Who Put These Poor Palestinians in Harm’s Way?
Fakhri Abu Diab is one of 40,000 Palestinians crammed into Silwan, a dilapidated, over-populated village in East Jerusalem. Diab is irate. His home, together with more than 80 others, is slated to be demolished by the Jerusalem Municipality, which plans to develop the space into an archaeological park.
Thankfully for him, Diab has friends in high places, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. During a recent visit to Jerusalem, Clinton criticized Israel for its plans to develop an archeological park in Silwan, warning that the demolition of 88 homes would be “unhelpful” for the peace process. Diab’s other supporters include the entire Arab world, European governments, the European Union, Britain, the United Nations and the Vatican.
Legally, the case against Diab and the others is straightforward. These homes were not only constructed illegally, making their demolition entirely legal and justified, but Mayor Nir Barkat of Jerusalem is even working to relocate or compensate the inhabitants of the homes. But few things are straightforward in Jerusalem. Palestinian frustration, amplified by shallow and biased reporting by the anti-Israel media, combined with mounting pressure on Israel from the international community, has made Silwan a tense flashpoint in Israel-Palestinian relations.
For years Silwan has existed as a run-down, over-built, over-crowded neighborhood with narrow, trash-filled alleys. Some parts have no running water or electricity. Silwan’s children have no playgrounds or sports fields, and have to play on the dirty streets. Their parents are poor and often unemployed.
The message that some would like Silwan to send is clear: that the Israeli government is responsible for these conditions, and now it wants to demolish 88 homes, displacing over a thousand Arabs. That innocent Palestinians are being persecuted and purged by angry and cruel Jews. That Israel is the uncompromising enemy of the Palestinians and the primary stumbling block to peace.
Deceived by the torrent of such misinformation, few recognize the central cause of the Silwan crisis: that it was created intentionally by Palestinian leaders to hurt Israel’s stature in the international community and ultimately to help establish Arab control of a region that is intrinsically Jewish in nature!
Strategic Illegal Arab Construction
Over the years, the issue of illegal construction by Arabs in Jerusalem has been documented, albeit not widely reported. The media like to report that Palestinians in Jerusalem are persecuted and maligned by the Jewish government. The facts show otherwise. In 2005, camera noted that “[t]hrough natural growth, and immigration (both legal and illegal) from the West Bank, Jerusalem’s Arab population [grew] from 25.8 percent of the city in 1967, just after reunification, to more than 33 percent” at the end of 2003. In fact, between 1967 and 2003, Jerusalem’s Arab population increased by 233 percent, while its Jewish population increased by just 129 percent. Today the Palestinians make up 35 percent of Jerusalem’s population.
The construction of Arab homes and facilities, legal and illegal, in Jerusalem exploded as the population grew. In East Jerusalem in particular, Arab construction was fast and furious, with no regard for the Jewish authorities. Khalil Tufakji, a Palestinian demography expert, admitted as much in an interview with cnn in 1998: “We can build inside Jerusalem, legal, illegal—rebuild a house, whatever, we can do. Maybe we lose 10 houses, but in the end we build 40 more houses in East Jerusalem.” Although illegal Arab construction occurred quickly, it was not haphazard.
The political aim of the illegal construction is made clear by its financing sources, Caroline Glick reported in the Jerusalem Post in 2007: “Since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, the PA, Saudi Arabia and the EU have spent millions of dollars in financing illegal construction in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, often on state and privately owned lands” (May 14, 2007; emphasis mine throughout). Evidence shows that Arab illegal construction in Jerusalem has been part of a long-running political and strategic agenda hatched in the minds of the Palestinian leadership.
According to reports, Iran has donated up to $300 million for Arab construction in East Jerusalem. In 2005, an Arutz Sheva report revealed that Saudi Arabia had secretly been financing the “PA building campaign for political reasons in strategic areas in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel.” So for years, Palestinian leaders, in cahoots with Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim states, have been devoting time, coordination and money into planning precisely where the Arab illegal homes and structures should be located. Why?
Glick answers: “In an effort to degrade the Jewish character of [Jerusalem] …” (op. cit.).
By directing and financing these illegal, Arab footholds on sites of strategic and historic importance to Jews, the PA, with assistance from Muslim states, made conflict with the Jewish government inevitable.
Illegal Arab construction has been endemic to Jerusalem for years, says Justus Reid Weiner, author of the report “Illegal Construction in Jerusalem.” “In the Arab sector … illegal construction often takes the form of entire multi-floor buildings with 4 to 25 living units, built with the financial assistance of the Palestinian Authority on land that is not owned by the builder.” Construction in one neighborhood reached “epidemic proportions,” Weiner noted, with one “Palestinian official boasting that they have built 6,000 homes without permits during the last four years, of which less than 200 were demolished by the city.”
What neighborhood was that? Silwan!
But why would the PA and supportive Muslim states sanction such illegal construction?
A survey of Silwan reveals its inherent Jewishness. The famous Gihon Spring, situated in the Kidron Valley, is first referenced in Genesis 2, and was the primary water source for early Israelites settled in the City of David. In the 10th century b.c., David’s son Solomon was anointed king of Israel near the Gihon Spring. Then there’s Hezekiah’s tunnel, a 1,700-foot tunnel that tourists can walk through today, cut out of bedrock by the residents of the City of David to bring water inside the walls of Jerusalem in anticipation of an Assyrian siege (2 Chronicles 32). Even the name Silwan is derived from Siloam, the water pool discovered in 2004 in the southern part of the City of David, referred to by Christ in John 9 when He instructed a blind man to wash in the “pool of Siloam.”
It’s a historic reality that long before Silwan became home to 40,000 Arabs, it encompassed the City of David—the ancient site of the original city of Jerusalem, named after the legendary Jewish king responsible for transforming Jerusalem into the capital city of the ancient Israelites.
The City of David, situated in the heart of Silwan, is the essence of Jewish character!
Beyond these well-known features, stunning archeological evidence has surfaced in recent years revealing the Jews’ glorious past in the City of David. In 2005, archaeologist Eilat Mazar uncovered a small section of what she thought might be King David’s royal palace during an excavation there. During the winter of 2006/2007, Dr. Mazar’s speculation was confirmed when she uncovered a massive wall, 5 meters wide (indicating this was the home of someone prominent), on the eastern side of the royal complex. In the same area, Mazar’s crew also discovered two clay seals (known as bullae) with names of biblical figures inscribed on them, adding further proof that the structure really is King David’s palace.
In November 2007, in a speech at an archaeological conference at Bar Ilan University, Dr. Mazar told 500 attendees that she had discovered Nehemiah’s wall, dating back to the 5th and 6th century b.c. Then, in the autumn of 2008, Mazar announced the discovery a of tunnel dating back to the 10th century b.c., stating that the “tunnel’s characteristics, date and location testify with high probability that the water tunnel is the one called tsinnor in the story of the King David’s conquest of Jerusalem.”
Considering Mazar’s amazing discoveries, one wonders what else lies beneath the earth in the City of David. The Old Testament says King David was buried in the City of David, more than likely somewhere within his palace (1 Kings 2:10). Might Dr. Mazar soon discover the tombs of Israeli kings? Archaeological evidence will continue to surface, proving the existence of King David’s empire, cementing the Jewish character of the City of David, and proving the Jews’ historic connection to Silwan.
Is it just coincidence that Silwan has become the convergence point of stunning archeological discoveries and mounting Israel-Palestinian tension? For those cognizant of the PA’s strategy of illegally settling Arabs in these areas of terrific historic relevance to the Jews, the emergence of Silwan as a flashpoint in Israel-Palestinian relations is not in the least surprising.
It is, in fact, precisely what Palestinian leaders, with support from Muslim governments, have been anticipating for years. Diab and others could very well lose their homes. For Palestinian leaders campaigning against Israel, the loss of 88 Arab homes in the battle over Silwan is a small price to pay in a conflict that is causing Israel to be further ostracized from the international community, driving a wedge between America and Israel, and more than likely precipitating a battle during which the Palestinians gain control over East Jerusalem.
Diab ought to be irate. Not at Israel, but at the Palestinian leaders. They are the ones who put his house at the mercy of Israel’s bulldozers.