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Israel to build 2,300 ultra-Orthodox houses on site of Deir Yassin massacre

An aerial image shows the proposed location of the new neighborhood in Jerusalem [Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel]
An aerial image shows the proposed location of the new neighborhood in Jerusalem [Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel]

The Israel Land Authority (ILA) plans to build 2,300 housing units for Jerusalem’s Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) population on the historic site of the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin, which witnessed a massacre in 1948.

The ILA’s plan would see an extension of the Har Nof neighbourhood, situated on the western edge of Jerusalem, with 2,300 housing units being built on 648 dunams (162 acres) of land. The land is currently covered by the Jerusalem Forest which, combined with Har Hof and the nearby Givat Sha’ul, sit on the ruins of the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin.

According to Haaretz, the initiative “is still in the preliminary planning stages” but approval of the plans “would be handled by means of the fast-track process that has been put in place to boost [Israel’s] housing inventory [to] counter rising prices”.

An ILA document detailing the plans explained that: “The plan’s major advantage is the fact that the increased [housing] inventory would be created in close proximity to the edge of an existing ultra-Orthodox neighborhood: Har Nof.”

The plans have been vehemently opposed by Israeli environmentalists, but no mention has been made of the location’s historical significance.

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Many of Israel’s forests have been built to cover the ruins of Palestinian villages destroyed and forcibly depopulated during the Nakba of 1948. According to Zochrot, an Israeli not-for-profit which works to promote awareness of the Nakba, “more than two-thirds of KKL [Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, part of the Jewish National Fund (JNF)] forests and sites – 46 out of 68 – conceal or are located on the ruins of Palestinian villages demolished by Israel”.

The JNF has also claimed ownership of vast swathes of land in order to further dispossess Palestinians. Earlier this week, the JNF secured victory in a 22-year-long legal battle in which it claimed ownership of 522 dunams (130 acres) of land which forms part of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, south east of Bethlehem. Gush Etzion’s illegal settlers claimed the JNF purchased the land from a Palestinian Christian family in 1944, before the Nakba, but Palestinians contradicted this by providing ownership documents for the land. Despite this, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in favour of the settlers and the JNF.

Israel has sought to remove any trace of Deir Yassin in order to cover up its massacre of between 100 and 250 Palestinians from the village during the Nakba. On 9 April 1948, 120 members of underground Jewish militias – the Irgun (National Military Organisation) and Lehi (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, also known as the Stern Gang) – attacked Deir Yassin, despite the fact that the village had signed a non-aggression pact. Reports of mutilations, rapes and survivors being paraded through Jewish neighbourhoods before being summarily executed, have since emerged, with the massacre becoming one of the most infamous in the history of the Nakba.

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