Tony Greenstein | 21 October 2015 | Post Views:

An interesting article from the Liberal Zionist Forward on how rich American Zionists are funding the takeover of Palestinian property in East Jerusalem and thus deliberately stoking the conflict in Jerusalem as Palestinians are driven ot of ther own city.

anti-eviction activists in Jerusalem

Jewish settlers celebrate establishment of a permanent Jewish presence in East Jerusalem.

October 21, 2015

The timing was hardly ideal when the Israeli police evicted five Palestinian families from their homes in the
East Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Silwan, near the Old City.

Armed police guard the entrance of the house that was taken over. Photograph: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

The October 19 takeover, coming amid a wave of Palestinian attacks on
Israeli Jews, only further enraged many Palestinians, who believe that the
government is seeking to challenge longtime Muslim control of the Old City’s
nearby Temple Mount area, sacred to three faiths.

It’s a charge that the government has been denying — to little effect so far
on the violence. But in this case, as in many other such evictions that have
taken place under the shadow of the historic Al Aqsa Mosque that stands atop
the holy mount, it was not the government alone that stood behind the actions
that reinforced these fears.

An Israeli settlement
in Silwan, September 2015. (Photo: 

The non-governmental organization Ateret Cohanim — in English, “Crown of the
Priests” — took control of the property after the government seized it. And
behind that group, in turn, stands scores of American Jewish donors who have
for years supported it and other like-minded organizations with tens of
millions of dollars in tax-deductible U.S. support.

settlers celebrate establishment of a permanent Jewish presence in East
Jerusalem.  Image: Getty Images

Israeli flags fly above a Palestinian home in East Jerusalem. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

It is the declared goal of these groups to acquire the rights to properties
in Arab East Jerusalem and the Arab quarters of the Old City around the
sensitive Temple Mount area. They then buy out or, if necessary, evict the
properties’ Arab tenants. Quickly, they then move in Orthodox Jewish religious
nationalists in a bid to assert Jewish control over these Arab sectors.

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces surrounded a Palestinian home in the
Old City of Jerusalem on Monday in preparation to evict the family from
the property, the owners told Ma’an.

It’s a mission the groups defend as support for the rightful return of Jews
to areas in which they lived before they were themselves chased out by Arab
violence in the years of conflict that preceded the Israel’s establishment as a
Jewish state in 1948.

Israeli activists hold a protest against the Judaization of East Jerusalem in front of the City

But critics and opponents say their actions have played a role in the
Palestinians’ fears about Israeli encroachment on the Temple Mount, stoking the
current violence.

“It has a qualitative influence on the nature of the conflict,” said Daniel
Seidemann, an expert on Jerusalem who has worked to curb attempts by Ateret
Cohanim and other Orthodox groups to expand into Arab neighborhoods. Their
actions, he said, turn the clash between Arabs and Jews “from a resolvable
political conflict into a religious conflict that cannot be resolved.”

Jerusalem – Evicted Palestinian family keeps watch near home taken by settlers

Funds for these purchases, at least in part, come from the American Jewish
community. In 2013, U.S. donations to the group Ateret Cohanim amounted to
$586,000, a relatively small sum in comparison to other Israeli causes
supported by American Jews, but one that makes up a significant portion of the
organization’s budget. The group uses its budget to purchase and settle homes,
like those belonging to the Abu Nab family, which was evicted October 19.

Since tax filing rules do not require detailing the overseas programs being
funded by American donors, hard numbers on their current day role overall are
not available. But based on documents of the known players on the scene, it is
safe to estimate that American Jews provide between $5-10 million a year to
finance the settling of Jews in Palestinian areas of Jerusalem.

Still, in recent years the balance in the partnership between American
charity donors and the government of Israel in supporting such groups has
dramatically shifted. According to Seidemann, it is the Israeli government’s
support for them, not American dollars, that now enables this project.
“The most important contribution is that of the government,” he said. “The
government provides not only resources but also the authority to do this.”

In 1992, a study by Israel’s Ministry of Justice, known as the Klugman
report, found that the government confiscated some of the Palestinian properties
on the basis of unsupported affidavits submitted by the groups about the
properties’ absentee-owner status. The government then transferred rights to
the properties to the groups exclusively at highly preferred prices.
Today, Ateret Cohanim continues to pursue the acquisition of properties that
it believes once belonged to Jews. With a budget of $2.5 million in 2012,
according the latest available public record, the group works to purchase and
resettle homes in the Muslim quarter, the Mount of Olives and the Arab
neighborhood of Silwan. It is supported by American Friends of Ateret Cohanim,
a New York based charitable group run by Susan Hikind, the spouse of New York
Assemblyman Dov Hikind.

The American group has seen a significant drop in its fundraising in recent
years, going from $1.1 million in 2012 to just under $700,000 in 2013. The
American group’s stated goal mentions “promoting the study and observance of
Jewish religious tradition and culture”
as well as providing “funds for needy
families for housing renovations and repairs.”
But the mission statement of
Ateret Cohanim, the Israeli beneficiary, makes clear in no uncertain terms how
it intends to spend its funds. “Purchase and redemption of property in
Jerusalem; property management in Jerusalem and specifically in the Old City;
providing security for Jewish residents of the Old City.”

Hikind did not respond to the Forward’s request for an interview.

While Ateret Cohanim is still a major player, the Israeli non-profit Elad,
supported by the American organization Friends of Ir David, or the City of
David, has received more attention in recent years. Elad received $3.5 million
in 2013 from its American benefactors and spent just over $4 million on
purchasing and renovating homes in East Jerusalem. Like Ateret Cohanim, Elad is
also active in purchasing homes in Silwan, some of which belonged to Jews
before Israel gained its independence. An estimated 500 Jews already reside in
this Arab neighborhood, thanks to the effort of this group and others.

Elad also receives funds from fees it charges tourists visiting the Ir David
archeological garden, a large tract near the Old City that the government took
control of and then turned over to Elad to excavate and then operate. The site,
which draws thousands of visitors each year, is believed to be the area where
King David of the Bible had his palace and capital.

Moshe Billet, executive director of American group Friends of Ir David,
declined to respond to the Forward’s question regarding the use of the funds
his organization raises.

For years, the main funder of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem was Dr.
Irving Moskowitz, a Florida philanthropist deeply involved in right-wing
Israeli politics. According to press reports, Moskowitz invested $20 million in
Jerusalem settlement projects in the decades after Israel took control of East
Jerusalem in June 1967 Six Day War. This included purchasing the historic
Shepherd Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah for building a Jewish neighborhood, and buying
houses in the Muslim and Christian quarters of Jerusalem for Jewish settlement.

The Moskowitz Foundation, run by Cherna Moskowitz ever since her husband was
taken ill, still provides significant donations to causes in East Jerusalem,
though on a much smaller scale. In 2013, the foundation listed among its
grantees several organizations focused on settling Jews in East Jerusalem and
developing Jewish sites in the Arab sectors of the city. These included the
Everest Foundation, which has for years served as Moskowitz’s clearinghouse for
investments in Jerusalem and in the West Bank; the Central Fund for Israel,
another vehicle often used by American Jews to support settlements, and the
Western Wall Heritage Foundation which was the key developer of the Western
Wall tunnels. The construction of the tunnels by the Western Wall Heritage
Foundation ignited an outburst of Palestinian violence when opened in the fall
of 1996. Most of these Orthodox nationalist groups believe that strengthening
Jewish presence in areas surrounding Jerusalem’s Holy Basin area will both
revive Israel’s historic claims for areas that used to be home for Jews in
biblical times, and ensure that Jerusalem remains under Israeli rule. But the
international community views East Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967,
as occupied territory whose final status must be settled by negotiations, not

For all that, the project is still relatively small. The number of Jewish
residents settled in the midst of Palestinian Jerusalem neighborhoods is
estimated at 2,600 despite decades of effort. But increasing Jewish presence in
these areas is also a relatively low-budget operation, requiring only limited

“American Jews often feel like we don’t have a role in or responsibility for
changing the facts on the ground, but when tens of millions of American dollars
go to settlements, it does change the facts on the ground,”
said Rabbi Jill
Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah, a rabbinical human rights organization.

Jacobs noted that many Jewish Americans support the two-state solution for
Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians, but are not aware of the issue of
these projects, which the world views as settlements, in East Jerusalem. “Most
of American Jews think about the kotel and Temple Mount, but not necessarily
about Silwan, Issawiya or Sheikh Jarrah,”
she said, listing some of the Arab
neighborhoods surrounding Jerusalem in which Jewish groups have sought to

An Israeli settlement
in Silwan, September 2015. (Photo:

Eviction of Palestinian families for a new settlement
in Silwan

morning (Monday) a large body of Israeli police evicted a Palestinian family
(Abu Nab) from their home in Silwan and handed the house over to settlers from
the extreme right-wing movement “Ateret Cohanim”. Palestinian inhabitants of
the neighbourhood were put under strict curfew, shut in their homes
with no coming in or out under any circumstances.
a case of forceful displacement of a Palestinian family and handing over the
home to Jewish settlers has not taken place in East Jerusalem since the last
Evictions in Sheikh Jarrah in 2009.
is no way to explain the decision by the Israeli government to evict the house
now of all times, but a decision by Israeli government to escalate the
situation in East Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s statements about preserving the
Status-Quo and attempting to de-escalate the situation can not be reconciled
with this act of aggression.
Nab’s family has been fighting to stay in their home since 2002, when the
settler organisation, Ateret Cohanim, filed a lawsuit alleging that the land
where Abu Nab’s property sits had been registered as hekdesh, or Jewish
religious property, since 1881. A 2015 ruling from Israel’s Supreme Court gave
Abu Nab’s family – comprised of 16 people living in two separate homes – until
August 11 2015 to leave, and this was followed by an eviction order according
to which the eviction is now being carried out. According to settlement
watchdog Peace Now, the case is part of a larger scheme by Jewish settlers to
seize 5,200 square metres in the area of Silwan’s Batan al-Hawa neighbourhood,
where an estimated 80 Palestinian families live in more than 30 buildings.
via email by Sahar Vardi

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