On Monday, Hyundai machines were used to level Palestinian land and uproot olive trees in the Palestinian town of Silwan near East Jerusalem. Residents were able to get a court order to stop the demolition but not before serious damage was already done. Israeli forces with dogs were present to keep protesters at a distance.
Almost 90 Palestinian homes in Silwan are under Israeli demolition orders. Israeli authorities and settler organization Elad want to turn the area into a “national park.” But Israel’s destruction of Palestinian property in Silwan is a violation of international law.
Ma’an news agency reported the uprooting of 10-year-old olive trees, the demolition of a house, a fence, a garage, a steel building, a sewage network, and a tin-roofed room.
Ahmad Simrin showed an Israeli commander a title deed dating back to 1892, which proves that the land was owned by his grandfather Awad Simrin. Israel does not recognize that deed and insists the area is a national park, he said. This video shows the destruction taking place, and brutal Israeli tactics, including the use of attack dogs:
Hyundai breaks with Israeli dealer
Meanwhile, Hyundai Heavy Industries told activists Palestine Peace and Solidarity in South Korea that it had “stopped the deal with [Israeli company] Automotive Equipment Group and already sent an official notification letter early in January.”
The activists had sent a letter to Hyundai to inquire about its relationship with the Israeli company concerning an excavator deal. The company replied it provided the excavators “to the private sector, but not for military purposes,” according to activists.
Last year, PPS called on the South Korean government and the business community to immediately halt any dealings with companies and institutions related to the settlements, apartheid wall or occupation.
The Korean activists say they “will continue to monitor Hyundai’s actions closely to see whether they renew their ties with Israeli companies in the future.”
Settler park in Silwan
Israel’s national park in Silwan is “indirectly financed by the right-wing NGO Elad, which administers the national park,” according to Haaretz. In 2010, a Jerusalem municipal adviser told the International Crisis Group that Elad funds some 95 percent of the costs of the national park and excavations.
Meanwhile, the impact of the development of the national park on Silwan’s residents is devastating. Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan writes:
Public and private spaces used by residents for hundreds of years have been blocked off and incorporated into the national park, and the municipality wishes to expropriate those remaining for “public needs”. And what are the public needs according to the Jerusalem municipality, in a neighborhood where there are no playgrounds, no public gardens, no sport facilities, few classrooms and no clinics? Answer: parking lots for the site’s visitors.
Collaboration between settler organization and Israel
Settler organization Elad aims “To get a foothold in East Jerusalem and to create an irreversible situation in the holy basin around the Old City,” said Elad board member Adi Mintz in Haaretz in 2006. Silwan is targeted by Elad because of its location close to East Jerusalem.
Elad is perhaps the most influential settler organization, says the International Crisis Group in a December 2012 report. It operates a number of the national parks on the government’s behalf. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Jerusalem municipality turned over management to Elad in 1998. Furthermore:
Elad’s perceived reluctance to discuss how the group was (and is) able to acquire and take over land within a densely populated Palestinian neighbourhood has fuelled suspicions of questionable practices, which have been elaborated in investigative reports and confirmed in a few instances by the Israeli judicial system.
Citing Meron Rapaport’s report “Shady Dealings in Silwan” on Elad, ICG writes:
Rapaport describes three types of alleged collaboration with the government over three broad periods: expropriation of Palestinian land, on the basis of the absentee property law, subsequently transferred to Elad via the Jewish National Fund (1986-1992); Elad’s purchase of land and homes from Palestinian owners, at times using methods of questionable legality (1992- onwards); and the government’s granting Elad management of the site, to the detriment of local residents (mid-1990s onwards).
Fake documents were used in some of the transactions; the court ruled at least one deal was based on a false deposition.
The images of Hyundai machines executing the destruction of Palestinian property in Silwan is a reminder for the company to live up its promise to break ties with its dealer in Israel.