PLO calls Israel moves in Jerusalem’s Silwan ‘ethnic cleansing’

Published August 25th, 2015 - 09:15 GMT

The PLO Negotiations Affairs Department on Monday slammed what it termed Israel's "systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians" in Silwan neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem.

The PLO department said in a press release that Israeli policies "in Silwan aim not only to alter the historic character of the area and to consolidate Israeli control over the Old City of Jerusalem ... but also contribute to the systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem." 

Silwan is one of many Palestinian neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem that is seeing an influx of Israeli settlers at the cost of home demolitions and the eviction of Palestinian families. 

The PLO negotiations department highlighted the impact of Israeli settler organizations in the process, in particular Ateret Cohanim and Elad, which both aim to increase the Jewish presence across East Jerusalem.

These organizations have taken over 39 homes in Silwan, creating settlement enclaves in which approximately 400 Israeli settlers live, the press release said.

It added that the Israeli government "has provided settlement organizations with political, legal and procedural support to expand illegal settlements throughout East Jerusalem, especially Silwan."

The PLO negotiations department criticized a range of government and settler practices in Silwan, including "the illegal expansion of Israeli settlements, home take-overs, demolitions, excavations, almost nightly raids and child arrests."

It drew special attention to "tourist and public settler establishments" which it said the Israeli government had created "with the purpose of eliminating any non-Jewish historical narrative or connection to the land." 

It pointed in particular to the Ir David tourist center at the entrance of Silwan, also known as the City of David, which offers tours and briefings to "millions" of Jewish tourists.

It also highlighted the Ateret Cohanim settler organization's efforts to push Palestinians out of the Batin al-Hawa area in central Silwan, a 5,130 square meter area that was formerly lived in by Yemeni Jews. 

Palestinians have lived in the area since 1929, the press release said, but over the last 13 years, Ateret Cohanim has filed ten lawsuits against 250 Palestinians in 44 homes there, and is expected to fill a further 11 lawsuits against the other 250 residents. 

The press release offered support to locals that have organized protests against Israeli practices in the neighborhood. 

Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community. Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

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