Israelis not welcome to derelict Jerusalem hotel

Fri Mar 26, 2010 10:39am EDT
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By Douglas Hamilton

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - It's a toxic piece of real estate with a checkered history, in a flashpoint district of a turbulent city -- hardly a realtor's dream.

The derelict Shepherd Hotel in Jerusalem was built in the 1930s for Muslim grand mufti Haj Amin Husseini, who fought the British and Zionists and became a World War Two ally of Hitler.

"Arabs, rise as one man and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them," he is quoted as saying in one Nazi radio broadcast. "This pleases God, history, and religion. This saves your honor. God is with you."

The mufti fled to Lebanon in 1937 and after Israel was created in 1948 his house was used as a British Army outpost. It was confiscated when Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967 and apparently used by Israeli justice authorities.

Plain-fronted, flat-roofed and unattractive, it was sold -- illegally say Palestinians -- to an Israeli company, and rented to a family who opened an hotel, but went bankrupt in the 1980s.

The complex was bought up by an American-Jewish entrepreneur in 1985 and rented out for 15 years to Israeli border police.

This week it became the latest thorn in the flesh of inflamed relations between Israel and the United States, because Israel has approved plans to develop a block of apartments on the site for Jews, whom the Palestinians say will swell the ranks of settlers in occupied Jerusalem land.

The hotel lies in Jerusalem's predominantly Arab Sheikh Jarrah district, where Palestinian families have been evicted and their houses ceded to Jews, creating tension in a neighborhood that now sees frequent anti-settler protests and police patrols.   Continued...

<p>Women walk in front of the compound known as the Shepherd's Hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem March 24, 2010. REUTERS/Ammar Awad</p>