The closing of the soccer club and charity because of alleged “connections” to Hamas are part of an increasingly enforced policy of shutting down Palestinian civil society in occupied East Jerusalem.
Ma’an also reported that Israeli forces detained the director and several employees of the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan, which has been actively documenting home demolitions and other rights abuses in the neighborhood.
Silwan has particularly borne the brunt of Israel’s repressive policies in East Jerusalem. Residents say that Israeli plans to build a biblical theme park in the neighborhood is designed to push them out.
In 2004, the Jerusalem municipality unveiled its plan to build a new national park on land in the al-Bustan neighborhood. This park — which is said to represent King David’s ancient gardens — would necessitate the eventual demolition of 88 Palestinian homes and the forced eviction of nearly 1,000 residents.
“Because King Solomon traveled here 3 or 4,000 years ago, they want to turn this area into national gardens. We’re not against King Solomon or King David or whoever, but we said, ‘Who’s more important? The humans, the people, or the gardens?’” Abu Diab said.
“If the municipality of Jerusalem wants to make gardens, they can do it in an open area. But we know that they have a political agenda and they want to make settlements around the Old City and push us outside of this area,” he added.
The Palestinian news agency WAFA adds that on Sunday police closed “the Silwan Charitable Society, one of its kindergartens, as well as the Islamic Silwan Club … according to the Head of the Committee for the Defense of Silwan, Fakhri Abu Diab.”
According to WAFA:
He said that Israeli police surrounded the neighborhood of al-Bustan, in Silwan and several other adjacent neighborhoods and arrested Board Member of Silwan charitable society Khalil al-Abbasi.
The closures of civil society organizations in East Jerusalem is part of the Israeli authorities’ “continued attacks on the city’s Palestinian identity and their attempts to main control” over the area, The Electronic Intifada reported last November:
According to the Civic Coalition for Defending Palestinians’ Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ), since August 2001, the Israeli authorities have closed approximately 28 organizations serving the Palestinian community in Jerusalem, including the Orient House, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) former headquarters in the city, the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce and the Arab Studies Society.
In 2009, the Israeli authorities also banned numerous Palestinian cultural and educational events scheduled to celebrate the declaration of Jerusalem as the “Capital of Arab Culture” for that year.
“The closure of these and other Palestinian institutions are part of a broader policy through which the Israeli authorities seek to stifle Palestinian development in Jerusalem and increase the strength of Israel’s occupation over East Jerusalem,” explained Shtayyeh. “These closures relate to the overarching policy that includes violations of housing rights, revocation of residency, and ultimately results in the forced displacement of Palestinians from Jerusalem.”
Meanwhile on Sunday, Israeli forces demolished a caravan used as housing by a Palestinian family in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Also destroyed in a separate operation was a 30-square-meter room added to a Shufat neighborhood house which Israeli authorities say was built without a permit.
A large Israeli police force and municipal staff used a bulldozer to demolish the two structures, forcing displacement of the family that lives in the caravan and cracks in the house where the room and a retaining wall were demolished.
Witnesses said that in spite of police cordon on the two areas, residents in Beit Hanina clashed with police trying to stop the demolition. One person was arrested.
A recent report by the United Nations condemned Israeli house demolition policy in Jerusalem and the West Bank Area C, which is under full Israeli military control, and said last year demolitions were the highest in recent times.