Demolition of the Shepherd Hotel, in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem, began on Sunday (9/1). A construction permit was received by the hotel’s Jewish owners six months ago. However, members of the Husseini family, the previous owners of the area, disputed the permit, arguing that they still owned part of the area to be developed. They lost their case a month ago, removing the last obstacle to the plan to convert the currently uninhabited hotel complex into an apartment building containing 20 apartments. The hotel was built in the 1930s by Haj Amin al-Husseini, a prominent Palestinian Arab political leader of the day. The area was purchased by US Jewish tycoon Irving Moscowitz in 1985. Moscowitz has partnered with the Ateret Cohanim organisation in developing a number of Jewish housing projects in Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem in recent years. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton condemned the demolition.
No provision exists in Israeli law to explicitly prevent individuals on ethnic or religious grounds from buying and developing property in Jerusalem. Rather, Jews and Arabs live in neighbourhoods in the western and eastern parts of the city and the authorities do not prevent private development that has been approved lawfully.
Further reading: BICOM Briefing: Shepherd Hotel Construction – 25/3/2010