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How settlers took over a Palestinian home in Jerusalem’s Old City | Jerusalem

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Occupied East Jerusalem – One evening in October, Adeeb Joudeh woke up at around 1:30am with news that Jewish settlers were moving into his former house in the Old City.

Joudeh was in shock as he had sold his house to Khaled Attari, a Palestinian businessman, just six months ago, after spending six years trying to find a trustworthy buyer.  

“For the whole family, it’s like the sky has fallen on our heads,” Joudeh told Al Jazeera from his parents’ house in Sheikh Jarrah.

“We’re a long-rooted family here in Jerusalem. We were very diligent in making sure that the person who buys this property is clean. And then our fears came true when we heard that our home was leaked to the settlers.”

“We wouldn’t wish this even on our worst enemy.”

His former house located in a prime location just a two minute walk from the Holy al-Aqsa Mosque now reportedly belongs to Ateret Cohanim – a settler organisation whose purpose is to Judaise the Old City and its surroundings.

Joudeh holds the title of key holder of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City, one of Christianity’s most sacred sites. His ancestors have served as custodians of the keys since the 12th century.

Not only has his family’s reputation been damaged and is under pressure to relinquish the key, but Joudeh has also received death threats from fellow Palestinians over the sale, a grave crime.





‘I’m one of those people who trusted the reference checks [by the PA], but today I’m in trouble,’ Joudeh said [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]

Under PA law, the selling of land and property to Jews is illegal. The laws aim to protect Palestinian properties from Zionist settler takeovers.

While this isn’t the first time a Palestinian home has been transferred to a settler group through an intermediary, it has provoked a wave of reactions among the residents of Jerusalem as the case raises questions about the possible involvement of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Due diligence

Joudeh says he had done his due diligence to make sure his house ends up in safe hands.

He says he was first approached in 2014 by Fadi Elsalameen, an American-Palestinian activist from Hebron known for his criticism of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA’s corruption, and a non-resident fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute at John Hopkins School of Advanced Studies.

Since it was Nabil Jaabari, a respected leader and chairman of the board of Hebron University who had suggested Elsalameen, Joudeh felt confident that he had a trustworthy buyer.

Through his contacts in the Gulf, Elsalameen learned that an Emirati business conglomerate was interested in protecting Palestinian homes from settlers and that they would transfer $2.5m as a grant to buy the house.

However, shortly after Elsalameen proceeded with a down payment of $1.5m, the PA reportedly froze his bank funds for allegedly having ties with Mohammed Dahlan, a former Gaza security chief living in exile in the UAE and Abbas’ most bitter rival.

With Elsalameen unable to transfer the rest of the money, Joudeh cancelled the contract.





Israeli flags are raised in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter in occupied East Jerusalem [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera] [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]

Elsalameen, however, has denied accusations of being Dahlan’s proxy.

“I’m not a part of Dahlan’s political movement, I’m not part of Dahlan’s political orbit, I do not work for Dahlan. I have nothing to do with any political work for Dahlan whether inside or outside of Palestine,” Elsalameen told Al Jazeera.

“The PA has continuously tried to discredit me in every possible way, mainly because of my anti-corruption work.”

Joudeh was then contacted by Khaled Attari, a Palestinian businessman. He’s considered to have close ties with the PA, particularly its intelligence chief Majed Faraj, according to Israel‘s Haaretz newspaper.

Prior to making the deal with Attari, the PA’s appointed governor of Jerusalem at the time, Adnan Husseini, gave Joudeh the green light to sell his home to Attari.

It’s a standard practice for Jerusalemites to confirm with the governorate prior to selling one’s home, as it consults with the PA’s specialised security forces, who complete a check on the buyer.

Since the PA had given their blessing, Joudeh sold the house on April 23, 2018 to Attari.

The same day, Attari transferred ownership of the home from his name to his company, Daho Holdings, registered in the West Indies to save on taxes, Joudeh said.

Some six months later, settlers moved into the house. Ateret Cohanim had reportedly bought the house from Daho Holdings for $17m.

Arrests

Sheikh Abdullah al-Qam, the secretary general representing the families of Jerusalem, formed a committee to investigate the case. Qam told Al Jazeera they had obtained documents which prove that Attari did sell the home to settlers.

The same month, the Israeli police arrested members of the committee, including Qam, for investigating the case, Qam said. Upon his release, Qam was told not to pursue the investigation.

But this didn’t deter the group and they quickly planned for another session. This time, the PA intervened and made the same demand as the Israeli authorities, breaking up the committee, Qam told Al Jazeera.

“I was asked by one of the official representatives of the PA, Adel Abu Zunied [to stop the investigation],” Qam said.

“The PA gave their blessing and approval that the house would be sold to Khalid Attari… The $17m, where did it go? It went to the PA,” Qam alleged.

The spokesperson for the PA’s security service could not be reached for comment.

Jerusalem’s political orphans

The problem of homes being leaked to settlers is emblematic of a larger problem – Jerusalem’s 330,000 Palestinians turning into “political orphans” due to the absence of a “unified political leadership that can guide” them, as journalist Daoud Kuttab wrote in his article about the case.

Khaled Abu Arafeh, former minister for Jerusalem affairs during the 2006-2007 Palestinian government led by Hamas, told Al Jazeera that the PA should submit formal complaints for legal action to be taken against Israel as it had breached the Oslo Accords.






Israel PM urged to expand illegal settlements ahead of election

“Contracts between the local civilian population and the occupying power are considered null and void under international law,” Arafeh said, noting that this includes contracts with settler organisations as they are funded by the Israeli government.

“The PA is meant to exercise its role in Jerusalem especially to combat this problem. They should have held Israel accountable via Oslo agreements for attempting to change the demographic of the city.”

“It is also the responsibility of international organisations to uphold their commitments towards Jerusalem, to implement the relevant international agreements that consider Jerusalem as occupied land, and to not leave Jerusalemites under the mercy of occupying forces,” Arafeh said.

“The PA has been doing a poor job at addressing the issue. It has only taken superficial steps so far and that’s just to save face in front of the Palestinian people.”





Israeli flags flying above the home of Palestinian family Abu Sneina whose building was occupied by Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem’s Silwan in 2015 [Ahmad Gharabli/AFP]

Al Akhbar news reported in 2016 that eight of the 10 houses on the same street as Joudeh’s former home had already been leaked to settlers over the past few years.

Some 2,500 settlers currently live in about 100 buildings in Palestinian neighbourhoods in and around the Old City.

Fakhri Abu Diab, spokesperson for a local committee defending Palestinian properties in Silwan just outside the Old City, told Al Jazeera that a new, independent body is needed, run by renowned individuals and institutions in Jerusalem in order to properly vet potential buyers and make sure the homes remain in safe hands.

However, their calls for a new body have gone unanswered for years from the Palestinian leadership including the governor of Jerusalem, Abu Diab said.





A Palestinian boy walks by the densely-populated Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan. By fair means or foul, Jewish settlers have been notching up property gains in the heart of Palestinian East Jerusalem through a series of shady deals involving local frontmen or straw companies [Ahmad Gharabli/AFP]

A similar situation arose in 2014 when a Palestinian businessman from Israel offered to buy Palestinian homes in Silwan.

The buyer presented himself as having connections with wealthy businessmen in the Emirates and claimed that the properties would be used to house Muslim tourists visiting the holy al-Aqsa Mosque, according to locals.

After the sale was made, settlers accompanied by police and armed guards moved into their homes.






Thousands of East Jerusalem Palestinians face demolition threat

“It was the biggest deal of its kind to have taken place in Silwan when 27 houses were sold to him at once,” Abu Diab said.

According to him, there are currently 72 settler housing units in Silwan, 43 of which were leaked to settlers.

Palestinians are in a difficult position as they resort to selling their homes in order to make ends meet amid crippling poverty. Eighty-two percent of East Jerusalem residents live below the poverty line.

“It is one thing when the occupation confiscates or demolishes your home by force, but it’s another when it comes in the form of being presented to settlers on a gold platter,” Abu Diab said.

“It’s a painful phenomenon that has created a black mark on our society.”

Farah Najjar contributed to this report.

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Tiger-Cats claim victory against the Argos to maintain home record on Labour Day

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were at their devastating best against the Toronto Argonauts when the two locked horns on Labour Day at the Tim Hortons Field.

Just like with previous Labour Day fixtures, the Ticats produced a stellar performance with Dane Evans throwing two touchdown passes while Frankie Williams scored on a 67-yard punt return as they claimed a 32-19 victory on Monday. With this vital win, the Ticats extended their Labour Day home record to 7-0.

For players and fans of the Tiger-Cats, games on Labour Day are a lot more special and losing is something the Ticats aren’t used to.

“We know the fans are going to be behind us, we know Toronto is going to be chippy, we know it’s going to be sunny; we know it’s going to be windy. Everything that happened (Monday) we prepared for. There is something extremely special about Tim Hortons Field on Labour Day . . . you can feel it in the air, I can’t put it into words,” said Evans.

After the COVID-19 induced hiatus, the CFL is back in full action and fans can now bet on their favourite teams and just like with online slots Canada, real money can be won. Hamilton (2-2) recorded its second straight win to move into a tie atop the CFL East Division standings with Montreal Alouettes (2-2). Also, the Ticats lead the overall Labour Day series with Toronto 36-13-1.

In the sun-drenched gathering of 15,000—the maximum allowed under Ontario government COVID-19 protocols—the fans loved every minute of this feisty game. After all, this was the Ticats first home game in 659 days, since their 36-16 East Division final win over Edmonton in November 2019.

The contest between the Ticats and Argos was certainly not bereft of emotions, typical of a Labour Day fixture, as it ended with an on-field melee. But the Argos often found themselves on the wrong end of the decisions with several penalty calls and most of the game’s explosive plays.

Hamilton quarterback Evans completed 21-of-29 passing for 248 yards and the two touchdowns while Toronto’s make-shift quarterback Arbuckle completed 18-of-32 attempts for 207 yards. Arbuckle also made a touchdown and two interceptions before eventually being substituted by McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Bethel-Thompson made an eight-yard TD pass to wide receiver Eric Rogers late in the final quarter of the game.

“They got after us a bit . . . we didn’t block, or pass protect well,” said Ryan Dinwiddie, rookie head coach of the Argos in a post-match interview. “They just kicked our butts; we’ve got to come back and be a better team next week.”

The Labour Day contest was the first of four fixtures this year between Toronto and Hamilton. The two teams would face off again on Friday at BMO Field. Afterwards, the Tim Hortons Field will play host to the Argonauts again on Oct. 11 with the regular-season finale scheduled for Nov. 12 in Toronto.

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Roughriders looking to bounce back after Labor Day defeat

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In what an unusual feeling for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they would now need to dust themselves up after a 23-8 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in what was a Labor Day Classic showdown in front of a full capacity crowd at Mosaic stadium.

Craig Dickenson, head coach of the Riders, witnessed his team with an unbeaten record get utterly dominated by a more superior team from Winnipeg. Now, he has got a lot of work on his hands getting his team back to winning ways as they visit the Banjo Bowl next.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of now…the jury’s out,” said Dickenson.

Dan Clark, who played centre for the Riders expressed his disappointment in losing what was “the biggest game of the year”.

 “If you lose every other game, you don’t want to lose that one. We’ve just got to take the next step,” said Clark in a report. “There are 12 steps to the Grey Cup left and it’s just about taking that next step and focusing on what Saturday will bring.”

With their first defeat to Winnipeg, the Riders (3-1) now rank second place in the CFL’s West Division, trailing the Bombers by one victory (4-1). However, the Riders will have the chance to even the season series during their trip to Winnipeg this Saturday. With the CFL heating up, fans can now enjoy online sports betting Canada as they look forward to their team’s victory.

The Rider’s offensive line will once again have a busy time dealing with the Blue Bombers’ defence.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo, who played one of the best games of his career two weeks earlier, had quite a stinker against the Bombers in the Labour Day Classic—which is the most anticipated game for Rider fans.

Fajardo had a 59 per cent completion percentage which wasn’t quite indicative of what the actual figure was considering he was at 50 per cent before going on a late drive in the final quarter with the Bombers already becoming laid back just to protect the win.

Fajardo also registered a personal worst when he threw three interceptions, but in all fairness, he was always swarmed by the Bomber’s defence.

While Fajardo has claimed responsibility for the loss and letting his teammates down, many would be curious to see how the team fares in their next game and with less than a week of preparation.

Dickenson is confident that his team would improve during their rematch in the 17th edition of the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg. The only challenge now would be the loss of home advantage and dealing with the noisy home crowd, he added.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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