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Jerusalem Development Authority Implicated in Boycotted Film Funding

By Jinjirrie | Kadaitcha | September 4th, 2012

In the vein of its previous documentary project presenting a montage of 24 hours of life in Berlin, the German Zero One film production company has been planning a similar venture on Jerusalem.

Berlin-based Zero One Film will work alongside Palestinian producer Daoud Kuttab and newly founded Israeli prodco 24 Communications. The latter is a joint venture between Israeli prodcos Pie Films and Inosan, which worked on the original version of HBO hit In Treatment.

Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg and Jerusalem Film Fund are backing 24h Jerusalem and the producers hope to secure the remaining €400,000 (US$500,000) of its €2.4m budget at MipTV this week.

Palestinian directors have now pulled out of the project – they were unaware of the presence of the Israeli production company, nor of backing from the Jerusalem Film Fund, which is in turn funded by the Jerusalem Development Authority. Current activities of the JDA include expropriating Palestinian land in East Jerusalem for parks. The JDA received “40 million NIS in 2005 to develop green spaces around the Old City of Jerusalem”.

Designating urban space as a national park is not only easier but cheaper too, the state having no obligation to compensate owners.

The Jerusalem municipality leaves the creation of these parks to the National Planning Authority (in the Ministry of Interior), Bimkom noted, which deals more with the protection of nature and heritage than the rights of Jerusalem’s residents.

The disparity between the management of space for West Jerusalemites compared to their counterparts in the east is stark, with national parks notably absent from the west.

“The Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are crowded and they suffer from extreme neglect and shortage of public infrastructure,” Bimkom architect, Efrat Bar-Cohen, said in a statement.

“The residents are in desperate need of space by which they can improve their quality of life, even if slightly.”

The building of the park will have ramifications beyond the strangling of Issawiya and A-Tur residents.

It will stretch into the E1 area of the West Bank, which represents an important reserve of space for Palestinian development, creating a string of Jewish Israeli-only settlement between the Old City and Ma’ale Adumim settlement.

Elad Kandl is director of the Old City projects at the Jerusalem Development Authority, whose website describes their work as rehabilitating and conserving the Old City.

He expressed succinctly Israel’s aim of curbing Palestinian development in Jerusalem. “When you make it a national park,” he told The Jerusalem Post in reference to open space, “you keep the status quo.”

The JDA, which operates under the 1988 Jerusalem Development Authority Law, was established to further entrench Israeli control over the city and is also involved in the Jerusalem light rail project.

Indeed, the Prime Minister’s Office and the mayor of Jerusalem sponsored a JDA program to work toward this goal. On its website the JDA is very clear about the role of the Jerusalem light rail project, stating that “The investment in the light railway project was one of the government’s key strategies to empower Jerusalem as a capital.”

The JDA is also an instrumental actor in the proposed construction of 1,400 new housing units in the Gilo Jewish settlement colony, located near Bethlehem in occupied East Jerusalem.

In this light, the involvement of the JDA in the 24h Jerusalem project clearly designates the film as unacceptable normalisation with the Israeli occupation.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has defined normalization specifically in a Palestinian and Arab context “as the participation in any project, initiative or activity, in Palestine or internationally, that aims (implicitly or explicitly) to bring together Palestinians (and/or Arabs) and Israelis (people or institutions) without placing as its goal resistance to and exposure of the Israeli occupation and all forms of discrimination and oppression against the Palestinian people.” [2] This is the definition endorsed by the BDS National Committee (BNC).

One Palestinian participant in the 24h Jerusalem project, Enas aL-Muthaffar, made clear his objections to the film project in an open letter on August 25th. He reveals that he was not informed at all about the Israeli production partner. Nor were the Palestinian directors to be involved in the editing process.

To whom It May Concern,

When Kuttab Productions first contacted me early July, it failed to mention that Israel is part of this project, although I specifically inquired about this issue. And then again, you sent me an email on July 9th, which also failed to mention that Israel is in fact part of your film production. I only knew about Israel being a co-producer of Jerusalem 24 when I asked specific technical questions about the characters, crew and the editing phase. I was surprised to know that the selected filmmakers are only requested to film on September 6th and that we have no say in the editing phase. Then, you said: The editing phase will happen in Germany where the Palestinian and the Israeli films will be edited in one feature length documentary. This is not information that can simply be passed on in such a way!

I reject to be part of Jerusalem 24: a German/ Israeli/ Palestinian co-production for the following two main reasons:

· I respect and support Palestinian civil society campaign for Boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with International law and respects Palestinian rights.

· I refuse to be part of a peace propaganda machine that continues to ignore Israel’s cruel colonization of Palestine.

There is a longer list of reasons related to the current steps undertaken by Israel that aim at changing the demographic, social and cultural composition of the city of Jerusalem – to name few:

· Advocating the largest act of de-population of East Jerusalem since 1967.

· Continuing expansion of illegal settlements.

· Renewal of closure of East Jerusalem Institutions.

· Building restrictions and home demolitions.

· Revoking residency rights and denying family reunification.

· Continued illegal diggings under al-Aqsa mosque compound.

There is no way in which I can separate my art from who I am, from my life, from my duty to resist everything and anything that doesn’t acknowledge my right to exist on my land in freedom and dignity.

Regards,

Enas I. aL-Muthaffar

Enas’ stance is confirmed in an Al Akbar piece [Google translation]:

Yesterday, I sent a group of Palestinian institutions and individuals working in the field of culture and art message to «Book of production» declare the absolute rejection of various forms of normalization with the occupier and «standing in the face of attempts to penetrate the cultural front as the line of the clash with the basic occupation, and intellectuals were and will remain the spearhead in the clash of cultures and civilizations with brute occupation force.

Haidar Eid further affirms terms of the PACBI boycott relevant to the joint film project [Google translation]:

That all meetings and projects that combine between the Palestinians and the Israelis must be placed in the proper context against the occupation and other forms of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, and most importantly that these meetings be pro-boycott by directives issued by the National Committee of the province.

According to Amira Hass, 20 directors, including Israelis, have now pulled out of the film project in support of the cultural boycott and filming, scheduled for September 6, has been halted.

September 4, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Jerusalem Development Authority Implicated in Boycotted Film Funding

Al-Aqsa to be Converted into a Park by Israelis

Ma’an – 31/07/2012
Bulldozers carry out work on a pathway next to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem (MaanImages/Magnus Johansson, File)

JERUSALEM – The deputy leader of the Islamic movement in Israel, Sheikh Kamal al-Khateib, said Tuesday that the Israeli municipal council of Jerusalem planned to transform the yards of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound into public parks and gardens, to make them accessible for the Jews to visit at any time.

Speaking to reporters, Al-Khateib said that the process of ‘Judaising’ Jerusalem had been accelerated since the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. “The occupation is working to efface the Palestinian features in the holy city through unprecedented procedures they carried out this month,” he added.

“For the first time, the occupation has allowed settlers and extremists to access Al-Aqsa compound during Ramadan paying no attention to the feelings of the Muslim worshipers there,” he said. “Meanwhile, the municipality which represents the occupation approved a decision to consider the yards in Al-Aqsa compound public parks which anybody can access.”

In mid-July Palestinian officials denounced Yehuda Weinstein, the Israeli attorney general, after he claimed that the Al-Aqsa area was part of Israel and referred to the mosque’s courtyards as public space.

Weinstein was quoted on Israeli news sites as saying the area was under Israeli jurisdiction for matters such as planning and building, and said the courtyard was for public use.

In his remarks Tuesday, Al-Khateib said soldiers detained the imam of the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday while he was praying. “Israeli troops stormed the mosque and prevented worshipers from completing their prayer,” he said.

On Thursday a mosque guard told Ma’an that 20 rightists entered the grounds of the holy site.

July 31, 2012 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israeli Eradication of History: Disappearing Mosques

By Jonathan Cook | Al Akhbar | July 9, 2012

The discovery of a rare aerial photo of Jerusalem in the 1930s, taken by a Zeppelin, has provided the long-sought after proof that when Israel occupied the Old City in 1967 it secretly destroyed an important mosque that dated from the time of Saladin close to the al-Aqsa mosque.

The destruction of the Sheikh Eid mosque – in an area widely considered to be the most sensitive site in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – revives questions about Israel’s continuing abuse of Islamic holy places under its control.

The issue has been in the spotlight recently because of a growing number of arson and vandalism attacks by Jewish extremists on mosques in Jerusalem and the West Bank, in what are termed “price-tag” attacks designed to dissuade the Israeli government from making diplomatic concessions to the Palestinians.

Following the torching by Jewish settlers of a mosque near Ramallah two weeks ago, Dan Halutz, a former military chief of staff, admitted there was no political will to find the culprits. “If we wanted, we could catch them, and when we want to, we will,” he told Army Radio.

The question of whether Jerusalem’s Sheikh Eid mosque had survived up until modern times had been the subject of heated debates between Palestinian and Israeli scholars. The discovery of its location is not of only historic and academic interest. Earlier this year, before the aerial photo was unearthed, development at the spot where the mosque once stood led to damage of what was left of the building below ground, archaeologists now admit.

Israel’s Antiquities Authority, its chief archaeological institution, dug up the mosque’s remaining foundations and disinterred a human skeleton, believed to be Sheikh Eid himself.

The site of the mosque is next to the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), a raised compound of Islamic holy places that includes the al-Aqsa mosque and is flanked on one side by the Western Wall, a major Jewish prayer site.

Control over the Haram al-Sharif is contested by Israel, which believes that the mosques are built over two Jewish temples destroyed long ago. There is growing pressure from Jewish religious groups to be allowed to pray on the Haram al-Sharif, and some extremists have threatened to blow up the mosques so that they can build a third temple.

A provocative visit in 2000 to the site by Ariel Sharon, then leader of Israel’s opposition, backed by more than 1,000 police triggered the second intifada.

The remains of Sheikh Eid mosque were destroyed during excavations carried out as Israel prepares the area next to the Haram al-Sharif for the construction of a large visitor centre.

The plan is part of a series of changes by Israel to the area near the Western Wall that has been fuelling tensions with Palestinians. The alterations violate international law because Jerusalem’s Old City is occupied territory.

Benjamin Kedar, vice-president of Israel’s National Academy of Sciences, who discovered the old photo after searching archives in Germany, called the treatment of Sheikh Eid mosque “an archaeological crime.”

The mosque, which originally served as an Islamic school, built by Malik al-Afdil, one of Saladin’s sons, is said to have been one of only three such buildings remaining in Jerusalem from that period. Its provenance and location are described in a 15th-century document. After the burial of its most famous preacher, Sheikh Eid, two centuries later, it became a major pilgrimage site for Muslims.

The mosque, it now emerges, was destroyed during the wholesale levelling of the Mughrabi quarter of the Old City – a war crime that has been largely overlooked by historians – in the immediate wake of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.

Under cover of dark, Israel sent in bulldozers to clear the area, forcing nearly 1,000 Palestinian residents out so that a wide prayer plaza could be created in front of the Western Wall.

The plaza became the nucleus for the re-establishment of an enlarged Jewish quarter in the Old City, which is gradually encroaching on the Muslim and Christian quarters through the activities of settlers and armed guards assigned by the Israeli authorities to protect them.

The visitor center is the latest plan in a long-running campaign by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, who is in charge of the Western Wall, to strengthen Israel’s hold on the area around the Haram al-Sharif, in what is seen by many Palestinians as an attempt to bolster Israeli claims to sovereignty over the compound of mosques.

The rabbi’s Western Wall Heritage Foundation oversees the Western Wall tunnels, which were opened in 1996 during current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous premiership. The opening sparked violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces that led to dozens of deaths.

The Heritage Foundation is also attempting to relocate the Mughrabi bridge, a ramp now used chiefly by non-Muslims and Israeli police to reach the al-Aqsa compound, to further expand the prayer plaza in front of the Western Wall.

The visitor centre, which would be built close to the Mughrabi bridge, has aroused opposition from a group of dissident Israeli archaeologists. Yoram Tzafrir a professor at Hebrew University, recently told the Haaretz newspaper: “It might be said that the demolition of the Mughrabi quarter in 1967 was necessary … to allow masses to reach the Western Wall – not to build a new [visitor] building.”

The Heritage Foundation has justified its activities by saying that excavations destroying Islamic history are necessary to unearth older, Jewish archaeological remains. In a statement referring to the Sheikh Eid controversy, it said: “Excavations in the area of the Western Wall are intended to reach the earliest levels possible. Clearly this cannot be done without destroying later periods, whatever they may be.”

The historic and current abuses of the Sheikh Eid mosque are reflected in Israel’s repeated dismal scores in international surveys on religious freedom.

In 2010 the US State Department published a report placing Israel in the same category as Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Sudan. “Non-Jewish holy sites do not enjoy legal protection under [Israel’s 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law] because the government does not recognize them as official holy sites,” the report stated. The 1967 law stipulates a punishment of seven years’ imprisonment for anyone found guilty of desecrating a holy site, and five years for impeding access to a holy site. But Israel has given such status only to Jewish places of worship.

The State Department’s findings were confirmed last year in a freedom of religion index organized by US academics at Binghamton University, who awarded Israel a zero score.

The treatment of Sheikh Eid mosque has echoes of a current and more prominent dispute close by, in West Jerusalem, where Israel has approved a plan by the California-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre to build a Museum of Tolerance over the ancient Muslim cemetery of Mamilla, which includes graves believed to be those of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions.

Israeli media reported in 2008 that more than 100 skeletons had been unearthed and mistreated in excavations to prepare the site for construction work. The building of the museum has been delayed by financial problems caused by the global economic downturn.

While these high-profile cases have made headlines, violations of religious freedoms for the 1.3 million Palestinian Muslims living under occupation, who have citizenship, have gained far less attention.

The core grievance dates to Israel’s creation in 1948, when all land and property held in trust for the Muslim community was confiscated inside the borders of the newly established Jewish state. These properties – donated by generations of Palestinians to a waqf, or religious endowment – comprised not only holy sites and cemeteries but also schools, public buildings, shops and farmland.

After 1948, all of the waqf’s holdings, which constituted a tenth of the territory of the Holy Land, were seized by the state and, along with property belonging to more than 750,000 Palestinian refugees, passed to an official known as the Custodian of Absentee Property.

Only the mosques in the 120 Palestinian towns and villages that survived Israel’s establishment have continued to operate, though under strict supervision. Israel, which pays the salaries of mosque employees, controls all appointments and monitors sermons.

Some 500 other villages, which were emptied of their Palestinian population in 1948, have been razed, often along with any local mosques or churches.

In cities that are now almost exclusively Jewish, such as Tel Aviv, mosques and cemeteries were simply developed over. In one notorious incident, the large Abdul Nabi cemetery was passed to a development company in the 1950s and a five-star hotel and several housing complexes for Jewish immigrants built over it.

Most of the mosques that remained standing in the otherwise-destroyed villages have been desecrated, according to a survey undertaken by the Nazareth-based Human Rights Association in 2004. It found that these mosques, as well as Islamic shrines, had been made inaccessible, including to internal refugees living nearby. Some had been turned over to Jewish immigrants. For example, Caesarea, a former Palestinian coastal village that was transformed after 1948 into a wealthy Jewish community that is home to Benjamin Netanyahu, converted the Bushnak mosque into a restaurant.

Other prominent mosques in former Palestinian villages have been put to use as bars, night clubs, art galleries, shops, animal pens, grain stores and synagogues.

There is little that can be done to prevent such desecration in most cases because Israel’s 1978 Antiquities Law offers no protection to buildings dating after 1700.

Meanwhile, other, older mosques have been declared closed military zones, leaving them derelict. The beautiful Ghabisiya mosque in northern historical Palestine is fenced off and enveloped in razor-wire, while the Hittin mosque, built by Saladin in 1187 to celebrate his victory at the Battle of Hittin, close to the Sea of Galilee, has become a crumbling ruin, with refugees living close by forbidden to repair it.

Over the past 15 years, the two branches of the Islamic Movement have worked to identify and document the Muslim holy places that were destroyed and those that survived but are today off-limits.

It has also antagonised the Israeli authorities by leading a campaign to restore many of the most important sites. When the Islamic Movement helped a group of internal refugees from the former village of Sarafand, on the Mediterranean coast, restore their mosque in 2000, it was bulldozed overnight in still-unexplained circumstances.

Even rare successes in the Israeli courts have made little impact in practice. Last year the Supreme Court ruled that Beersheba council must use the city’s imposing and recently restored Grand Mosque as a museum to Islamic culture rather than a general museum, as the council had planned.

However, in March the Adalah legal centre for the Arab minority in occupied Palestine, which helped fight the case, complained to the Israeli attorney-general that the council had ignored the ruling and was using the mosque to stage an exhibition on British and Israeli rule in the Negev. It also noted that the council had staged a wine and beer festival in the mosque’s grounds last year.

Nuri al-Uqbi, a Bedouin activist who has led a long campaign to try to restore the Grand Mosque to a place of worship, said: “I felt horrified and furious at this violation of the mosque’s sanctity. In the mosque there are plastic dolls and models wearing British and Israeli uniforms, some of them in shorts, among other exhibits that are irrelevant to Arab-Islamic culture or tradition.”

Beersheba council has refused to provide a Muslim place of worship in the city, despite its being home to 1,000 Muslim families and daily drawing many Bedouin visitors from the surrounding Negev. Other legal efforts related to waqf property have also come to nought. In 2007 Palestinians living in the historic city of Jaffa, now a mixed Jewish-Arab suburb of Tel Aviv, unsuccessfully petitioned the district court to discover what had happened to local waqf property.

The government refused to divulge the information, claiming it “would seriously harm Israel’s foreign relations”. This was presumed to refer to the damage that might be done to Israel’s image abroad should it be revealed to what uses the waqf property had been put.

The case is currently being appealed to the Supreme Court.

However, all the signs are that the court is unlikely to be sympathetic. In 2009, after a five-year legal struggle by Adalah, the Supreme Court rejected a petition demanding that the 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law specifically include protection for Islamic sites.

While agreeing that Muslim holy sites were generally in a “miserable condition”, it said that the matter was too “sensitive” for it to issue a ruling.

Under pressure from the court, however, the Israeli government promised to spend $500,000 on the maintenance of Muslim holy places, a sum that has been widely criticised by the community as “pitiful.” The money will be allocated by the Israel Lands Administration, which according to Adalah lawyers, “has done nothing to prevent the desecration of Muslim holy sites and in many instances played an active role in their desecration.”

Restrictions on Muslims’ freedom of worship seem likely to intensify in the months and years ahead. Late last year Netanyahu gave his backing to a law that would ban mosques from using loudspeakers to call residents to prayer.

Observing that there had been many complaints about noise, Netanyahu observed: “The same problem exists in all European countries, and they know how to deal with it. It’s legitimate in Belgium; it’s legitimate in France. Why isn’t it legitimate here? We don’t need to be more liberal than Europe.”

Netanyahu had apparently forgotten that he was not in Europe and that the Muslims he was talking about are not immigrants but the native population.

July 9, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

New Israeli military complex planned in Jerusalem

MEMO | July 5, 2012

Planning permission has been approved for the construction of a new military complex on Al-Zaytoun and Al-Mokabber Hills overlooking the southern side of Al-Aqsa Mosque. A site of around 10.5 acres has been earmarked for the project by the Israeli authorities. The new complex will include the HQ of the General Staff, a college of national security, a military academy and accommodation for soldiers and senior officers.

The project is consistent with the strategy of extending Israel’s de facto sovereignty over the so-called “holy basin” that is adjacent to the Al-Aqsa compound and the Old City of Jerusalem. This is planned to make Jerusalem the headquarters of Israel’s security, military and political authorities in order to be declared to be the “capital of the Jewish people” in 2020, at which stage there will be no place for the Palestinians.

A specialist in settlement affairs said that the plan contravenes international conventions and even Israel’s own planning and building regulations. Researcher Ahmed Laban pointed out that the proposed college complex is in occupied East Jerusalem, on the Palestinian side of the old Green Line. This, he added, is intended as yet another settlement in the heart of the Palestinian suburbs of Jerusalem.

The director of the International Jerusalem Centre, an expert in Jerusalem affairs, said that this project is an extension of a series of comprehensive plans started in 2007 to change Jerusalem’s mountains into massive military shelters for the Israeli leadership during non-conventional warfare. Hassan Khater confirmed that the Israeli government has already started on projects in other areas in Jerusalem. “The government is building shelters connected to its headquarter and others connected to the official residence of the Israeli Prime Minister in Jerusalem,” he said. “Despite the secrecy and ambiguity surrounding these projects, it is clear that the Israeli government is carrying on with its Judaisation plans to prepare Jerusalem as the capital of the state.”

Both Khater and Laban confirmed their belief that the Israelis do not discriminate against Islamic heritage and Muslim residents in Jerusalem, pointing out that Palestinian Muslims and Christians are targeted equally. “Many Christian buildings have been destroyed and others are in danger if these projects go ahead,” said Mr. Khater.

Calling on the Palestinian Authority and the international community to take “serious measures” to stop the Judaisation of Jerusalem, both men also asked them to support the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem in their struggle against what is seen as the ethnic cleansing of their city by the Israeli authorities.

July 7, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | Comments Off on New Israeli military complex planned in Jerusalem

Israeli settlers storm into Palestinian home, occupy residence

Al Akhbar | March 29, 2012

Israeli settlers invaded a home in a Palestinian-owned building in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron and took up the apartment as their own, residents and Israeli security forces said on Thursday.

“At 1:30am we heard noises and it was the settlers,” Montasser Abu Rajab, who lives on the first floor of the building in Hebron’s Old City, said.

“They broke the main door and brought their furniture in, accompanied by the army, who locked us in our house,” he said.

Palestinian sources in Hebron said that the property belonged to the Abu Rajab family, who had sold the second floor of the house to another Palestinian family.

But the Israeli army – who confirmed the incident – claimed that “the title to the property is contested.”

“The area has been declared a closed military zone, and soldiers have been put in place to keep the calm,” a spokeswoman for the Israeli army said.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said “police have been dispatched to the scene to verify the legal status of the house and the property titles that are apparently the subject of litigation.”

The settlers also claimed that they had titles to the property, which is located near a prominent religious site for both Muslims and Jews.

Speaking to Israeli public radio, right-wing Israeli lawmaker Michael Ben Ari, of the National Union party, said it was “time to recover all the Jewish homes in Hebron stolen by the enemy.”

Right-wing Israeli politicians and figures often incite violence against Arabs, with Palestinians frequently attacked and harassed by settlers as well as the Israeli military, often with impunity.

House demolitions and evictions are among the serious threats indigenous Palestinians face on their native land, as Israel continues to build Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, including in Hebron, in defiance of the international community.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law, with the territory being only a fraction of historical Palestine on which the Israeli state is now situated.

Israel maintains a military occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem, imposing harsh restrictions on native Palestinians while providing privileges to illegal Jewish settlers.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)

March 29, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | 2 Comments

Municipality creates garbage dump inside Bab Alsbat cemetery next to Lion Gate in the Old City

22 February 2012 | Wadi Hilweh Information Center – Silwan

Large quantities of waste are being piled by the Jerusalem Municipality inside the Islamic cemetery (Bab Alsbat) next to Lions Gate in the old city, in a move that has upset and offended the City’s thousands of Muslim inhabitants. The Lions Gate, which lies close to the sacred Al-Aqsa Mosque, is now awash with the overpowering stench of accumulated garbage.

One resident stated that the Jerusalem Municipality “is unashamedly discriminatory in its practices. They not only use a sacred place as a rubbish dump, they even burn the rubbish here, inside a holy place  the Bab Alasbat cemetery. Why has UNESCO not tried to stop the Municipality?”

A resident Christian priest of the Old City told Silwanic that he considered the Municipality’s actions unlawful, and encouraging of racism in Jerusalem.

February 23, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 2 Comments

Israeli national park expropriates Palestinian land

By Sophie Crowe | Palestine Monitor | February 17, 2012

Israel’s use of national parks to expropriate Palestinian land and prevent development in East Jerusalem is the subject of Bimkom’s latest, January, report.

Bimkom, a group of Israeli planners and architects advocating for planning rights, has studied the state’s strategy of making “green” settlements as a more convenient alternative to building its controversial Jewish-only housing enclaves alongside Palestinian communities in occupied East Jerusalem.

Designating urban space as a national park is not only easier but cheaper too, the state having no obligation to compensate owners.

The Jerusalem municipality leaves the creation of these parks to the National Planning Authority (in the Ministry of Interior), Bimkom noted, which deals more with the protection of nature and heritage than the rights of Jerusalem’s residents.

By passing authority over to the NPA, the municipality can absolve itself of responsibility for the people it professes to serve, the report argued.

The report came in the wake of a new national park set to appear on Mount Scopus, using land privately owned by residents of Issawiya and A-Tur, neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem.

The plan, currently under public review, was initially thought up by the Israel Nature and Park Authority, a body of the Ministry for Environment.

More recently it has been championed by the Jerusalem Development Authority – a government body helping the municipality with development projects – which was given 40 million NIS in 2005 to develop green spaces around the Old City of Jerusalem.

As a result of the state’s categorical neglect of Palestinians in Jerusalem, Bimkom began working with A-Tur and Issawiya residents years ago to devise development plans.

The national park will cover the neighbourhoods’ remaining available land, making Bimkom’s project impossible.

Locals, with the help of Bimkom and other rights groups, are raising legal objections to the plan, amid efforts to bring the public’s attention to their plight.

The case forwarded by the municipality is based on the site’s purported archaeological significance.

Municipal representatives pointed to “antiquities, caves … and burial sites from the era of the Second Temple,” Ha’aretz reported last month.

This argument has been rubbished by Bimkom, who argue what is really at play is Israel’s control over land, usually achieved by stunting Palestinian development.

Avraham Shaked – member of the Interior Ministry’s Jerusalem District Committee as an environmental advocate – agrees the prospective park is part of a more sinister political agenda.

“This process is definitely a political process,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “If it’s possible to develop the area for the good of the public it’s a positive thing. But this is not important as a nature reserve.”

The INPA – the management of which is dominated by several prominent settlers – denies doggedly that it is political. The group is “only concerned about preserving nature in the areas under its control,” a spokesperson told Ha’aretz.

“The declaration of the area [as a park] safeguards the last segment of the Judean Desert that begins on the Mount Scopus slope, and its importance stems from its view onto the desert, heritage landmarks and desert vegetation.”

While the state is forbidden from working on the site until the period for public comment is over, the INPA has forged ahead regardless.

Bulldozers have begun work on private land, moving a large mound of earth to create an effective wall which blocks a path to agricultural land. The municipality insists this measure was designed to prevent the area from being used as an illegal dumping ground, stopping the passage of trucks that would dump rubbish.

While residents remain unconvinced, the state’s response to their objection to this breach has been characteristically repressive and disproportionately severe.

On the morning of Monday, 6 February, border police arrived on the private land of Issawiya and A-Tur residents to continue preparatory work on the park.

When locals, along with Israeli supporters, gathered to protest the construction work, police arrested six people, five Jewish Israelis and one Palestinian.

The disparity between the management of space for West Jerusalemites compared to their counterparts in the east is stark, with national parks notably absent from the west.

“The Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are crowded and they suffer from extreme neglect and shortage of public infrastructure,” Bimkom architect, Efrat Bar-Cohen, said in a statement.

“The residents are in desperate need of space by which they can improve their quality of life, even if slightly.”

The building of the park will have ramifications beyond the strangling of Issawiya and A-Tur residents.

It will stretch into the E1 area of the West Bank, which represents an important reserve of space for Palestinian development, creating a string of Jewish Israeli-only settlement between the Old City and Ma’ale Adumim settlement.

Elad Kandl is director of the Old City projects at the Jerusalem Development Authority, whose website describes their work as rehabilitating and conserving the Old City.

He expressed succinctly Israel’s aim of curbing Palestinian development in Jerusalem. “When you make it a national park,” he told The Jerusalem Post in reference to open space, “you keep the status quo.”

February 18, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 3 Comments