Peace Now has protested a troubling new development in the ongoing attempt by settlers to expand the Jewish presence in Palestinian neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem.

On April 8, 2021, dozens of settlers from Ateret Cohanim moved into three houses containing 16 apartments in the heart of Silwan, a neighbourhood southwest of the Old City walls. Ateret Cohanim is one of the key settler associations working to establish a growing Jewish presence in the Old City and East Jerusalem.

The three houses were recently built by Palestinians who apparently sold them to Ateret Cohanim. The settlers also occupied a plot of land of about 800 square metres in front of the new houses. The new Jewish enclave is one of a chain that Ateret Cohanim has been establishing between the Old City and the Mount of Olives.

According to Peace Now buying properties in East Jerusalem is never an ordinary purchase between a seller who wants to sell and a buyer who wants to buy. Due to their political sensitivity, these transactions involve middlemen, manipulations and pressures and a great deal of secrecy. An Ha’aretz article of 2018 reveals some of Ateret Cohanim’s shady tactics, which have included solicitation for prostitution. Read article.
In another part of Silwan, Ateret Cohanim is conducting evacuation proceedings against dozens of Palestinian families (about 700 people) on the basis of ownership claims from before 1948 and a system of discriminatory laws.

Says Peace Now: “Settlement in the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem is not only a provocation that harms the delicate fabric of life in Jerusalem and increases friction and violence, but is a severe blow to the prospect of peace. Settlers continue to try to change…East Jerusalem to have it become more Jewish and more Israeli so that it will be much harder to reach a compromise of two capitals for two states in Jerusalem.”

For more background on settler attempts to dispossess Palestinians in East Jerusalem, see our webinar with Hagit Ofran, of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch Program