Ratifying the settlement project “Kadam” in Silwan
The District Committee for Planning and Construction ratified on Thursday night the settlement project entitled ““Kadam Complex- City of David- Old City” which will be implemented in the courtyard of Dung Gate south of Al-Aqsa Mosque. The committee of Wadi Hilweh condemned in a statement on Friday the ratification of the settlement project which is funded and supervised by the Israeli government, the occupation municipality in Jerusalem and “Elad” settlement organization. The committee said that the settlement project aims at eliminating the Arab cultural character of the city of Jerusalem on one hand, and ignores the needs of the residents and confiscates more of their lands on another hand. The committee explained that ratifying the project came after an eight-hours session where the objections of lawyer Sami Arshid, representing the residents of Wadi Hilweh, and lawyer Qais Naser, representing the Islamic Supreme Council in the 1948 lands, were heard as well as “A’eer Amim” organization, an Israeli organization called “Emek Shafa” that is interested in monuments and a special engineer. Representatives from Elad settlement organization, Antiquities Authority, Nature and Parks Authority, the Jerusalem municipality and the government of Israel were also present in the session to represent the Israeli side. Lawyer Sami Arshid explained that the District committee ratified the settlement project with making little changes such as keeping the area open for the public, lowering the level of the building from the street’s level by reducing the number of storeys to be built in addition to reducing the total area from 11000 square meters to 9000. The lawyer confirmed that objection will be submitted to the competent authorities. He said that ratifying the settlement project came at a critical time in which the peace process negotiations are struggling and the political and security situations are on the verge of explosion. The District explained in a statement that lawyer Arshid confirmed during the session that the project will isolate the original residents of Silwan from their natural surroundings and the Old City of Jerusalem. It will also change the historic and archaeological character of the town and it is one-sided, and entrenches the power of occupation and only practices a Jewish ideology. The Committee stressed on the disregard of the District Committee and other Israeli institutions to the UNESCO decision and the disrespect to any international resolution, and pointed out that the District Committee claimed its right to implement the project in the area to maintain the antiquities and accused the "Ottoman Empire" of changing the blur of the city of Jerusalem and that it will maintain them. The Committee added that the Israeli authorities proposed the project and ignoring the presence of tens of thousands of residents of Silwan and did not take into account their needs because its only aim is to serve the tourism, antiquities and settlers. The residents confirmed during their interventions on the racism of the various occupation institutions that claim democracy and respect for others at a time when they demolish buildings and displace the residents, in addition to failing to build any schools. The Committee also confirmed that the decision is political and was influenced by the Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, and the Israeli Minter of Interior. Wadi Hilweh Committee- Silwan explained that the settlement project will be established on the lands of the residents of Silwan which were used as farms until Jerusalem was occupied in 1967. After the occupation, the Israeli authorities confiscated the lands and demolished two rooms that were owned by Abdo family and then turned it into a parking lot. In 2003, Elad settlement organization took control of the lands and started planning for the implementation of the settlement project. The Committee added that Elad organization will designate the “Kadam” building for scientists and the Israeli Antiquities authority in addition to building conference halls, educational rooms and parking lots for the tourists and settlers. Also, special area will be allocated for tourists’ purposes, commercial stores and an office for the settlement organization “Elad”. The Committee also explained that Elad organization has been doing continuous excavation works in the project’s area (the courtyard of Dung Gate) since 2003 and had demolished an Islamic cemetery that is 1200 years old in addition to damaging Roman and Byzantine monuments such as rooms, arches and poles and only left a few of them which they claim to be the “Second Temple Monuments”; note that part of the building will be designated to show those alleged antiquities.