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Dror Etkes, Peace Now’s “settlement expert,” has consistently characterized the wide-spread phenomenon of illegal Arab construction in Jerusalem and environs as the product of private individuals in desperate need of housing. He has denied any political motivation to the phenomenon, but he cannot not know of the evidence for the “construction intifada” declared by Arafat in the aftermath of the terrorist intifada in 2000.
As Justus Reid Weiner demonstrates in Illegal Construction in Jerusalem, for years the Palestinian Authority (PA) received funds from Arab countries to build illegally in areas that the Jerusalem municipality had designated for public space and public buildings. As early as 2000 the PA leader Feisal el-Husseini publicly urged Jerusalem Arabs to build without permits. Documents confiscated from Arafat’s Muqata’a in Ramallah prove that PA officials requested and received massive funds for illegal construction in Jerusalem, and that local Arabs received instructions, guidance, and funds from the local PA Development Council in order to evade Israeli building laws.
In an even more egregious lie, Etkes claims that the Arabs of East Jerusalem do not have the right to vote. Yet it is an undeniable common knowledge that the Arab population of East Jerusalem does indeed have the right to vote. Etkes should read his own organization’s publications where other Peace Now researchers document East Jerusalem Arabs’ right to vote.
Perhaps the most effective nail in the coffin of Peace Now’s credibility was driven in by its own leader, Professor Aviram Goldblum. In an interview with the Israeli weekly, Iton Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Newspaper) in July, 2001, Professor Goldblum condemned Peace Now’s campaign against another Jerusalem suburb, Har Homa.
Construction in Har Homa was begun back in 1968. At that time 450 acres were designated for Israel residential construction, in a completely vacant area, not adjacent to any Arab populations. Construction was expanded in 1996 due to Israeli population growth which created a severe housing shortage in Jerusalem and environs. About 75% of the land was expropriated from Jewish land owners. The remainder was state land, not owned by any individual. At the same time that Israel began the Har Homa expansion, it also began construction of more than 3,000 housing units for Arab residents in a dozen Arab neighborhoods. Over the years from 1968 to 1996, the Arab population of Jerusalem and environs had grown so rapidly that what was once vacant land was developed by East Jerusalem Arabs, with both legal and illegal residential construction.
None the less, Peace Now took to the barricades, vigorously protesting the Har Homa project and making specious claims that the Oslo Accords precluded any Israeli construction in Jerusalem, that Har Homa would limit Arab access to Jerusalem, and that it would destroy the contiguity of Palestinian territory in the West Bank. One need only read the Oslo Accords, or look at a map of Jerusalem, to see that both these statements are blatant and transparent lies.
Professor Goldblum’s assessment of this Peace Now campaign was that it was a “…stupid campaign” and that the Peace Now claims were false.
So one must ask, when its own leader condemns it, and other of its operatives either lie through their teeth or display incredible ignorance and ineptitude, what claim to integrity and trustworthiness can Peace Now make? And if, as may indeed be the case, Peace Now is intentionally working with Arabs in the West Bank to encourage, guide, and support them to wage lawfare against Israel, is that not treason in time of war?
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