Israel Closes East Jerusalem Mapping Office for 'Tracking Palestinian Land Sales to Jews'

Police say the geographic consulting firm is passing the information to Palestinian security forces in Ramallah.

Palestinian geographer Khalil Tufakji (C) is detained as Israeli security forces carry out a police order to close his mapping office in East Jerusalem, March 14, 2017.
AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

The police closed a land mapping office in East Jerusalem on Tuesday, which they say is run on the behalf of Palestinian security forces to keep track of land sales made by Palestinians to Jews in Jerusalem.

According to the police, the office in Jerusalem's Beit Hanina neighborhood, which ostensibly dealt with land mapping, was being funded by the Palestinian Authority while operating in under the guise of a geographic consulting firm.

“The office passes on the names of people who want to sell land and houses in [East Jerusalem] to the Palestinian security forces in Ramallah, among other things, and when there is a suspicion of fraud or an intention to sell a house or land to a Jew, an investigation is opened by the Palestinian [security] services,” said the police statement.

The mapping office is run by Dr. Khalil Tukfaji, a geographer who researches Israeli settlements. Tukfaji has taken part in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians over the years, and is well-known to the Israeli peace negotiating teams.

In the past, he operated out of the historic Orient House building in Jerusalem, which housed Palestinian institutions in the city over the years until it was closed by Israel during the second intifada in 2001.

Tukfaji said that the police confiscated computers and bags during their raid on the center on Tuesday morning. Tukfaji himself was detained by the police for questioning.

Last week, the police dispersed a conference of Palestinian women marking International Women’s Day in East Jerusalem, claiming the Palestinian Authority was behind the meeting, but organizers of the event denied any connection.