European Union Heads of Mission warn ‘touristic settlements’ are being used as a political tool

Israel is developing archaeological and tourism sites to legitimise illegal settlements in Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, European Union diplomats in the city have warned.

A leaked report acquired by the Guardian cited projects in parts of East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel since 1967 – that are being used “as a political tool to modify the historical narrative and to support, legitimise and expand settlements”.

A general view of Silwan in East Jerusalem where the government provides tours of the ruins
A general view of Silwan in East Jerusalem where the government provides tours of the ruins © nadolu Agency/Getty Images

The report identified settler-run excavation sites in the heart of majority-Arab districts, a proposed cable car project with stops on confiscated land and the designation of built-up urban areas as national parks.

“East Jerusalem is the only place where Israeli national parks are declared on populated neighbourhoods,” the report said.

The document, a report written annually by the EU Heads of Mission in Jerusalem, presented a bleak picture, saying the overall situation in the city and the prospects for peace had worsened.

Marginalisation of Palestinians, who comprise about 37% of the city’s residents, continued unabated, with more than 130 building demolitions and the displacement of 228 people, it said.

A record number of Israeli settlement proposals and the physical isolation of Palestinians under a strict Israeli permit scheme meant “the city has largely ceased to be the Palestinian economic, urban and commercial centre it used to be”.

Archaeology and tourism development by government institutions as well as private settler organisations established what it said was a “narrative based on historic continuity of the Jewish presence in the area at the expense of other religions and cultures”. Chief among them, the report warned, was the City of David, a government-funded archeological park in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan that provides tours in the ruins of ancient Jerusalem.