NEW YORK, Jan. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East is concerned about the demolition of the Shepherd's Hotel to build residential units for Jewish families in an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem and once again urges both parties to return to the negotiating table to work out the parameters of a just two-state solution.
According to Rev. Dr. Peter A. Pettit of Muhlenberg College, "Cool heads need to prevail. The regrettable action of a notoriously provocative private land owner cannot be allowed to erode further the official relations of Israel and the Palestinian Authority."
Dr. Bruce Chilton, Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College, adds, "Shepherd's Hotel was built in the 1930s by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. In 1937 the British used it as a military outpost. Jordan occupied and annexed East Jerusalem from 1948 through 1967, during which time the Mufti's proxy took control of the property. When Israel acquired East Jerusalem during the 1967 war, the property was transferred to the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property and sold in 1985 to Irving Moskowitz, an American Jew known for his housing projects in East Jerusalem."
Fair Witness does not support this sort of action because we believe that what is Arab in East Jerusalem should become part of the future Palestinian state. Under U.S. and U.K. pressure, the Jerusalem municipality refrained from expediting Moskowitz's plan until recently. However, short of the state of Israel issuing a ban on Jews buying property in East Jerusalem it is hard to see how this sort of incident can be entirely avoided as long as the borders of the Palestinian state are not defined.
"This incident underscores the need for the parties to get back to direct negotiations," notes Rev. David Harvin, pastor of Hay Street United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, NC. "While we regret that the Israeli authorities did not find a way to continue delaying the Shepherd's Hotel project, we strongly urge President Abbas to stop prolonging the uncertainty and take PM Netanyahu up on his offer of direct negotiations without preconditions. At the end of the day negotiations are the only way to solve a conflict between two parties over land."
SOURCE Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East