Right-wing activists lay claim to land near Shuafat

Over 100 right-wing activists say home and area around it is Jewish property, turned away by border police.

Shuafat 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi)
Shuafat 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi)
Over 100 right-wing activists attempted to enter a home on the outskirts of the Shuafat refugee camp Wednesday morning, saying the home and the area around it was Jewish property. The activists made two attempts to enter the home, one early in the morning and another a few hours later, but were turned away both times by border police. "The police are keeping us out of our land and letting Arabs build there," said Aryeh King, the leader of the group. "It's absurd, but that's the State of Israel." King explained that after Arabs began building on the disputed territory - which connects Area E1 with Jerusalem and is also called "Sha'ar Hamizrah," or the Eastern Gateway - his group had decided to take a stand. "We want the illegal Arab buildings demolished, and we want the rightful owner of the property to have access to his land," King said. That owner, Ramat Gan resident Eliyahu Cohanim, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that he has held the deed to the property since 1970, when he bought it from another Jew, who he believed had purchased it from an Arab. "The land has been in my name for almost 40 years," Cohanim said. "I have all the forms, the receipts. But Arabs have built illegally there again and again. I want my land used as Jewish land. I want Jews to build there." As such, Cohanim gave permission to King and his group of mostly young, religious youth to try and gain control of the 180 dunams of land stretching between Shuafat and Anata on one side and French Hill on the other. The Palestinians, meanwhile, dismissed his claim as a land grab. "It's just part of the continual taking of Palestinian land," said Hatem Abdul Kader, an adviser to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, as he stood on a hill overlooking the disputed property. "This is a very dangerous situation. If the settlers keep coming here, I think it will be dangerous for their lives. They have no legal right to be here." Abdul Kader said he was planning to launch an investigation to find out who was the rightful owner of the property. "If it's Palestinian property, someone will either move into this house or we will demolish it, but we will not leave it empty," he said. "If it's empty, the settlers will just keep coming back." But King said that the Jerusalem Municipality had already recognized the land as Jewish-owned, and illegal Palestinian structures had been demolished there in the past. He also claimed the city had since rerouted the security fence, which runs across east Jerusalem, leaving the property on the Palestinian side. The Jerusalem Municipality refused to comment on the situation, referring the case to the Justice Ministry, which also refused comment. Also on Wednesday, a group of right-wing activists who had built and moved into a home in Silwan were ordered to evacuate the premises after the Jerusalem District Court rejected a petition calling on the municipality to let them stay. The group had been living in a seven-story building named "Beit Yonatan" inside the east Jerusalem neighborhood, and was initially ordered out after the Jerusalem municipality filed an indictment against them.