Friday, July 03, 2020

Settler group purchases strategic building in East Jerusalem

By Hannah B. - March 19, 2014
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Jerusalem] [Settlers] [Settlement Expansion]

Damascus Gate is the main entrance connecting the Old City to the rest of East Jerusalem. The building recently aquired by Ateret Cohanim sits about 100 meters down the street from the Gate on Salah al-Din Street. 
Ateret Cohanim, a religious Zionist yeshiva and settler group, has purchased part of a “large and strategic” building in the commercial district of East Jerusalem, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. 
The yeshiva, a Jewish educational institution, founded in 1978, is made up of 150 students and promotes a large Jewish presence in East Jerusalem, particularly in the Muslim quarter of the Old City.
The building, recently acquired by the settler group is located in the area between Damascus Gate and Herod’s Gate, and was built under Jordanian rule. It is home to East Jerusalem’s only full-service post office. 
Jewish agencies acquire buildings across East Jerusalem
Far-right Jewish groups like Ateret Cohanim frequently acquire buildings across East Jerusalem, often illegally, in an attempt to spread amass Jewish influence throughout the area. All of these groups are given extensive support by the Israeli government. “In fact, Judaization is the government's declared policy, not only that of the settlers,” explains Jeff Halper, from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). 
Just last month, on 12 February, the Palestine Monitor reported on the approval by the Jerusalem Planning Committee for the construction of a yeshiva in Sheikh Jarrah. Although the yeshiva is to be built on a vacant lot, Jerusalem city plans state that the land is to be used for educational purposes for Palestinian residents, according to the Alternative Information Center
Fayrouz Sharqawi, of the Jerusalem based community organizing group Grassroots Jerusalem, spoke to the Palestine Monitor about the prevalence of Jewish agencies and groups buying property in East Jerusalem. “Housing acquisition is never just a free market act,” said Sharqawi, “the settler movement receives a lot of help from the Israeli government and authorities when acquiring properties.”
“Largest-ever Jewish purchase in… Old City”
Ateret Cohanim’s purchase of the purchase of 1000-plus square meter building is “the largest-ever Jewish purchase in the Arab-occupied section of the Old City,” according to Israel National News.
In an email to the group’s supporters, the executive director of Ateret Cohanim, Daniel Luria, noted that the purchase was made possible because of a generous donator. The group will have full control of the building by mid-April, during which it plans to embark on the decision to turn the building into a yeshiva. “To those who support the vision of a unified Jerusalem, and to those who believe in the right of any Jew to study and live anywhere in Jerusalem, it is the time to reinforce the Jewish existence in the heart of Jerusalem,” reads Luria's email.
While Palestinian homes continue to be demolished across Jerusalem, the Israeli government continues to subsidise Jewish property. In 2012, Israel destroyed 40 structures or homes belonging to Palestinians in East Jerusalem, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).
Jeff Halper from ICAHD, explains what Israel is doing. “The plan is clear and explicit: to 'judaize’ East Jerusalem by expanding the Jewish presence throughout the city and confining Palestinians to small enclaves or ghettos -- ultimately making life so difficult for them that they leave the city entirely; a policy called in Israel quiet transfer.”
With the help of the Israeli government, Jewish Israeli citizens are buying and often illegally acquiring properties across East Jerusalem, displacing Palestinian communities in the process. “The [Israeli] government says they are totally disconnected from the settler movement, but they’re not. It’s convenient for the government, they want to place settlers across East Jerusalem,” explains Sayrouz Sharqawi.  

“These housing acquisitions are all part of a package, along with housing demolitions aimed at displacing Palestinians and removing them from their desired capital of Jerusalem.” Fayrouz Sharqawi, notes that this is all part of Israel’s plan to change the demographics of East Jerusalem, forcing Palestinians out of Jerusalem and into the West Bank.   

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