Settlers Move Into Yet Another Apartment in East Jerusalem

A-Tur apartment has been empty for the last several years as legal battles waged over ownership claims.

A group of settlers entered another apartment in East Jerusalem yesterday, this time located in the A-Tur neighborhood on the Mount of Olives.

A-Tur settlers
Tomer Appelbaum

Like the apartment that settlers entered Tuesday in Jabal Mukkaber, this one, too, was purchased by Lowell Investment, a shell company set up to buy Palestinian assets on behalf of right-wing groups such as Elad, whose mission is to settle Jews in East Jerusalem.

But unlike Tuesday's incident, no Palestinian residents were evicted from the A-Tur apartment, which has been empty for the last several years as legal battles waged over ownership claims. Nor did any violence break out, though the atmosphere was tense.

That settlers have moved into two Lowell-owned apartments in East Jerusalem this week appears to be purely coincidental and related to the fact that in both cases, a court recently ruled in Lowell's favor.

The apartment, located on the second floor of an apartment building, is near Beit Hahoshen, another apartment building in A-Tur populated entirely by settlers. Lowell Investment signed a contract to purchase the apartment in 2005, and its representatives entered it for the first time in 2006.

That entry, despite a large police escort, resulted in clashes with local residents, and a court later assailed police for having facilitated the entry even though the ownership was disputed. But last week, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court finally declared Lowell the legal owner.

At about 10 A.M. yesterday, Elad representatives arrived at the apartment, escorted by police and security guards. The guards broke the lock on the door and replaced it with a new one. The Elad representatives then began preparing the apartment for habitation by hooking it up to the electricity grid and doing various repairs. All the work was done behind a locked door and closed blinds, with the security guards present.

"The settlers arrived in the morning and began to break the lock," a Palestinian resident of the building, who declined to give her name, told Haaretz. "We were frightened. The children are scared of them and of their guards.

"Why do they come here?" she demanded. "They have a whole country. So why here of all places, in our house?"

The court's ruling listed Elad director David Be'eri as the person who signed the purchase agreement on behalf of Lowell. Nevertheless, Elad spokesman Udi Ragones insisted yesterday that "Lowell Investment is not our company."

"Over the past week," he added, "we witnessed a demonstration by artists in Tel Aviv who raised on outcry on behalf of Arabs in Safed, asking 'how it could be that people weren't willing to sell or rent them apartments?' But you can't hold the stick at both ends - because these same people oppose Jews buying apartments in East Jerusalem. That's discrimination. I have no problem with Arabs buying apartments in west Jerusalem, just as I'm in favor of Jews buying in the eastern part of the city."

Peace Now denounced yesterday's entry and warned that without "energetic action" by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, "extremist settlers will continue to determine facts on the ground and get the entire country entangled in East Jerusalem."