A group of 160 Jewish activists entered a Jerusalem property belonging to a Jew on Wednesday, to reclaim ownership of the property from Arabs who began to build an illegal structure there. Despite attempts by Border Guard officers to evacuate the Jews, the activists succeeded in staying long enough for them to declare the property returned to Jewish hands before some 150 were arrested and taken for questioning by Jerusalem District police.
The property consists of a number of trailer homes on approximately 5 acres (20 dunams) of land in the Ras Hamis neighborhood of northern Jerusalem, between French Hill and Anata. The caravans on the property do not have electricity or running water.
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According to real estate agent Aryeh King, the group obtained permission to enter and take control of the property from owner Eliyahu Cohanim, a resident of Ramat Gan. The land is part of the Eastern Gate compound that the Jerusalem Municipality has planned as a Jewish residential area and industrial park.
"We did this after the Arabs started this week to build an illegal structure on the spot, this is after the municipality has already demolished a structure on this property once before," King said.
Although the property belongs to a Jew who gave them permission to come, and King’s group notified police in advance of their arrival, a group of Border Guard police officers arrived Wednesday morning and told the activists to leave the property. The activists refused to comply with the order and remained.
Several days ago Border Guard officers succeeded in preventing the group from entering the property.
The Palestinian Authority has also submitted a program for construction in the area, including the plot of land belonging to Cohanim. There has been widespread illegal Arab construction throughout Judea and Samaria in recent years.
According to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), a senior PA official boasted that Arabs have built 6,000 homes without permits during the last four years in Jerusalem alone, of which fewer than 200 were demolished by the city.
Many of the illegal Arab homes are being built on Jewish-owned land, according to Haaretz.
The JCPA reports that “in the Jewish neighborhoods, illegal construction typically takes the form of additions to existing legal structures - such as closing a balcony or hollowing out under a building to create an extra room. In the Arab sector, however, illegal construction often takes the form of entire multi-floor buildings with four to 25 living units, built with the financial assistance of the Palestinian Authority on land that is not owned by the builder.”
At the same time, the Israeli government has destroyed a much higher percentage of Jewish homes that do not meet the paperwork requirements.
Olmert: 'No need to demolish illegal Arab homes, eastern Jerusalem will be given to PA'
In 2006, King reported that Ehud Olmert, as the mayor of Jerusalem, ordered the municipality to destroy files that documented hundreds of illegal Arab building projects throughout eastern Jerusalem.
In the report, published by World Net Daily, King asked the State Comptroller at the time to investigate the situation, following the publication of a local media report alleging that Ofir May, as head of the Jerusalem Department of building permits, erased the files. The files detailed over 300 cases of Arab construction on eastern Jerusalem deemed illegal starting from 1999.
The local report alleged that the files were destroyed with the specific intent of allowing the statute of limitations on home demolitions to run out, making it impossible to destroy the illegal Arab homes.
"Ehud Olmert gave the order not to deal with the problem and not to put Israeli security forces to the duty of taking down the illegal Arab complexes. Senior municipal workers told me Olmert said not to bother with the illegal Arab homes because eventually eastern Jerusalem would be given to the Palestinian Authority," said King.