With Israeli Gov’t Help, Settler Group Builds Office on Seized Land in East Jerusalem

Starting the construction of the Amana House, February 2016  (Peace Now Photo)
Starting the construction of the Amana House, February 2016  (Peace Now Photo)

Bethlehem, 02 Sya’ban 1437/10 May 2016 (MINA) – An investigation led by Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now has revealed the beginning of construction on a large structure to be used by an Israeli right-wing, pro-settlement organization on illegally expropriated Palestinian land in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

The so-called “Amana House” will reportedly serve as an office building for the Amana Association, “a private entity operating toward establishing and expanding settlements and responsible for many of the illegal outposts in the (occupied Palestinian) territories, Peace Now was quoted as reporting on Monday by Ma’an.

The building is being built adjacent to the Saint Joseph hospital, which serves the Palestinian community in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The Abu Taah family — who had not been informed of the Israeli government-approved plans to expropriate their land — filed a petition against the illegal land transfer, which was rejected earlier this year by the Jerusalem District court, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The case is currently being appealed in front of the Israeli Supreme Court.

The documents submitted for the petition obtained by Haaretz reveal that “the state used strenuous bureaucratic acrobatics to deliver land that didn’t belong to it.”

According to Peace Now, a “wide array” of Israeli governmental institutions were involved in the transfer of land to Amana and subsequent construction efforts headed by the Israel Land Authority (ILA), through “an illegal and misleading procedure and without a tender.”

“Amana has mastered the art of illegal construction on stolen land in the West Bank and it is not surprising to see it doing the same in East Jerusalem. The government must stop doing the ‘dirty work’ of taking over private land for Amana, and must halt Amana’s construction that will make it harder to get to a compromise in Jerusalem,” the press release said.

The ILA first decided to allocate three dunams in Sheikh Jarrah to Amana in 1992, which was part of some 4,000 dunams designated for confiscation by the Israeli government in 1968, though the three dunams in questions were never legally expropriated, according to Peace Now.

ILA approved plans for Amana House in 1998, and Israeli Ministry of Finance announced the land confiscation in 2009.

Peace Now pointed out that two of Amana’s executives were questioned last month for alleged corruption, and that the organization also owns the company Al-Watan, which is under police investigation for fraudulent practices in land transactions across the Palestinian territory.

East Jerusalem was seized by Israel along with the West Bank in 1967 during the Six-Day War, and since then, the Israeli government has undertaken a policy of “Judaization” across the city, constructing Jewish settlements and demolishing Palestinian homes.

There are now more than 300,000 Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem.

According to the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ), Sheikh Jarrah is one of East Jerusalem’s neighborhoods most vulnerable to land confiscations due to its close proximity to the Old City, the illegal Israeli settlements of Ramat Eshkol and Givat Shappira, and the Hebrew University. (T/R07/R0)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)