An Israeli tourist settlement project threatens Silwan’s Historic nature
The Israeli daily newspaper, Jerusalem Post, published on its website on the 8th of June 2015 that the Israeli committee for building and planning of the Jerusalem Municipality gave its approval to the Israeli Tourist settlement plan, “Kedem Center” which was presented by El Ad foundation in 2012. The plan targets a land belonging to Wadi Hilweh neighborhood in Silwan city south of Al Aqsa Mosque, on remnants of the locally known site “Giv’ati park”.
The plan holds TPS No. 13392 and includes the establishment of a parking lot that is expected to accommodate 250 cars in addition to an exhibition space and classrooms and observation deck overlooking Silwan and the Old City walls (Haaretz, 2012). The area planned for the project is 16.6 dunums and comes as part of the plan to expand Israeli control area in the occupied city of Jerusalem and strengthen the Israeli tourism in the city.
The Israeli Municipality plans to connect the planned tourist settlement site with Al Magharbeh gate area (one of Jerusalem city’s gates), known to the Israelis as “The Wailing Wall” through building a bridge that connects the planned site with the entrance of Al Magharbeh gate. It is worth mentioning that in the year 2007, the Israeli Hebrew University in occupied East Jerusalem and in cooperation with the Israeli Antiques Authority commenced an excavation project at the Givati park site under the pretext of “scientific research” and was intended to end by the year 2012 under ; however, the project is still going till the date of this report and is described as the largest Israeli archaeological excavation in occupied Jerusalem city today.
Moreover, this tourist settlement project is not the first of its kind in the town of Silwan, where during the past decades, the different settlement associations/foundations were able, with the direct support of the successive Israeli governments, to seize lands and properties in Silwan town (south of Al Aqsa Mosque) under various claims. For example, in the south-eastern side of Givati park , is the "City of David” Visitors Center as known to the Israelis; this center attracts hundreds of tourists from all over the world every day in order to inform them about the "Jewish history" in the city. The existence of this center has affected tourism in general in Silwan town, not to mention the fact that this center was built on land of Ein El Hilweh neighborhood in Silwan town under the pretext of “preserving archeology”. The so called “City of David archeological site” hindered the Palestinian population’s need for construction and development in the future.
Additionally, the Israeli El Ad association seized by force a number of Palestinian properties in the area surrounding Al-Aqsa Mosque from its southern side, and converted it for the explicit use of Israeli settlers, under the pretext of "purchased from its Palestinian owners"; the most recent was the acquisition of 15 apartments during the period of September 2014 and May 2015. See Map 1
Additionally, while the Israeli Jerusalem Municipality, the Israel Antiquities Authority and other settlement organizations/foundations encourage settlement projects and excavations in the city of Jerusalem, the town of Silwan is set to lose another part of its land in favor of settlement projects, which is Al Bustan neighborhood. The neighborhood covers an area of 70 dunums and is home to more than 1,500 Jerusalemites (88 houses), where the municipality plans to demolish all the houses comprising the neighborhood to establish what they call “King David Garden” as part of the biblical gardens in the vicinity of the holy city of Jerusalem. For more information click here: Forcible Judaization of Jerusalem, "Israel to start demolishing Al Bustan Neighborhood in East Part of Jerusalem"
The Successive Israeli governments have always played over the chord of demography in the occupied city of Jerusalem and constantly coordinated its efforts to assure that the Palestinian population in Jerusalem city does not exceed a quarter of the total number of population in the city. Additionally, Israel is upholding its illegal claim over the occupied city of Jerusalem as being part of what the Israelis call 'the unified city' since they translate their claim into tangible steps with plans to selectively enwrap areas considered significant to Palestinians to fulfill their colonial vision.
Hague Agreement of 1907 specifies that 'it is especially forbidden- to destroy or seize the enemy's property, unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war.' Moreover, 'The occupying State shall be regarded only as administrator and fracture of public buildings, real estate, forests, and agricultural estates belonging to the hostile State, and situated in the occupied country. It must safeguard the capital of these properties, and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct” (Art. 55).