Sharon’s government re-occupies the Orient House, headquarters of Jerusalem governorate and other Palestinian institutions

Sharon’s government re-occupies the Orient House, headquarters of Jerusalem governorate and other Palestinian institutions


The Orient House: Historical background:

At the time when Mr. Isma'il Biik Al- Husseini, head of the Arab Education Council in the Ottoman Authority, was constructing his house, The Orient House, out side the walls of the old city of Jerusalem, Theodore Hertzil was convening the first Zionist Conference in Basil, Switzerland.   Although the founder of the Orient House didn't know that his house would become a national symbol and attract international attention, he was, in fact, denying and refuting the Zionist lie that '' Palestine is a land without people''. Nowadays, the Orient House has strongly incarnated the Palestinian historic and cultural presence in Jerusalem, in particular, and Palestine, in general.    

Once the construction of this villa was completed, the German Czar, William The First, who met Palestinian dignitaries, visited it. Then, The Ethiopian emperor visited it. Ever since, the Orient House has assumed its role as a leading Palestinian organization under different occupations and has shown no weakening in defending Palestinian national rights.


The Night attack:

 At 02:00, on 10.8.2001, Israeli occupation forces launched an attack against the Orient House, the national symbol of the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem and headquarters of the Palestinian negotiation team to Madrid  peace conference. The Palestinian flag was put down and the Israeli flag was raised in its place. In the mean while, Abu- Diss village became under Israeli attack during which the headquarters of Jerusalem governorate was occupied by Israeli troops.

The following nine Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem were  stormed and closed at the same night:

1.     The orient house and  Arab Studies Society;

2.     The Chamber of Commerce

3.     The Palestinian Prisoners' Club;

4.     The Palestinian Center For Micro- Project Development, see photo;

5.     The Land Research Center;

6.     The Higher Council of Tourism;

7.     Prisoners and Detainees Department;

8.     The Planning Department;

9.     The Social Services Department.




During the invasion, the Israeli authorities replaced the existing door lockers with new ones, and confiscated all the archives and documents from the above mentioned institutions and transferred them by trucks to unknown destination.

Eyewitnesses say that more than 500 personnel from the Israeli special task forces, border guards and police supported by dogs stormed the Orient House after they had blocked all the entrances leading to it.


In an interview with the field worker of the Land Research Center,  a foreign lady who witnesses the operation gave the following details: '' I was looking from the balcony of the hotel when I saw a huge police dog attacking a young man and throwing him to the ground. Masked men approached the young man and handcuffed him. I think he was one of the guards of the Orient House. He was led to a military car and detained.''

During the operation, eight guards of the Orient House were detained until 17:00 o'clock before they were released on bail except their chief who was set free two days after. 


In a press statement issued on the same day, Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem said that the Israeli aggression against the Orient House and other Palestinian institutions was an act of re-occupation and a continuation of the Israeli Judaization policy of the holy city. The statement stressed the Palestinians' determination to stick to their national legitimate rights and to defend these rights with all available means''.

The Israeli attack against the Orient House synchronized with a similar attack on the town of Abu- Diss east of  Jerusalem. The Israeli forces stormed the headquarters of Jerusalem governorate confiscating and stealing its contents and documents. 

  • On 12.8.2001, the Israeli forces, also, occupied the offices of the Palestinian Telecommunication Company (PLC)- Jerusalem branch, under the pretext that the Company's offices overlook the Israeli forces stationed at the nearby governorate buildings which were captured two days before. The attacking forces kicked out the entire 15 worker of PLC.

  • On 14.8.2001, an Israeli military force stormed a six floor residential building owned by Dr. Samih Ibrahim Hasan which is located at the entrance to the street leading to the governorate. The fourth floor was seized and turned to a military post under the pretext that the building overlooks the Israeli army presence in the area.  

The Israeli occupation forces opened a road to link between the governorate's headquarters and the bypass road to the west of the town to facilitate their movement in and out of the locations occupied in the town.

The Palestinians confronted the Israeli occupation of the Orient House and other institutions by holding demonstrations, protests, marches, set-ins and press conferences, which were severely quelled by the occupation forces. Dozens of protesters were injured and some of them were taken to local hospital. Foreign protest groups as well as Israeli Peace Now activists participated in these protests side by side with Palestinians.

Local, regional and international media agencies have been covering the Israeli aggression against the Orient House and other Palestinian institutions. During the period from 10-14, 8, 2001, all the institutions and premises adjacent to the Orient House which include schools, hotels, businesses and residential buildings were closed due to the strict Israeli besiege of the area.

The Israeli troops forced their way into the Dar Al- Yateem orphanage school during nighttime where dozens of girls live and study. The girls were asleep when the attack took place and many of them were scared and suffered psychological problems. Similarly, the heavily armed Israeli soldiers stormed the house of Al- Husseini family in the first floor of the Orient House and all occupants were thrown out of the building.

What the Israelis have found at the Orient House?

There is no doubt that the attacking Israelis have found no material whatsoever that causes anger, racial hatred or incitement. They found a reception hall, offices and files talking about peace scenarios drawn up by Palestinian, Israeli and international intellectuals.

They found an embroidered map for Palestine which carries no names on it, but symbols, that is: Jerusalem is shown as a place embracing holy Christian and Muslim sites; Hebron is symbolized by a grape fruit; Ramallah by an olive tree; Gaza by  a fish; Haifa by a boat of love and peace..etc.

After all, a question rises within self:' How can peace be made with someone who feels enmity and grudge towards these respectful meanings, historical and human values !?  

The Closure of the Orient House and Palestinian institutions: the Legal dimension

The Israeli position:

  • The legal advisor for the Israeli government, Eliakim Rubinshtine, considered the closure of the orient house by the Israeli government as a legal decision claiming that there is evidence that the Orient House was used as an arm for the Palestinian authority.

  • Israeli police sources consider that the closure order came in compliance with item 3/B of the law for the implementation of Oslo interim agreements which stipulates that Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem are prohibited from practicing any actions or linkages with the Palestinian authority. It is worth to mention that Israel, which tries to impose it on Palestinian institutions in east Jerusalem, unilaterally produced this law.

  • Rani Shtraus, the judge of the Israeli magistrates court in Jerusalem, decided that it was legal to storm the Orient House and other Palestinian institutions without the attendance of their owners or occupants. He, also, decided that it was legal to inspect and confiscate papers and documents under suspension in absence of their owners as well.

  • The Israeli closure order gave Palestinians 7 days as a period for administrative objection to the Israeli ministry of internal security before they can go to the high court. There is no possibility to go to the high court unless the ministry of internal security refuses to view objections.

  • An Israeli legal source confirmed that if the owners signed a commitment not to use the building for any political activities related to the Palestinian Authority the closure order could be cancelled.

The Palestinian position:   

  • East Jerusalem is still an occupied city and it is not acceptable to apply the Israeli law on it. On the contrary, the interim agreements and international law govern Jerusalem, and all Israeli attempts to enforce Israeli law are void and null.

  • What has happened to the Orient House and other Palestinian institutions was not merely a political maneuver, but  direct  implementation of the ideology of the Israeli government which aims at Judaizing Jerusalem and dispelling its Palestinian inhabitants.

  • Civic Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem are targeted by the Israeli authorities in order to abolish any formula of integrated civic society within Palestinian community in Jerusalem. The target aim of this vicious policy  has been to deal with Palestinians of east Jerusalem as mere individuals not as a community.

  • From the Palestinian point of view, it is unacceptable to deal with this issue legally and there is no intention whatsoever to do such thing as the case is a political not a legal one.

  • The lawyer of the Orient House submitted an objection to the Israeli ministry of internal security. He called for a session to hear the Palestinian objection to the closure order of the Israeli minister of internal security, Ozi Landaw. 

The International position:    

1.     In 1993, Shemon Perez, who was then foreign minister of Israel, sent an official letter to the Palestinian side in which he gave commitments not to harm Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, including all PLO's affiliated ones. The letter was considered an official document of Oslo Interim Agreements.

2.     The Orient House is the headquarters of the Palestinian negotiation team for the interim, final and multilateral negotiations.

3.     The Orient House is the address for Palestinian presence in Jerusalem where all diplomatic missions go to meet Palestinian representatives. Its closure is defiance to the whole international community.  

4.     The Orient House assumes a political role in Jerusalem while other institutions closed assume either economic, social or developmental roles.

On the other hand, all the Palestinian institutions which were closed in Abu- Diss are located in the area classified by the agreements signed as zone B, hence violating no rules of any type.

Subsequent Israeli statements:

  • 11.8.2001: Ehud Olmert, mayor of occupied Jerusalem: ''the Orient House was providing services. It is a good idea to move the offices of the National Insurance department over there''..

  • 11.8.2001: Israeli ministers: '' the use of the Orient House by Palestinians was contradictory to the agreements signed by the Palestinian Authority''.

  • 12.8.2001: Israeli ministers at a cabinet meeting: ''the Orient House was continuously used to carry out hostile activities against Israel''.

  • 12.8.2001: Ozi Landu, minister of internal security: '' The control over the Orient House is an important step to consolidate Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, and Israel will keep it for ever''.

  • 13.8.2001: The commander of Jerusalem police force: ''It is untrue that Israel will retain the Orient Hose forever, but only for half a year).

  • 13.8.2001: Under police protection, the Israeli authorities allowed members of Kakh extremist gang to wander with their cars the streets of east Jerusalem. 

  • 13.8.2001: The Israeli journalists' association ( Beit Agaron) stopped issuing press cards to Palestinian and Arab correspondents.

  • 17.8.2001: Professor Miron Ben Vinisty, head of the Israeli statistical center: '' No doubt that the actual violation of the Oslo agreements is reflected by the Israeli closure of the Orient House not by the Palestinian peaceful activities over there'',  Professor Ben Vinicty added : '' Erik Sharon tried to put hand on the PLO archives in Beirut in 1982. Now, and after 20 years, he is confiscating the archives of the Orient House. This means that Sharon hasn't learned any lessons, and he is trying to move back the wheels of history''.

  • 17.8.2001: Haim Hanigbi: ''only fool people can dream to expel Palestinians from Jerusalem, unfortunately,  many of those fool people are at the top of the leadership in Israel at the current time''.  



Prepared by
The Land Research Center

Categories: Israeli Violations