The demolition of part of the historic Shepherd Hotel in occupied East Jerusalem has drawn wide international criticism. The bulldozers began demolishing on Sunday with authorisation from Israeli authorities to make space for illegal new homes for Jewish families.
Built in the 1930’s as a private residence of the grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the building was later transformed into a public building and hotel. After being seized by the Israelis in 1985, the building was acquired by settler patron and American Jewish businessman Irving Moskowitz.
UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said: “The British Government reaffirms its strong, long-standing opposition to the creation of this new illegal settlement in occupied East Jerusalem and condemns today’s demolition in Sheikh Jerrah. The establishment and expansion of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal.
"We oppose provocative unilateral actions such as this, which hinder efforts to resume talks between the two parties leading to a two-state solution to this conflict, with Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two states living side by side in peace and security. That is the way forward. This latest settlement activity does not help – on the contrary, it raises tensions unnecessarily.“
Dr Saeb Erakat, Chief Palestinian Negotiator, said: "The State of Israel is demolishing one Palestinian property after another in an effort to cleanse Jerusalem of its Palestinian inhabitants, heritage and history. East Jerusalem, and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in particular, have been targeted by Israel in a campaign to forcibly remove Palestinians and supplant them with Jewish settlers. Such actions are unlawful and undermine the two-state solution and the negotiations process."
Dr. Erakat went on to say, "The United Nations and governments around the world, including the United States and the United Kingdom have already condemned plans to demolish this particular hotel. We call on the world to take a strong stand in defense of their positions. This intransigent and illegal behavior on behalf of Israel must not be allowed to proceed unchecked."
He concluded: "What is happening today is part of the political program of the Israeli government to preempt any solution on Jerusalem. While Netanyahu continues his public relations campaign regarding the peace process, on the ground he is rapidly moving to prevent the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state." Dr Erakat added, "Israel continues to change the landscape of Jerusalem aiming to change its status and turn it into an exclusive Jewish city. This process of cleansing and colonization must be stopped to change the dark reality of Israeli occupation into a free and sovereign Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital."
"Settlement plans in Sheikh Jarrah, similar to those in Silwan, Mount of Olives, Ras Al Amoud, Al Issawiya and other neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, aim to create a ring of settlements severing the Old City from the rest of occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank."
Source: Foreign Office/MISNA