Turkish Government to Return Seized Property to Religious Minorities

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sebnem Arsu

ANKARA, Turkey — The Turkish government said it would return hundreds of properties that were confiscated from religious minorities by the state or other parties over the years since 1936, and would pay compensation for properties that were seized and later sold.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the announcement on Sunday to representatives of more than 150 Christian and Jewish trusts gathered at a dinner he hosted in Istanbul to break the day’s Ramadan fast. The government decree to return the properties, bypassing nationalist opposition in Parliament, was issued late Saturday.

The European Union, which Turkey has applied to join, has pressed the country to ease or eliminate laws and policies that discriminate against non-Muslim religious groups, including restrictions on land ownership. Many of the properties, including schools, hospitals, orphanages and cemeteries, were seized after 1936 when trusts were called to list their assets, and in 1974 a separate ruling banned the groups from purchasing any new real estate.

Disputes over the groups’ properties have tied up Turkish and European courts for decades, and the European Court for Human Rights has ordered Turkey to pay compensation in several cases related to religious minority rights in recent years.

“Like everyone else, we also do know about the injustices that different religious groups have been subjected to because of their differences,” Mr. Erdogan said at the dinner, according to the semiofficial Anatolian News Agency. “Times that a citizen of ours would be oppressed due to his religion, ethnic origin or different way of life are over.”

In contrast with its staunchly secular predecessors, the Islam-inspired government of Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, known as A.K.P., has been more sympathetic and attentive to Turkey’s non-Muslims, including Jews and Christians. It has enacted a number of measures since 2002 to bring Turkish law more into compliance with European Union standards on minority rights, so that Turkey’s application to join the union could advance.

The decree issued on Saturday removed legal impediments that had continued to block the return of the properties even after amendments were enacted in recent years to allow it.

“There have been changes made to existent legislation at least five times since the government of the A.K. Party, but they have not been very satisfactory in practice,” said a Greek government official who asked not to be identified because of his diplomatic position. “We hope this time the changes would make a real difference in implementation.”

Less than 1 percent of Turkey’s 74 million people belong to religious minorities; there are about 120,000 Christians of different denominations, including Greek Orthodox, and about 25,000 Jews.

A version of this article appeared in print on August 29, 2011, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Turkish Government to Return Seized Property to Religious Minorities.

13-36

Drafting a Land Contract 101

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil Daudi, Esq.

As the banking industry continues to monitor with great strictness on who is a prime candidate for a mortgage, more and more people are turning towards an alternative method when it comes to purchasing real estate – a land contract.

A land contract is an agreement between the buyer and seller, whereby the seller provides financing to the buyer for the buyer to purchase the property on an agreed upon purchase price. Typically, once such an agreement is drafted, the buyer puts a minimal down-payment, and subsequently agrees to make monthly installments to the seller that goes towards the total purchase price; and after a certain period, the buyer is to make a balloon payment for the balance remaining. Under such an agreement, the seller continues to hold legal title to the property; however the buyer is entitled to possession of the home. It is only after the buyer pays the total purchase price that the seller transfers legal title over to the buyer.

As it remains difficult for people to be approved for mortgages, a land contract provides the buyer with the luxury of not having to go through a lending institution for financing. Therefore, if you are someone with a poor credit rating, you can still purchase a home through a land contract without your rating being reviewed, as the contract is strictly between the buyer and seller.
If you, or someone you know, are currently involved in a land contract transaction, or are on the verge of entering into one, it is always advised to consult with a professional attorney to make sure you have a sound agreement in place. However, as a starter, the following are three (3) commonly overlooked headings that often don’t get the attention they deserve in an agreement, but can cause substantial problems down the road.

1.    Names and Purchase Price: Too often people forget to include the names of the parties involved in the agreement. As important as it is, people tend to overlook this information. In addition to including the names of the parties, it is imperative to include, with clarity, the breakdown of the purchase price, including the down payment, monthly payments, interest rate, whether there is a balloon payment expected, and the term of years.

2.    Description: Another commonly overlooked heading is the description of the property being sold. Aside from the actual address of the property, it is highly advised to include the legal description of the property.

3.    Possession: Remember, throughout the period where the buyer is making payments to the seller, the seller has full legal title to the property; however the buyer has possession interest. Therefore, in order for the buyer to become the actual owner of the property, they must satisfy the terms of the contract and then receive title ownership from the seller.

4.    Utilities: Far too many people assume the buyer (or seller) will be paying for utilities. Having such a clause in your agreement will avoid future issues and will make it explicitly clear on whose responsibility it is. In the event the buyer fails to make consistent payments on its utility bills, the seller has the necessary evidence to prove it was the buyer’s responsibility; therefore the buyer must reimburse the seller for any payments made.

Despite the many advantages a land contract can offer, without the proper drafting it can just as easily be a disadvantageous document. It is therefore always advised to consult with a professional prior to signing any such contract. It is always better to seek counsel once and live with the peace of mind of knowing that the agreement is sound and drafted to serve your best interest.

Adil Daudi is an Attorney at Joseph, Kroll & Yagalla, P.C., focusing primarily on Asset Protection for Physicians, Physician Contracts, Estate Planning, Business Litigation, Corporate Formations, and Family Law. He can be contacted for any questions related to this article or other areas of law at adil@josephlaw.net or (517) 381-2663.

13-27

Islamic Trusts Could Revive Gulf Property Market

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Shaheen Pasha

2011-05-28T211614Z_2103306788_GM1E75T0ESH01_RTRMADP_3_EMIRATES

A dhow sails during the Al-Gaffal 60ft traditional dhow sailing race between the island of Sir Bu Nair near the Iranian coast, and Dubai May 28, 2011.

REUTERS/Stringer

DUBAI, June 2 (Reuters) – Jordanian Ashraf Hamdan began investing in Dubai’s real estate market in 2006, with a few modest rental investment forays before turning his sights on flashier projects as a wave of luxury developments hit the market.

The real estate bust in 2008 left investors like Hamdan with half-finished projects sitting in the desert sun and losses that were unlikely to be recouped.

“It was a costly learning experience for a real estate investor,” said the 53-year-old businessman. “But real estate is in our blood here in the Arab world. It’s a tangible investment, and from an Islamic perspective, that appeals to me.

“I’m just going to be looking for smarter, alternative ways to get into the market in the future.”

The emergence of Islamic real estate investment trusts (REIT) in the Middle East, which offer the chance to own shares in a portfolio of real estate assets with a steady paid dividend from the income earned on those assets, may lure investors like Hamdan back to the sector again.

Islamic REITS differ from their conventional counterparts by banning investment in any assets that pay interest or conduct business in any forbidden industry, like gambling, alcohol or adult entertainment.

Aside from providing an alternative investment in the Gulf Islamic finance industry it could also inject more transparency and regulation in a property sector plagued by unrealistic expectations of returns and occasionally murky dealings.

“Over the last two or three years, people have been in freeze mode where the focus was cash and other liquid things,” said Daniel Diembers, principal at Booz & Company in Dubai.

“The Dubai bubble really helped the (property) market to mature. Now is the moment where it is all shifting. There is a lot of wealth up for grabs.”

Globally, the market capitalisation for REITs was around $570 billion at the end of 2009, a 2010 Ernst & Young study said. Islamic REITs play a small role, with Asia serving as the predominant hub for sharia-compliant trusts.

Renewed Confidence

Malaysia’s Axis Global Industrial real estate investment trust (REIT) is planning an initial public offering with an asset size of $1.05 billion, making it the world’s largest Islamic REIT.

Islamic REITs launched in Bahrain and Kuwait have been relatively small in size – Bahrain’s Inovest REIT and Kuwait’s Al Mahrab Tower REIT launched with less than $95 million in capital each – and neither has been publicly listed.

But an anticipated infrastructure boom in hot markets such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar and the launch of the UAE’s first Islamic REIT may buoy faith in real estate investments, creating a wider niche for the Sharia-compliant trusts to thrive.

Emirates REIT, which launched with seed capital from Islamic lender Dubai Islamic Bank last November, is aimed at medium-income investors and offers returns of 6 to 8 percent annually, said Mark Inch, director of Eiffel Holding and founding shareholder of Emirates REIT.

“There is a discipline and transparency that comes with a regulated REIT,” he said. “Buildings will not only be properly managed but financial management will also be completely transparent. It’s a prerequisite of bringing back confidence.”

Emirates REIT has 40 deals under review ranging between 40 million dirhams to 500 million dirhams and will be fully operational by the summer, Inch said. An initial public offering is planned within 18 months to two years once it secures assets of 1.5 billion dirhams.

The interest is growing. National Bank of Abu Dhabi is considering creating an Islamic REIT while the FTSE Group may develop an Islamic REIT index as the industry grows globally, officials at both said.
The Gulf region has dabbled in the REIT market over the years with little success.

A 2008 Islamic REIT launched by Saudi Arabia’s Sumou Holding and Geneva-based Encore Management fizzled in the kingdom as the financial crisis sapped enthusiasm. Other attempts to launch a REIT in the region, including a conventional one by troubled property developer Nakheel, were quickly squashed.

Asia, by comparison, has seen a boom in sharia-compliant REITS. Malaysia, considered to be at the forefront of Islamic finance, launched its first Islamic REIT in 2006. Singapore’s Sabana REIT, launched in 2010, was 2.5 times oversubscribed and saw heavy investor interest from the Gulf.

The Gulf has been held back by the slow pace of innovation in the real estate sector, as well as the Islamic finance industry in general, experts said.

In contrast to Malaysia, where the government is active in creating a strong regulatory environment, there is no regulatory standardisation in the Middle East. And investors are understandably wary of investing in a new real estate venture given the spectacular property collapse in the region.

Oz Ahmed, associate director of wholesale banking at HSBC Amanah in Malaysia, said Mideast investors seem ready for homegrown REITS given the high participation in Asian ones.

“There’s definite potential for issuers within the GCC to identify assets but people have to become comfortable with them,” he said.

“We’ve gotten to the point where we’re working well in the banking paradigm. Now practitioners are looking to develop products that come closer to Islamic finance principles.” (Editing by Amran Abocar and Jon Hemming)

13-24

Five Tips About the First-Time Homebuyer Credit Documentation Requirements

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Special Edition Tax Tip 2010-02

Claiming the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit on your 2009 tax return might mean a larger refund but it can seem complex. Are you confused about the documentation requirements? The IRS recognizes that the settlement documents can vary from location to location, so here are five tips to clarify the documentation requirements.

1. Settlement Statement: Purchasers of conventional homes must attach a copy of Form HUD-1 or other properly executed Settlement Statement.

2. Properly Executed Settle Statement: Generally, a properly executed settlement statement shows all parties’ names and signatures, property address, sales price and date of purchase. However, settlement documents, including the Form HUD-1, can vary from one location to another and may not include the signatures of both the buyer and seller. In areas where signatures are not required on the settlement document, the IRS encourages buyers to sign the settlement statement when they file their tax return — even in cases where the settlement form does not include a signature line.

3. Retail Sales Contract: Purchasers of mobile homes who are unable to get a settlement statement must attach a copy of the executed retail sales contract showing all parties’ names and signatures, property address, purchase price and date of purchase.

4. Certificate of Occupancy: For a newly constructed home, where a settlement statement is not available, attach a copy of the certificate of occupancy showing the owner’s name, property address and date of the certificate.

5. Long-Time Residents: If you are a long-time resident claiming the credit, the IRS recommends that you also attach documentation covering the five-consecutive-year period such as Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement or substitute mortgage interest statements, property tax records or homeowner’s insurance records.

For more information about the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit and the documentation requirements, visit IRS.gov/recovery.

12-10

Disengaging America from the Israel Lobby

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

No taxation by a foreign government without representation” is a basic American principle. Yet, the taxation currently endured by US taxpayers because of the Israel Lobby far exceeds the level of taxation by the British that led to the American Revolution. Pro-Israel organisations do everything possible to prevent Americans from openly discussing the fact that they are being taxed without consent.

Through subversion Israel advocates have orchestrated passage of the Patriot Act, Homeland Security abuses, and other erosions of civil liberties. Pro-Israel organisations file lawsuits to keep the question of Israel investments off local ballots. Jewish communal organisations bribe elected public officials with free trips to Israel to gain their support — even against the will of the majority of their constituents!

Financing Israel at the expense of basic American values victimises every citizen to benefit a very small sub-group of the population and also creates worldwide anti-US hostility, which puts all Americans at risk of terrorist retaliation. Obeying the Israel lobby goes against all logical American self-interest. Obeying Zionist pressure to invade several countries at once means watching America commit suicide, economically and politically, for the sake of Israel. Zionist activists are a real and present danger to the USA. They should be stripped of their US citizenship and sent to Guantanamo for interrogation.

America’s free press, justice system, and democracy are dependent upon the separation of American from Israeli interests. To survive, America must disentangle itself from the Zionist web of control. The common Zionist argument that Jews should get to keep what they stole just because they’ve been sitting on other people’s property for so many years is not a valid legal argument. International law as defined by the post-WW2 Nuremburg Tribunals does not confer upon occupiers any entitlement to “security.” Zionism is nothing less than a criminal ideology that completely rejects the fundamental American principle of sacred property rights.

America stands for equal rights, which applies to property and residency rights and other legal norms such as use of public transportation and voting. The US has acknowledged the injustice involved in colonising America at the expense of the native population. Even though economic disparities still remain, Native Americans have US citizenship and are allowed to rent, buy and sell property just like other citizens. This is not true for millions of Palestinian refugees who are denied any passports while they live under Israeli curfews and martial law. It is even against Israeli law for sympathetic Jews voluntarily to reconvey stolen property that they currently hold without legitimate title to the original, rightful owners. In general, Jews cannot even sell homes to Arabs. Yet Germany returned homes stolen from the Jews in World War II to their descendants.

Many Americans are aware that the subsidisation of the Israeli military at the expense of the US taxpayer puts all Americans at risk of retaliation. Yet the criminal acts begin right under our noses here in America by bankers and real estate agents. With the deep enmeshment of Israeli agents in the United States political spectrum, the Israel Lobby acts as a mafia facilitating the looting of billions of dollars via US military acquisitions from Jewish-owned defense corporations like General Dynamics and via capital transfers including ongoing complex beneficiary-obscuring transactions. In addition to ongoing US foreign aid for weapons purchase, the USA buys billions of dollars of weapons, declares the weaponry to be obsolete and then consigns it to Israel at practically no charge. Using full-scale militarised equipment supplied and paid for by the United States, the Israeli government uses US tax money to pay the IDF to force the non-Jewish Palestinian rightful owners to vacate their own property so that subsidised real-estate magnates can bulldoze the place to build suburban-style condos for foreigners outfitted with supplies from Home Depot and JCPenney.

As the Israeli government orchestrates increasing demand for Palestinian property, ordinary American Jews wishing to escape their credit card debts buy up stolen Palestinian property by means of mortgages that roll in existing indebtedness at subsidised interest rates. American Jewish purchasers can then resell the stolen properties at a profit and return debt-free to the USA with cash in their pockets. This outrageous criminal conspiracy takes place in broad-daylight generally under the aegis of taxpayer subsidised Zionist “charities” that encourage “Aliyah” (Jewish ascension to Israel).

Are American law enforcement officials investigating this racist organised crime network operating in full daylight? The Jews who move into this stolen property are participating in an international crime. The FBI should be attending all the Pro-Israel training workshops that take place on US soil and that promote both the subversion of all our basic national beliefs and also the looting of the US economy. The United States has no choice but to start investigating, arresting, charging, prosecuting, convicting and incarcerating American citizens participating in the Zionist settlement process.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women. Joachim Martillo contributed to this article.

11-38

China House Hunting to Rev up Economy

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Simon Rabinovitch

BEIJING, Aug 18 (Reuters) – The Chinese government is attempting to pass the baton of growth from state-funded infrastructure investment to the private housing sector, a risky but necessary move to sustain the economic recovery.

Construction cranes sprouting in big cities, busy furniture shops and soaring property sales all show that the transition is going smoothly so far, though officials are wary that house prices may rise too high, too quickly.

China’s biggest listed property developer, Vanke <000002.SZ>, lifted its housing starts target for this year by 45 percent, while its rival Poly Real Estate <600048.SS> said sales in January-July rose 143 percent from a year earlier.

On the ground, construction firms, big and small, are trying to meet the demand, last years’ downturn now a distant memory.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a day off. Several months, I think, though I can’t remember exactly,” said Zhang Minghui, owner of a small building company in Beijing.

“From late last year to early this year, we basically had nothing to do. Everybody was careful with their money because of the crisis and so projects got delayed.”
Zhang cut his staff to three in November but is now back up to a crew of 14.

The economic importance of the property sector in China is hard to overstate. Investment in residential housing accounted for about 10 percent of gross domestic product before a property boom turned to bust in 2008, roughly the same as the contribution from the country’s vaunted export factories.

The government’s first steps last year to revive the stalling Chinese economy were to offer tax cuts to encourage home purchases, followed by rules to ease access to mortgages.

These are bearing fruit.

With housing investment up an annual 11.6 percent in the first seven months, Chinese growth momentum is broadening out and the central government has been able to slow the pace of its stimulus spending on infrastructure.

But Beijing must strike a fine balance in its bid to kick-start the housing market.

On the one hand, it wants rising prices to persuade house hunters to stop putting off purchases and to get developers to invest in new projects. On the other hand, it is wary of prices rising too quickly, luring speculators into the market and turning it into an asset bubble, not an economic driver.

“Because it is closely linked to so many industries, volatility in the real estate market will inevitably lead to macroeconomic volatility,” the government-run China Economic Times warned on Monday.

The housing market rebound in Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and other big cities means that prices are already back to their 2007 peak, the report noted.

While prices are high, a surge in sales has depleted housing inventories and developers need to break ground to catch up, Ken Peng, an economist at Citigroup in Beijing, said.

That the Chinese property sector is at a turning point, just getting back on its feet, is seen in the differing fortunes of shops at the Shilihe hardware market in east Beijing.

Those selling goods for early stages of construction, such as tiles, say business is strong. Vendors of lights, among the final purchases for a new home, say it is only now perking up.

“We have done some sales to attract shoppers. But we have actually started scaling these back,” said Chen Yu, a saleswoman at Jushang Lights.

The government can take heart in how most of the real estate money has been spent to date.

Investment in property construction was up a fifth in western China — the part of the country with the biggest need for new housing — in June compared with a year earlier. Wealthier coastal areas in the east, which are already heavily built up, saw a 4.4 percent rise.

But officials are wary of another boom in housing prices paving the way for yet another bust. A handful of Chinese cities have made mortgage lending terms on second homes stiffer to try to keep speculators at bay.

Several real estate agents said the market seemed to have cooled over the past few weeks.

Shanghai Xinyi, a real estate agency in China’s financial centre, said transactions in August fell by half from July.

A salesman surnamed Luo at a Shenzhen branch of Centaline China confirmed that business has slowed down from its brisk pace in the first half.

“It was not rare for house sellers to cancel their original contracts and lift their asking price, even if it meant paying a penalty,” he said by phone. “But the momentum has weakened in August. We could feel the effect of the government’s tightening-up of loans for second homes.”

However, Dong Tao, an economist with Credit Suisse in Hong Kong, offered another explanation of the drop in transactions.

Soaring demand gobbled up whatever homes were on the market and so developers simply must build more, he said in a research note. But it takes time to buy land and obtain approvals.

“After many sites have passed the paperwork phase, we expect housing construction to rise significantly over the summer time.”

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Graphics by Catherine Trevethan; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

11-36

Why Jerusalem? Israel’s Hidden Agenda

July 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dan Lieberman

Three huge granite stones rest comfortably on the top of Midbar Sinai Street, in Givat Havatzim, Jerusalem’s northernmost district. Cut to specification, the imposing stones represent one of several preparations by the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement to erect a Third Temple on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. Since the Islamic Wafq owns and controls all the property on the Haram al-Sharif, these stones cannot be legally transferred to the Temple Mount nor can a Temple be constructed there? The provocation, represented by the stones, which the Israel government refuses to curtail, lead to a belief that an eventual Muslim reaction to the increasing provocations will give Israel an excuse to seize total control of the Holy Basin – the ultimate of the properties that Israel intends to incorporate into a greater Jerusalem.

For decades, Israeli authorities have spoken of a united Jerusalem – suggesting a spiritual quality to its message – as if Israel wants the home for the three monotheistic faiths to be solid and stable. By being guided from one central authority, a united Jerusale m also offers a preservation of a common and ancient heritage. However, Israel disguises the lack of a sufficiently supporting and verifiable historical narrative that could bolster its thrust to incorporate all of an artificially created greater Jerusalem into its boundaries. Coupled with inconsistencies and contradictions, Israel’s eagerness to create a greater Jerusalem under its total control becomes suspect. The intensive concentration on a ‘united’ Jerusalem reveals a hidden agenda that debases Jerusalem’s religious ingathering and heightens division, hatred and strife.

Examine the Holy Basin. The Holy Basin contains well marked Christian and Muslim institutions and holy places that have had historical placement for millenniums. Although people of the Jewish faith had major presence in Jerusalem during the centuries of Biblical Jerusalem, which included rule by King Hezekiah and control by the Hasmonean dynasties, their control and presence were interrupted for two millennia. Extensive commentary has enabled the two thousand years of lack of control and presence to seem as if it never happened and that today is only a short interval from the ancient years of Hezekiah. Almost one thousand years of Christian and Crusader rule and more than one thousand years of Muslim rule are politely ignored, while their tremendous constructions and creation are not credited. Almost everything becomes nothing and a minor something becomes everything. Myth replaces reality. Spiritual quality replaces actual presence.

Some remains of Jewish dwellings and ritual baths can be found, but few if any major Jewish monuments, buildings or institutions from the Biblical era exist in the “Old City” of today’s Jerusalem. The often cited Western Wall is the supporting wall for Herod’s platform and is not directly related to the Second Temple. No remains of the Jewish Temple have been located in Jerusalem.

According to Karen Armstrong, in her book Jerusalem, Jews did not pray at the Western Wall until the Mamluks in the 15th century allowed them to move their congregations from a dangerous Mount of Olives and pray daily at the Wall. At that time she estimates that there may have been no more than 70 Jewish families in Jerusalem. After the Ottomans replaced the Mamluks, Suleiman the Magnificent issued a formal edict in the 16th century that permitted Jews to have a place of prayer at the Western Wall.

The only remaining major symbol of Jewish presence in Jerusalem’s Holy City is the Jewish quarter, which Israel cleared of Arabs and rebuilt after 1967. During its clearing operations, Israel demolished the Maghribi Quarter adjacent to the Western Wall, destroyed the al-Buraq Mosque and the Tomb of the Sheikh al-Afdhaliyyah, and displaced about 175 Arab families. Although the Jewish population in previous centuries comprised a large segment of the Old City (estimates have 7000 Jews during the mid-19th century), the Jews gradually left the Old City and migrated to new neighborhoods in West Jerusalem, leaving only about 2000 Jews in the Old City. Jordanian control after the 1948 war reduced the number to nil. By 2009, the population of the Jewish quarter in the Old City had grown to 3000, or nine percent of the Old City population. The Christian, Armenian and Muslim populations are the principal constituents and their quarters contain almost the entire Old City commerce.

In an attempt to attach ancient Israel to present day Jerusalem, Israeli authorities continue the attachment of spurious labels to Holy Basin landmarks, while claiming the falsification is due to the Byzantines, who got it all wrong.

King David’s Tower’s earliest remains were constructed several hundred years after the Bible dates David’s reign. It is a now an obvious Islamic minaret.

King David’s Citadel earliest remains are from the Hasmonean period (200 B.C.). The Citadel was entirely rebuilt by the Ottomans between 1537 and 1541.

King David’s tomb, located in the Dormition Abbey, is a cloth-covered cenotaph (no remains) that honors King David. It has not been verified that the casket relates to David.

The Pools of Solomon, located in a village near Bethlehem, are considered to be part of a Roman construction during the reign of Herod the Great. The pools supplied water to an aqueduct that carried water to Bethlehem and to Jerusalem.

The Stables of Solomon, under the Temple Mount, are more likely a construction of vaults that King Herod built in order to extend the Temple Mount platform.
Absalom’s Tomb is an obvious Greek sculptured edifice and therefore cannot be the tomb of David’s son.

The City of David contains artifacts that date before and during king David’s time. Some archaeologists maintain there is an insufficient number of artifacts to conclude any Israelite presence before David. In any case any Israelite presence must have been in a small and unfortified settlement.

The Jerusalem Archaeological Park within the Old City, together with the Davidson Exhibition and Virtual Reconstruction Center also tell the story. Promising to reveal much of a Hebrew civilization, the museums shed little light on its subject. The Davidson Center highlights a coin exhibition, Jerusalem bowls and stone vessels. The Archeological Park in the Old City contains among many artifacts, Herodian structures, ritual baths, a floor of an Umayyad palace, a Roman road, Ottoman gates, and the façade of what is termed Robinson’s arch, an assumed Herodian entryway to the Temple Mount.. The exhibitions don’t reveal many, if any, ancient Hebrew structures or institutions of special significance.

Well known archaeologists, after examining excavations that contain pottery shards and buildings, concluded that finds don’t substantiate the biblical history of Jerusalem and its importance during the eras of a united Jewish kingdom under David and Solomon.

Margaret Steiner in an article titled It’s Not There: Archaeology Proves a Negative in the Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August, 1998, states

“…from the tenth century B.C.E. there is no archaeological evidence that many people actually lived in Jerusalem, only that it was some kind of public administrative center…We are left with nothing that indicates a city was here during their supposed reigns (of David and Solomon)…It seems unlikely, however, that this Jerusalem was the capital of a large state, the United monarchy, as described in Biblical texts.”

West Jerusalem is another matter. With banditry prolific and Old City gates being closed before nightfall, living outside the city gates did not appeal to the population. Philanthropist Moses Montefiore wanted to attract the Jewish population to new surroundings and constructed the first Jewish community outside of the Old City. Yemin Moshe’s first houses were completed in 1860. From that time Jewish presence played a critical role in creating a West Jerusalem. Other institutions, Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Russian Orthodox and Muslim soon ventured forth and acquired much property in the evolving West Jerusalem.

In 1948, After the Israeli army seized absolute control of West Jerusalem, the new Israeli government confiscated all West Jerusalem property owned by Muslim institutions. Reason – enemy property. Few Muslims and no mosques remain in today’s West Jerusalem.

One contradiction. By attacking and ethnically cleansing the Christian Arab communities of Deir Yassin and Ein Kerem, Israeli forces characterized Christian Palestinians as an enemy. Nevertheless, Israel did not confiscate all Christian properties, many of which are apparent in West Jerusalem. The Greek Orthodox Church owns extensive properties in West Jerusalem, many marked by its Tau + Phi symbol, which translates to ‘Sepulchre.’

Another contradiction. Israel has cared for the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives and expanded it as a heritage site. Part of the famous Muslim Mamilla cemetery in West Jerusalem has been classified as refugee property and is being prepared to be demolished for the new Museum of Tolerance.

East Jerusalem reveals more contradictions. The desire to incorporate East Jerusalem into Israel contradicts the repeated warning by Israeli leaders that co-existence is not feasible and that it is necessary to separate the Jewish and Palestinian communities. Incorporation means accepting somewhere between 160,000 and 225,000 Palestinians into a Jewish state. Or does it? Whereas the older historical Jewish neighborhoods in West Jerusalem have their characters maintained or are rebuilt in their original style, the older Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem are entirely neglected (all of Arab East Jerusalem is neglected) or destroyed. How much deterioration and destruction can Palestinians absorb before they decide to leave?

Construction of Jewish homes in East Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods proceeds and destruction of Arab homes, ei ther declared illegally constructed or illegally purchased, continues. On 44 dunums of lands that previously belonged to Palestinian families, a private company has constructed the gated community of Nof Zion and conveniently separated Palestinian Jabal Al Mukabir from other parts of East Jerusalem. No Arabs need apply. The million dollar condominiums are advertised for American investors.

The Israeli ministry of Interior has approved a plan to demolish a kindergarten and wholesale market in East Jerusalem’s Wadi Joz neighborhood in order to construct a new hotel close to the Old City and near the Rockefeller Museum. The result will be the destruction of an Arab neighborhood and its replacement by Jewish interests, which will one day join with other Jewish interests.

These are only two examples of a master plan to replace the centuries old Arab presence in East Jerusalem with a modern Jewish presence. The ancient Arab presence in an ancient land is further divided by the Separation Wall, which runs through the East Jerusalem landscape and detaches East Jerusalem from the West Bank, making it unlikely for a Palestinian state to have its capital in East Jerusalem. The master plan extends the boundaries of Jerusalem to include the large Israeli settlement (city) of Maale Adumim. Between Maale Adumim and East Jerusalem, Israel proposes to construct the E1 corridor, which joins settlements in a ring and adds to the separation of East Jerusalem from the West Bank. The E1 corridor will divide the northern and southern West Bank and will impede direct transit between Palestine Bethlehem, which is south of E1 and Palestine Ramallah, which is north of E1. Construction of the E1 corridor, portions of which are owned by Palestinians, could prevent the formation of a viable Palestinian state.

So, if Israel is destroying Jerusalem’s heritage and subjugating its spiritual meaning, why does Israel want to unify Jerusalem?

Israel is a physically small and relatively new country with an eager population and big ambitions. It needs more prestige and wants to be viewed as a power broker on the world stage. To gain those perspectives Israel needs a capital city that commands respect, contains ancient traditions and is recognized as one of the world’s most important and leading cities. Almost all of the world’s principal nations, from Egypt to Germany to Great Britain, have capitals that are great cities of the world. To assure its objectives, Israel wants an oversized Jerusalem that contains the Holy City. That’s not all.

Jerusalem has significant tourism that can be expanded and provide new commercial opportunities as an entry to all of the Mid-East. An indivisible Jerusalem under Israeli control is worth a lot of shekels.

Israel competes with the United States as the focus of the Jewish people. It needs a unique Jerusalem to gain recognition as the home of Judaism.

By controlling all of the holy sites, Israel commands attention from Moslem and Christian leaders. These leaders will be forced to talk with Israel and Israel will have a bargaining advantage in disputes.

Whatever Israel gains the Palestinians are denied. Even if Israel agrees to the establishment of a Palestinian state, it will direct its policies to limit the effectiveness of that state. Since East Jerusalem and its holy sites greatly benefit a Palestinian economy and increase Palestine legitimacy, Israel will do everything to prevent East Jerusalem being ceded to the new state of Palestine.

West Jerusalem only gives Israel a North/South capital. An indivisible Jerusalem gives Israel a forward look towards an East/West capital or a centralized capital of the land of previous biblical Jewish tribes.

The Zionist socialist ideals and the cooperative Kibbutzim received support and sympathy from idealistic world peoples for many years. Israel’s attachment to the Holocaust tragedy extended that sympathy and support to more of the world. With the end of the Zionist dream, the decline of kibbutz life and the over-popularizing of the Holocaust, Israel needs a new symbol of identity that captures world attention.

If Israel has legitimate claims to Jerusalem, then those claims should be heard and discussed in a proper forum. However, that is not the process forthcoming. The Israeli government is using illegal and illegitimate procedures, as well as deceitful and hypocritical methods to force its agenda . Israel is not presenting its case but is exerting its powers to trample all legal, moral and historical considerations.

The Museum of the Citadel of David has an inscription: The land of Israel is in the center of the world and Jerusalem is the center of the land of Israel.

This self praise was echoed at a West Jerusalem coffee house in a conversation with several Israelis, A youthful Israeli abruptly sat at the table and entered the conversation with the words: “All the world looks to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the center of the world and Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Everyone needs Jerusalem and they will need to talk with Israel.’

And that is why Israel desperately wants its greater Jerusalem.

Dan Lieberman is the editor of Alternative Insight, a monthly web based newsletter. Dan has written many articles on the Middle East conflict, which have circulated on websites and media throughout the world.

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