Another Israeli weapon in the judaisation of Jerusalem

Another Israeli weapon in the judaisation of Jerusalem
Comment: The Ateret Cohanim organisation targets property that can be bought, or seized via the courts, to push Jewish superiority in the city, says Saleh al-Naami
4 min read
20 Apr, 2015
Ateret Cohanim was created with the specific aim of Jewish dominance [AFP]

The Ateret Cohanim organisation is considered Israel's unofficial arm in charge of the judaisation of the Old City of Jerusalem and its periphery.

This organisation was established in the early 1990s and made securing the demographic superiority of Jews in the Old City of Jerusalem its top priority.

Rabbis and activists who graduated from the Yeshivat Harab, the largest religious school of the Zionist religious movement, had initiated the creation of Ateret Cohanim.

Ateret Cohanim uses two basic methods in the judaisation of the Holy City - buying and issuing rulings by the occupation courts to seize Palestinian property allegedly because they were owned by Jews before 1948.

Several years ago the Palestinian Mohammad Maragha, who lives in the occupied Jerusalem, acknowledged that he had assisted Ateret Cohanim in buying many Palestinian houses and properties in Jerusalem.

According to Maragha's disclosures to media, he used to buy properties from their Jerusalemite owners to register the title thereof later in the name of a society affiliated to Ateret Cohanim in exchange for huge amounts of money.

He confirmed that in many cases he used to counterfeit the property titles and documents in order to give the transactions legal authority.

At the same time, Ateret Cohanim exploits the "absentees property law" which allows the recovery of property owned by Jews before 1948 by filing lawsuits before the occupation courts. Palestinians are not granted the same right. By this method the organisation was able to issue court rulings to expel many Palestinian families from their homes.

The Sab Laban is about to lose their house. An Israeli court had accepted to consider a case filed by Ateret Cohanim despite the fact the family has lived in their house since the 1950s.

     Ateret Cohanim works in direct contact with the Israeli political, security and judicial authorities, which provide information to the organisation about Palestinian property to target.

Ateret Cohanim works in direct contact with the Israeli political, security and judicial authorities, which provide information to the organisation about Palestinian property to target.

The organisation also has contacts with cabinet ministers and members of Knesset from the ruling Likud party and the "Jewish Home" [HaBayit HaYehudi" in Hebrew] party, which is led by the economy minister, Niftali Benet.

Israeli radio recently reported that the Israeli housing minister, Uri Ariel, was coordinating closely with Ateret Cohanim. The report indicated that there was a clear and obvious "rotation of roles" between the ministry and the organisation in all that is related to the activities which aim at the judaisation of the city.

The ministry is concerned with the inauguration of settlement ventures which secure the judaisation of the periphery of East Jerusalem, while Ateret Cohanim undertakes the judaisation of the heart of the city.

Ateret Cohanim is closely related to the American Anglican Christian groups which support it financially and politically.

The former cabinet minister rabbi Benny Ayalon, who is one of the leaders of Ateret Cohanim, is in charge of coordination with the Anglican groups.

One of its backers is the Jewish-American billionaire Irving Moscovitch, who lives in Virginia. His contributions are tax-free given Ateret Cohanim's charity status in the US.

Housing crisis

The policies of the Israeli government and the activities of Ateret Cohanim have led to an exacerbated housing crisis for Palestinians in Jerusalem.

Since 1967, Palestinians are refused permits for the construction of houses, and demolishes any Palestinian house built without a licence.

A confidential document prepared recently by the European consuls in Jerusalem reported that the housing crisis could lead to an unprecedented explosion of the security situation.

Last Thursday, the Maariv newspaper reported that the document stressed that Jerusalem had never been as divided as it is now because of the feelings of injustice simmering in the hearts of the Jerusalemites.

Likud MP Miri Regev, who is likely to get a cabinet ministerial portfolio in the new government, has pledged during the electoral campaign to put an end to the status quo on the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, confirming that she will pass a law that would guarantee the sharing of time between Muslims and Jews on the compound.

This is an edited translation of the original Arabic.