Israel’s Supreme Court Approves Disputed Sale of Jerusalem Church Land to Settlers

Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. (Photo: via Social Media)

Israel’s Supreme Court yesterday rejected an appeal against the sale of church land in the Old City of Jerusalem to right-wing settler organization Ateret Cohanim.

Supreme Court Justice Alex Stein and Judges Yitzhak Amit and Yael Vilner yesterday ruled that the sale of the land – which took place in 2004 via international agents – was “legal”.

The court, therefore, passed the three sites to Ateret Cohanim, a right-wing settler organization which buys houses and land for illegal Jewish settlement.

The ruling will come as a blow to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem, which has been embroiled in the affair since the secret sales were made some 15 years ago.

At the time the scandal rocked the church, with then-Greek Patriarch Irenaios denying knowledge of the sales; he subsequently backtracked on his position, accusing the church’s director of finance, Nicholas Papadimas, of authorizing the sales without the church’s authorization.

The sales have sparked anger among Palestinians, particularly given the fact that many of these properties are eventually handed over to organizations such as Ateret Cohanim.

Ateret Cohanim has been at the forefront of attempts to forcibly evict Palestinians from their homes, notably in the Jerusalem neighborhoods Silwan – which lies just outside the Old City walls – and Sheikh Jarrah, encouraging illegal Israeli settlement in the Holy City.

Selling or attempting to sell land to Jewish-Israelis is considered a crime by the Palestinian authorities and is punishable by hard labor, imprisonment or death. However, no death penalties have been signed off by PA President Mahmoud Abbas since 2006.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

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