Caterpillar and Volvo bulldozers demolish a part of a historic hotel in occupied East Jerusalem. (Photo: Alex Kane)
[UPDATE: Hillary Clinton condemns the destruction:
[We are very concerned about the initiation of demolition of the Shepherd's Hotel in East Jerusalem. This disturbing development undermines peace efforts to achieve the two state-solution. In particular, this move contradicts the logic of a reasonable and necessary agreement between the parties on the status of Jerusalem. We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties should mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem, and safeguards its status for people around the world. Ultimately, the lack of a resolution to this conflict harms Israel, harms the Palestinians, and harms the U.S. and the international community. We will continue to press ahead with the parties to resolve the core issues, including Jerusalem, in the context of a peace agreement.]
Ramallah, West Bank–I was a witness to the destruction of a historic hotel in occupied East Jerusalem today, but activists bearing witness didn’t let the incident go on without making some noise.
After meeting with members of the Rifka Al-Kurd family, who now live steps away from illegal settlers who evicted members of the family to take over their home in Sheikh Jarrah, the delegation I am with received news of the hotel demolition.
The Shepherd Hotel was razed by three Israeli bulldozers, early on Sunday, as part of a plan to build a new settlement of 20 units in the heart of the occupied city.
The hotel is located on the demarcation line between two Arab neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Wadi al-Joz. The site will not only divide the two neighbourhoods but it will also change the aspects of occupied Jerusalem.
According to official documents, the hotel was owned by al-Quds Mufti, Haj Amin al-Hussaini, who was deported by the British rule in 1937. He later died in Lebanon in 1974.
The settlement project is funded by Irving Moskowitz, a wealthy Jewish-American gambling magnate.
Mammoth Caterpillar and Volvo bulldozers were working on razing a wing of the hotel.
Defending the demolition in front of the press was Elisha Peleg, a Jerusalem City Council member who is part of the right-wing Likud Party. Peleg insisted that “Jerusalem is the united capital of Israel,” while international activists and Palestinian women yelled “this is stolen land,” “shame on you” and disrupted his interviews with the media. In front of the gates to the hotel stood Israeli police and private security guards carrying rifles.
I told Peleg that he was a shame to Jews around the world. He turned around and told me that journalists shouldn’t voice their own opinions and that there was nothing wrong with building for Jews.
“They want to continue to take more land,” said Nasser Ghawi, a Palestinian resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah who has also seen his home taken away and given to Israeli settlers.
Israeli activists hastily organized a protest against the hotel demolition.
Alex Kane is a blogger and journalist based in New York City. He blogs on Israel/Palestine and Islamophobia in the U.S. at alexbkane.wordpress.com, where this post originally appeared. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.