom invest in projects as a team, are largely also donors to leftist causes associated with Israeli President Shimon Peres, who advocates the division of Jerusalem and an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.
The Jews include the Wilf, Halpern, Zuckerman and Tisch families, according to the JNF source.
The key lands in Jerusalem upon which the JNF has allowed Arabs to illegally build are part of the areas Peres has advocated handing to the Palestinians.
Peres currently serves as Israel’s minister for the development of the Negev Desert, which the JNF has been leading a massive campaign to populate, with the goal of bringing 250,000 Jewish residents there.
Peres’ face is prominently featured on JNF advertisements and material.
“The wealthy New Jersey Jews are highly politically motivated, support leftist causes and are involved in JNF affairs,” charged the JNF source. “It is unfair to Jews worldwide who donate to the JNF with certain expectations, such as that their donations will be used for Jewish settlement in Jerusalem.”
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