Weeks of strike action have ended in the Israeli court system, and the Ir Amim organization has finally been able to file a petition in Israel’s Supreme Court [or High Court] of Justice asking asking the court “to annul the agreement granting Jewish right-wing group ‘El-ad’ the authority to manage the ‘City of David’, a historic site outside the walls of the old city of Jerusalem”.
The City of David is a tourist complex with extensive archeological diggings that have caused panic and sometimes havoc in the Silwan neighborhood just outside [on the south-east corner] the crenelated wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The mosque esplanade on which both Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock sit overlooks the City of David, and the rest of Silwan (and the Mount of Olives a little further north. In recent years, Israelis have begun to refer to this area as the “Holy Basin”.
Ir Amim’s petition was originally due to be filed on 23 June, but the two-and-a-half-week-long strike in the country’s entire court system intervened.
Ir Amim means City of Nations, and the organization says it is working for a Jerusalem that is equitably shared between its two peoples and three religions.
A number of “prominent academics and civil servants” have also joined the Ir Amim petition.
The petitioners argue that “the agreement between the National Parks Authority and the right-wing organization El-ad, is illegal”. They say that “no other national park in the country is managed by a private organization, with a clear political orientation and agenda”.
The petition is filed against the Nature and Parks Authority (NPA), the Ministry of Nature Preservation, the Jerusalem municipality and the El-ad organization, according to information received from Ir Amim. And it “asks the court to file an order nisi to cancel the agreement under which the park is managed by El-ad, and return the park’s managerial authority to the NPA or another appropriate public body”.
Yehudit Oppenheimer, director of Ir Amim, stated that “The state of Israel has privatized one of the most sensitive historic sites in the country – and transferred it to the hands of a private organization with a clear political agenda … The public ‘s interest will be best served if national parks would be run by government authorities who were established for that exa.ct purpose”.
Attorney Michael Sfard, who is presenting the petition on behalf of Ir Amim with Attorney Neta Patrick, said that “The delegation of authorities to El-Ad is illegal”.
In related developments, Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat is pushing a plan to demolish some 22 Palestinian homes in the area house — in exchange for which he says some 66 Palestinian homes built without permits would be legalized, to make way for a new “archeological park” called “King’s Gardens”. Mayor Barkat has also been reluctant to enforce a court order to evacuate and seal a seven-story building built by a settler organization in the same Palestinian neighborhood, and has been trying to arrange a package deal that would accomodate together all these arrangements in some kind of package deal, despite the severe tensions created by special arrangements made to protect the few heavily-guarded Jewish families planted in this crowded and delapidated Palestinian area.
Palestinians in East Jerusalem have no agreed or effective political representation.
The actions of Israeli human organizations like Ir Amim, taken in the interests of Israeli democracy and morality, are at the same time the only existing source of support for this utterly unrepresented Palestinian East Jerusalem population.