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Israelis accused of settlement by stealth

Dominic Waghorn | Sky News

24 May 2009

The Israeli Government is being accused of a plot to transform East Jerusalem with Jewish settlements and drive out Palestinians by stealth.

The Hannoun family protest against the loss of their home: Photos by Sameer Bazbaz

The Hannoun family protest against the loss of their home: Photos by Sameer Bazbaz

Ir Amim, a Jerusalem based NGO specialising in Israeli Palestinian issues, claims Israeli authorities in collusion with radical Jewish settlers are cementing their hold on occupied East Jerusalem..

“The policy of the government of Israel is to establish the supremacy if not the hegemony of an exclusionary Jewish narrative in Jerusalem,” Ir Amim’s Daniel Seidemann told Sky News.

The British government also told us it is concerned by actions in East Jerusalem that threaten to “not only undermine the peace process but undermine the trust that will be needed to renew that process towards a two state solution”.

These are two examples where Israel is alleged to be altering facts on the ground and changing the status of occupied East Jerusalem against international law.

The Hannouns' home has been in their family for over 50 years

The Hannouns' home has been in their family for over 50 years

The plight of the Hannoun family

Maher Hannoun’s home in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem has been in his family for more than 50 years. Last week an Israeli court ordered his family to leave, to make way for Jewish settlers.

The Jewish settlement company Nahalat Shimon claims the land was bought by Jews more than a century ago and says the Hannouns have not paid rent.

The Hannouns say they were given the property by the Jordanian Government in the 1940s and the settler’s claims are based on forged papers.

“Jerusalem was given to the Jewish people by God three thousand years ago”, a spokesman for the settlers told Sky News. He confirmed plans to evict more than twenty Palestinian families and move in 300 Jewish families instead.

Maher says he has been offered a lot of money to leave but has no intention of giving in to the settlers.

“For us it’s not about money,” he said. “Nobody can sell his identity, his dreams his memory. I will fight to remain where I was born, where my kids were born.”

The European Union and US Government have both protested to the Israeli Foreign Ministry about the planned evictions. The Israeli Government says it is a matter for the courts, despite the political implications of the case.

Signe Breivik gazes at the remains of the hotel she once ran

Signe Breivik gazes at the remains of the hotel she once ran

The Cliff Hotel

Ali Ayad and his wife Signe Breivik, who is Norwegian, met in his family’s hotel in Abu Dis and married there. He took over running the Cliff Hotel and they lived there with their family, until the Israelis seized it.

In 2003 when they moved out to renovate the place, the Israeli military moved in and refused to let the couple return. The Israelis have built the infamous security barrier right through the property.

They are using an absentee property law to take possession, even though Israel’s attorney general has said the law should not be applied in Jerusalem.

Making matters worse are Israeli plans to build a major settlement in and around the hotel. Some jewish families have already moved in nearby.

Ali is barred from Jerusalem because he has only West Bank ID papers and has been branded a security risk. Meeting the affable dispossess Palestinian it is hard to imagine someone less threatening.

He is not even allowed to attend court hearings determining the fate of his property, but remains calm and unbowed in his resolve to fight the Israelis taking his land.

“This is not an issue that I have a stubborn head. This is simple reason. It’s my own property. I did not sell it. My family did not sell it. We have no intention to give it up,” he said.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband has intervened several times in the case of the Cliff Hotel but Israeli authorities appear to have no intention of handing it back.