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Israel nixes Jerusalem business centre after settlers' opposition to 'mixing populations'

East Jerusalem behind the Israeli separation wall on 23 November 2009 [Mohamar Awad/Apaimages]

Israeli authorities have suspended plans for a commercial centre next to the Palestinian neighbourhood of Umm Tuba in occupied East Jerusalem, "because Jewish residents of the nearby Har Homa [settlement]…objected", reported Haaretz.

According to the paper, the decision by Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin was taken after opponents of the plan argued that the project "would lead to the 'mixing of populations' and pose a danger to young women from Har Homa".

One source involved in the project told Haaretz that planners have been ordered to halt work on the project. "It's terrible. We've destroyed an entire neighbourhood's development capability."

Although the plan had moved through the planning process, at a gathering of Har Homa settlement residents last week, some strongly rejected the proposal.

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"It's dangerous for the girls," said one settler.

We need to live separately. We need to keep [the residents of Umm Tuba] away from us. They would harm our children and we need to build a wall between us and them.

One said she only wants to see Arabs up close "as shepherds with sheep", while another settler said: "the State of Israel belongs only to the Jews, and Arabs need to be drawers of water and hewers of wood" ("a reference from the Book of Joshua referring to manual labourers" Haaretz explained).

Meanwhile, on a Har Homa residents' WhatsApp group, objections were also shared.

"We don't want a mixing of ethnic groups. [I] fear for our Jewish daughters, [if I am to] call it like it is," wrote one woman. "Reducing disparities in East Jerusalem, [but] not at our expense!!!! It can be in their villages," read another message.

The chair of the community administration in Har Homa, Shlomo Golbary, wrote to Jerusalem Mayor Leon, "saying that the community administration objected to the project in part for security reasons", citing the fact "schools and a youth centre are planned to be built across from the centre".

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