hotel - AFP - January 11 2011
A Palestinian man inspecting what is left from his destroyed family house, which was built without a construction permit, after it was demolished by Israeli authorities in the East Jerusalem neighbor Photo by AFP
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Key activists in East Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood yesterday asked European Union consuls in the city to give them international protection against Israel.

The call follows a harsh report by European diplomats on the situation in East Jerusalem that was published yesterday in Haaretz.

In a letter to EU representatives, the activists asked that a European consulate in East Jerusalem grant political asylum to Adnan Jith, a leader of the fight against the razing of Arab buildings in that part of the city.

The GOC Home Front Command has issued an order expelling him from the city, on the basis of the rarely used Mandate-era Emergency Regulations. The order goes into effect tomorrow and will last for four months.

Silwan residents claimed that during the past two weeks, the Jerusalem police have stepped up their pressure on the village leadership. They also accused the authorities of systematically trying to eradicate the local leadership, which opposes the razing of Arab homes and the entry of Jewish residents into the area.

Yesterday, Haaretz published an internal EU document that was distributed among various EU organs a month ago. In it, the consuls of EU countries stationed in East Jerusalem and Ramallah urged the de facto recognition of Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem and various other measures against Israel. In their view, this would send a clear signal about Europe's dissatisfaction with Israeli actions in East Jerusalem.

In recent days, three leaders of the struggle against the razing of homes in East Jerusalem - Jith, Jawad Siyam and Zuhir Rajubi - have been arrested repeatedly. They said that during their questioning, they were mainly asked about their political work and their ties with left-wing Israeli activists.

The activists' letter described the three as "community leaders and nonviolent activists against settlement activities in Silwan."

The letter asked European diplomats to attend court sessions on the three leaders' cases and to pressure Israel to cancel the expulsion order against Jith.

Also yesterday, work resumed in the Shepherd Hotel compound in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, despite harsh international criticism of plans to build a Jewish neighborhood on the site.

A Jerusalem District Court judge voided a work stoppage order that had been issued against Ateret Cohanim, the group behind the project, at the behest of the Husseini family, scions of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the former mufti of Jerusalem and founder of the compound.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for his part, rejected international criticism of the project.

"Actions undertaken yesterday at the Shepherd Hotel were conducted by private individuals in accordance with Israeli law," said a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Bureau. "The Israeli government was not involved.

"There should be no expectation that the State of Israel will impose a ban on Jews purchasing private property in Jerusalem," it continued. "No democratic government would impose such a ban on Jews and Israel certainly will not do so.

"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."

Though U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used strong words in expressing her disapproval of the razing of the Shepherd Hotel, the Obama administration has not made a formal protest to the Israeli government.

Nevertheless, the timing of the demolition is expected to increase Palestinian pressure on the United States not to veto a resolution condemning the settlements in the United Nations Security Council.