Palestinian, Jordanian leaders reject Israeli court settler decision

A view of the New Imperial Hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem near the Jaffa Gate that was sold to an Israeli company in 2004. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2019

Palestinian, Jordanian leaders reject Israeli court settler decision

  • Top court accepts 2004 sale of property by church to a pro-settlement organization in Palestine

AMMAN: Palestinian and Jordanian officials have rejected a decision by the Supreme Court of Israel approving a controversial sale of three strategic locations inside Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem to a radical Jewish group.

Israel’s top court accepted the 2004 sale of property by the Greek Orthodox Church to a pro-settlement organization in mainly Palestinian areas of annexed East Jerusalem.

In its ruling on Monday, the court rejected the church’s appeal against a district court’s 2017 approval of the same deal on grounds of corruption.

Three companies linked to a group named Ateret Cohanim secured the long-term lease of three buildings owned by the church — the Petra Hostel and the New Imperial Hotel, both located by the Jaffa Gate, and a residential building in the Muslim Quarter.

The deal made Ateret Cohanim the owner of the majority of the properties between the Jaffa Gate and Arab Market areas.

The church asserted that the deal was conducted illegally, and said in 2017, after Israel’s Jerusalem District Court ruled against it, that the court had “disregarded the Patriarchate’s clear and concrete legal evidence proving bad faith, bribery and conspiracy.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Palestinian Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna described the Supreme Court’s decision as “illegal and illegitimate,” adding “the seizure of the historic Jaffa Gate properties by extremist settler organizations is a new catastrophe for the Christians in this holy city.”

Jordan was right to decline an invitation to go to Israeli courts in order to overturn the enforced closure of Bab Al-Rahmah two months ago.

Wasfi Kailani, Director, Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock

The Higher Presidential Council for Church Affairs issued a statement noting its rejection of the decisions of the Israeli courts, which it called “instruments in the hands of the occupiers” aimed at perpetuating the occupation and empowering settlers. The statement called for the protection of existing tenants and for a “popular movement to face up to the policies aimed at removing Palestinians from their city.”

Hanna Issa, the secretary-general of the Islamic-Christian Commission in Support of Jerusalem and Holy Sites, told Arab News that the Israeli court decisions were in violation of international humanitarian law, which considers East Jerusalem to be occupied territories.

“The Israeli high court has approved the decision of the central court, despite documented proof of forgeries and bribes that were used to reach the sale agreement. This is clearly an attempt to obliterate the Christian and Muslim Arab character of Jerusalem. Palestinians living in these buildings are protected tenants according to Jordanian law, which is applicable to Palestinians in Jerusalem.”

Wasfi Kailani, director of the Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, told Arab News that the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate is targeted more than other churches because it is the largest landowner in Palestine.

“What happened with the Greek Orthodox Church shows that the Islamic Awqaf Council and Jordanian government were right to decline an invitation to go to Israeli courts in order to overturn the enforced closure of Bab Al-Rahmah two months ago.

“All Israeli policies aimed at annexation of occupied Palestinian and other Arab territories, including Jerusalem, are in violation of international law; these practices are null and void and must be rescinded.”


UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

A Palestinian refugee holds a placard at a school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the town of Sebline east of the southern Lebanese port of Saida, on March 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2019

UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

  • UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses

BRUSSELS: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is waiting anxiously on the outcome this month of a probe into alleged mismanagement that has dented its already severely depleted funding, one of its top officials said Monday.
The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.
UNRWA’s director for West Bank operations Gwyn Lewis told AFP in Brussels: “We’re waiting with bated breath because it obviously has financial implications.”
She said the conclusions of the probe are expected to be delivered “around the end of October” to UN chief Antonio Guterres, who would then issue public and internal “follow-up steps.”
The timing is crucial as the agency’s three-year mandate is up for renewal this month, and money is tight.
UNRWA has been skating on very thin financial ice since last year, after US President Donald Trump decided to suspend, then yank entirely his country’s contribution to the agency’s budget, robbing it of its top donor.
Those woes were compounded by the allegations of abuse by the agency’s management, leading other key donors — the Netherlands and Switzerland — to snap shut their purses.
That has left the agency struggling to provide the schooling, medical and sanitary programs it runs for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.
According to a copy of an internal UN report obtained by AFP in July, senior management at UNRWA engaged in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain.”

FASTFACT

The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.

Lewis did not confirm those allegations, noting only “rumors” and leaks to the media.
“None of us have actually seen it,” she said of the report, adding: “Our sense is that it’s not about financial misappropriation or corruption, it’s linked to management and human resources issues.”
She did note that the agency’s deputy chief, Sandra Mitchell, had been replaced in August by an acting deputy commissioner-general tasked with strengthening human resources and financial oversight.
Lewis said she was in Brussels for two days of meetings with European Commission officials to shore up UNRWA’s mandate renewal and, importantly, to maintain funding.
Despite program cutbacks, the agency faces an $89 million shortfall for the rest of this year, she said, and “financial uncertainty” beyond that.
UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses. Making up for the pulled US funding was a “challenge,” she said.