Illegal Arab construction in Jerusalem (WND)
JERUSALEM – Israeli police forces today prevented Knesset members and Jewish activists from reclaiming ownership of a Jewish-owned Jerusalem property that had been illegally settled by local Arabs.
The incident has major political implications, since it involves an area widely expected to be handed over to the Palestinian Authority as a result of Israeli-PA negotiations aimed at forming a Palestinian state. Much of the land in question, however, is legally owned by a Jewish nonprofit organization that purchases property for the stated purpose of Jewish settlement.
Tens of thousands of Arabs moved into the neighborhood, known as Shoafat, the past 15 years and constructed there illegally.
Earlier today, dozens of activists flanked by two Knesset members attempted to enter Shoafat to reclaim a five-acre Jewish property on behalf of the site’s owner, identified as private Israeli citizen Eliyahu Cohanim, who had given the group power of attorney over the site.
Cohanim said he had been dismayed that Arabs were constructing illegally on his land and that the PA was planning to build in the area, including on his property.
The Israeli government over the years has done little to stop rampant illegal Arab construction in northern and eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem, which now have Arab majorities.
As the group congregated near Shoafat, policemen reached the area to prevent the Jewish activists from entering the neighborhood, stating they had a court order barring Israeli Jews from entering the site without police coordination.
The police reportedly detained several Jewish activists who persisted in going to Shoafat to reclaim the property.
“Instead of enforcing the law, you are becoming a criminal police force,” Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad of the National Union party shouted at the officers in an incident caught on camera by Israel National News.
“You should have been fighting for the Jews’ right to reach their lands and instead you are a criminal police force,” he said.
“They help the Arab criminals who build on Jewish land in Jerusalem and instead of destroying the [illegal] Arab houses, they prevent the owner of the land in Jerusalem from going into the land,” Eldad said.
National Union Knesset Member Effie Eitam accused the Israeli government of “dividing Jerusalem” by not allowing Jews into an Arab-occupied, largely Jewish owned neighborhood.
“What we’re seeing here is the second division of Jerusalem – once they divide Jerusalem with the separation fence, and now, even what is inside the so-called Jewish part of Jerusalem is being divided by declaring that there are places here to which Jews have no access,” he said.
While the property in question is owned by an individual Jew, the Jewish National Fund, a U.S.-based nonprofit that purchases land in Israel for the stated purpose of Jewish settlement, owns large swaths of the Shoafat neighborhood, in which tens of thousands of Arabs now illegally reside.
A WND investigation last year found Shoafat was purchased legally on behalf of JNF using Jewish donations in the early 1900s. The Israeli government manages the land on behalf of the JNF.
Much of the illegal Arab construction in Shoafat took place in the past 15 years, with some apartment complexes built as late as 2004.
Internal JNF documents obtained by WND outline illegal Arab construction on the Jewish-owned land. A survey 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.”
King last year released a study detailing how while Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003, the Jerusalem city hall deleted files documenting hundreds of illegal Arab building projects throughout eastern sections of Jerusalem. King said he forwarded his findings to Israel’s state comptroller for investigation.
King charged Olmert told senior municipal workers not to enforce a ban on illegal Arab buildings.
The Jerusalem municipality released a statement in response to the allegations claiming the threat of Arab violence kept it from bulldozing illegal Arab homes.
“During the years of the intifada, the municipality had difficulty carrying out the necessary level of enforcement in the neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem due to security constraints,” the statement read.
Today’s incident comes amid a flurry of rhetoric from senior Israeli officials suggesting largely Arab sections of Jerusalem should be severed from the rest of the city for a future Palestinian state.
“Whoever thinks it’s possible to live with 270,000 Arabs in (eastern) Jerusalem must take into account that there will be more bulldozers, more tractors, and more cars carrying out [terror] attacks,” Olmert said last week, referring to two incidents this month in which Palestinian residents of eastern Jerusalem deliberately plowed bulldozers into pedestrians, buses and passenger vehicles, leaving three dead in the first attack.
Vice Premier Chaim Ramon, a top Olmert deputy, told the Knesset earlier this month: “Whoever thinks the problem of Jerusalem and terror are specific, and that destroying one house or another will help, is burying his head in the sand. The main question is, does the government want [Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods of] Jebl Mukaber or Sur Bahir as part of Israel or not.”
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