Will the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem be built on confiscated Palestinian land?


The US embassy in Israel is slated to have a new diplomatic complex in Jerusalem. IMAGE/Getty/The New Arab

The Biden administration is doubling down on its predecessor’s reckless decision to recognize Israel’s claims to Jerusalem as its capital, a break with nearly 70 years of policy. The State Department is advancing plans to erect an embassy building in Jerusalem partly on land stolen by Israel shortly after its establishment from Palestinian refugees, including American citizens.

In 2017, the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved its embassy there from Tel Aviv in 2018. Since then, the embassy has been housed in the neighborhood of Arnona, in what had been the consulate building. In November, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee published detailed blueprints provided by U.S. officials in 2021 for a diplomatic compound on a tract once known as the Allenby Barracks.

The majority of the Allenby Barracks site is owned by Palestinians, including parts of it by my family, whose roots in Jerusalem go back more than 1,000 years. My ancestors and many other Jerusalem families rented this land to Britain at the tail end of its rule over Palestine.

While State Department officials have not confirmed these plans publicly, they have stated that the new embassy will be in Jerusalem — which the Biden administration has affirmed is recognized by Washington as Israel’s capital. “The United States has not yet made a decision on which site to pursue,” a spokesperson told The Intercept. “A number of factors, including the history of the sites, will be part of our site selection process.”

Yet the plans submitted for the new embassy and made public by Israeli authorities clearly indicate that the project on the Allenby Barracks site is moving ahead.

Our title to this land is clear. Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, recently unearthed the rental contracts from Israeli state archives, which document how Britain signed lease agreements to rent this site from our family and others through 1948. But after Israel’s founding, the government took over that property and for several years the border police used it as a station. Since then, it has sat vacant.

This year is the 75th since the nakba, meaning “catastrophe” in Arabic. The nakba refers to the imposition of Israel’s rule in 1948 over more than three-quarters of Palestine against the wishes of the majority-Palestinian inhabitants, hundreds of thousands of whom it drove out of their homes or forced to flee.

Instead of permitting these Palestinian refugees to return to their homes as called for by international law and United Nations resolutions supported by the United States, Israel destroyed hundreds of Palestinian villages, and confiscated from Palestinians whatever property it deemed useful.

Columbia University Center for Palestine Studies for more

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