A large police force secured yesterday the uprooting of dozens of old olive trees from lands of dozens of dunams of land in Sur Baher near the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The area was expropriated for public use in 1970, but only 35 years later it was planned as a residential neighborhood of 180 housing units. The Government decided to allocate the units for members of the security forces.
Peace Now: This is not a legitimate expropriation for public purposes, but a discriminatory expropriation that takes land from one population (Palestinians) and allots it to another (Israelis). Instead of allowing all residents of Jerusalem an opportunity to purchase apartments in the project, the government decided to allocate the land to the security forces, preventing Palestinians from buying homes in the planned neighborhood. This ugly reality is one that the US ambassador will see from the window of the embassy, located only one kilometer from the uprooted olive grove: a divided city, with discrimination and oppression.
In 1970, the Minister of Finance announced the expropriation of thousands of dunams in the area of Sur Baher and Jabal Mukaber, on which the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood (AKA East Talpiot) was later built. The area from which the olive trees were uprooted yesterday in the Ghazail area of the land of Sur Baher was also expropriated in 1970, but for years the state did not use it and the landowners continued to cultivate it and grow olive trees there. In 2005, construction plan No. 7977 was approved, which designated the land for a residential neighborhood of 180 housing units.
On 20 May 2012, the government decided to allocate lands in Jerusalem for the members of the security forces, and in October 2012, the Israel Lands Authority announced that the new residential neighborhood near Sur Baher would be designated for members of the security forces. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) Appealed against this decision to the Supreme Court, but the Court approved the allocation to the security forces. In April 2014, the ILA filed an evacuation claim against the Palestinian landowners in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court. The court ordered the landowners to vacate it, and after their appeal was denied, the ILA turned to the Execution Office, and yesterday the olive trees were uprooted according to the court’s order.
It is important to emphasize that the decision to allocate the land to the security forces rather than the general public is the government’s way of discriminating against Palestinians without explicitly stating this. In the security forces there is hardly a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem so that the project is actually intended for Israelis only.