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Holy Land: more than 1,000 Palestinians face eviction to make way for Christian theme park

King Solomon - Wiki images

King Solomon - Wiki images

Proposals for a massive new attraction for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land could lead to the eviction of hundreds of Palestinian families.

The Palestinian town of Silwan lies on the edge of East Jerusalem, just outside the walls of the Old City.  The proposed 'King’s Garden' is designed to be a theme park for tourists to walk in the footsteps of the biblical King Solomon. Yet the site chosen for the park is home to more than 1,000 Palestinian residents, many of whom have already been served with demolition notices.

The new tourist development would see the largest single demolition of Palestinian homes since 1967, the year that Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Any such demolitions are prohibited by the fourth Geneva Convention and therefore illegal under international humanitarian law, yet Israel has proceeded with them regardless. The UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, has called Israel’s actions in East Jerusalem and surrounding neighbourhoods like Silwan a “devastating policy designed to achieve the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians”.

Israeli settlers have already moved into parts of Silwan in an attempt to take over the town and evict Palestinian families who have lived there for generations. The illegal Israeli settlement is also threatening to obliterate Palestinian history in Silwan, as Palestinian street names are being replaced with Israeli names. Backing the settlers, the Israeli security forces have stepped up their programme of violence and intimidation against the Palestinian residents of Silwan.

The UK government has condemned the plans for Silwan in the strongest terms. On 30 December 2011, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt issued a statement saying:

“I condemn the decision by the Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee to build additional structures in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan, and housing in the settlement of Gilo. This is another provocative and deeply counter-productive step, the latest in a series by the Israeli authorities.”

Yet such words are meaningless as long as the UK government continues to grant Israel unconditional support as its strategic ally in the Middle East. Indeed, despite the widespread condemnation of Israel’s actions, new demolition orders have been delivered to Silwan residents in January 2012. War on Want, and other campaigners  are calling on the UK government to take immediate action to prevent the destruction of Palestinian homes in Silwan.