A routine demolition of an old and vacant building to make way for new development. In any other city or country it would go almost unnoticed, but when such an event involves Jews and Israel and Jerusalem, it is suddenly cause for international consternation.
And so the world was in an uproar this week when the historic Shepherd Hotel in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah was torn down so that construction could begin on 20 new apartments that will likely be sold or rented to Jews.
Before getting riled up over the tearing down of historic landmarks, note that the Shepherd Hotel was not famous for a good reason. The structure was built as a residence by the World War II-era Palestinian religious leader Haj Amin al-Husseini, a known collaborator with the Nazi regime and personal confidante of Adolf Hitler.
Ownership of the building changed hands several times during the preceding decades, until it was finally bought in 1985 by Jewish American businessman Irving Moskowitz. It has taken until now for Moskowitz to secure authorization to build what he wants on his own property due to political concerns.
As far as the US and Europe are concerned, Moskowitz should never have been granted such freedom, and in fact should never have been permitted to buy the property in the first place.
The Shepherd Hotel was situated in a part of Jerusalem that the Palestinian Arabs claims as their future capital.
A document circulated among the 25 European Union consuls general in Jerusalem this week lamented that “if current trends are not stopped as a matter of urgency, the prospect of east Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state becomes increasingly unlikely and unworkable.”
The Europeans determined that they must do more to intervene and halt the spreading Jewish presence in the Jews’ ancient capital.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also voiced discontent with the demolition, insisting that it undermines American efforts to yet again restart stalled peace talks.
Washington often expresses support of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, but incidents like this provide evidence that under the surface, the White House wants Israel to surrender the city’s eastern half to the Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office (PMO) on Monday issued a statement reminding the international community that Israel is a democracy, and in a democracy people are free to purchase and develop property regardless of race, religion or creed.
“There should be no expectation that the State of Israel will impose a ban on Jews purchasing private property in Jerusalem. No democratic government would impose such a ban on Jews and Israel will certainly not do so,” read the statement.
“Just as Arab residents of Jerusalem can buy or rent property in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Jews can buy or rent property in predominantly Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem,” the PMO added.
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