An organisation of illegal Israeli settlers has received NIS28 million ($8m) in government assistance to Judaise the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan, which lies to the south of Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, Safa has reported. Under the guise of tourism and development, the new settlement project is intended to steal Palestinian land and strangle Silwan's expansion.
According to the news agency, the Judaisation moves backed by the Israeli government aim to change the identity and demography of the Palestinian neighbourhood at the expense of its Palestinian residents who are threatened with expulsion. Critics point out that the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestinians known as the Nakba (Catastrophe) is ongoing in the Israeli-occupied territories.
The settlers' organisation in question is Elad, also known as the Ir David Foundation. It is an Israeli NGO which promotes illegal Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. In 1991, it was the first such organisation to seize Palestinian houses with support from the Israeli government and police. The Palestinian residents were left homeless on the street.
Elad oversees about 70 Jewish settlement outposts in Silwan, most of which are located in Wadi Al-Hilwa. All Jewish settlers and settlements are illegal under international law.
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The organisation is funded by several institutions, including the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem Municipality, the Nature and Parks Authority, the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ministry and the Jerusalem Development Authority.
Elaborating on the real reason behind this project, Ahmad Sumrein, a member of the local neighbourhood committee in Silwan, said that the funds given to Elad are designed to consolidate the occupation authorities' grip on the neighbourhood. He insisted that the Palestinian landowners will continue to fight against the colonial settlement campaign.
Palestinian residents of the neighbourhood face daily Israeli surveillance, police raids, land grabs and settler harassment. The Israeli occupation authorities have installed surveillance cameras to monitor Palestinian movements, while municipality-owned bulldozers have uprooted centuries-old olive trees as Jewish settlers partied noisily in celebration.