Israel Moves to Judaise East Jerusalem
- Israel Moves to Judaise East Jerusalem
By Mel Frykberg
The Israeli government is attempting to Judaise Palestinian East
Jerusalem, and maintain a Jewish majority against the demographic threat
of a higher Palestinian birth rate. To that end, the Israeli government
is enforcing a number of policies aimed at establishing facts on the
ground in order to limit the number of Palestinian residents in the
To make any future division of Jerusalem almost impossible, the Israeli
authorities are applying a combination of strategies including limiting
family reunification permits, redrawing Jerusalem's municipal
boundaries, enlarging Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and
establishing new illegal ones.
Under international law the Green Line divides Jewish West Jerusalem
from Palestinian East Jerusalem. However, Israel has illegally occupied
East Jerusalem since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Last month Israel published tenders for the construction of 1,761
illegal housing units for Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem alone,
according to the Israeli rights group, Peace Now. Israeli human rights
organisation B'Tselem says there are nearly 192,000 Israeli settlers
residing illegally in 12 settlements in East Jerusalem.
Jerusalem municipality's redrawing of the city's municipal boundaries
has incorporated the illegal settlements, while the building of the
separation barrier, which separates Israel proper from the West Bank,
has increased the number of Palestinians on the 'wrong side' of the
barrier or wall, thereby further limiting a Palestinian presence.
According to conservative UN figures, about 25 percent of the 253,000
Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have been cut off from the city by
"The Israelis are implementing the final plan to Judaise Jerusalem
completely," Suhail Khalilieh, head of the Applied Research Institute in
Jerusalem (ARIJ) settlement unit told IPS.
"The plan began when Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967. The last
stage of the plan involves the completion of the barrier with the
specific aim of manipulating the demographics and limiting the balance
of the Palestinian population to a mere 15-20 percent, with the
remainder being Jewish," said Khalilieh.
East Jerusalem is of particular importance to Palestinians because under
international law it belongs to them and is designated the capital of a
future Palestinian state. They also have significant cultural,
religious, educational and business ties to the city.
Al-Aqsa Mosque, the second holiest Islamic site, as well as sites where
Christ is said to have been buried and crucified are in East Jerusalem.
Many Palestinians are Christian, even though they are a minority.
The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) is trying to address the future
status of East Jerusalem, which it considers a red line issue, within
the framework of final negotiations on a settlement of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the establishment of a Palestinian
But the PNA faces a task of Sisyphean proportions as Israel's
encroachment of East Jerusalem has steadily increased over the decades
since 1967, when a third of the area was expropriated from individual
Palestinian landowners during the annexation and used exclusively to
The expropriation, in defiance of the Fourth Geneva Convention, was
justified on the basis of classifying Palestinian-owned land as vacant
or unused, as many Palestinians fled the war temporarily to neighbouring
"Palestinians residing outside of Jerusalem for seven or more years lose
their Jerusalem residency status unless they can prove Jerusalem
residency within the municipal boundaries and the importance of the city
in their daily life, which is imperative in order to keep their identity
cards," says B'Tselem.
This does not apply to Israelis in West Jerusalem.
According to UN figures, in 2006 at least 1,360 Palestinians had their
ID cards revoked. This was five times more than in 2005, and more than
in any previous year since Israel began occupying East Jerusalem.
In 2003, the Citizenship and Entry into Israel law was enacted, which
denies spouses from the occupied Palestinian territories, who are
married to Israeli citizens or permanent residents (Jerusalem ID card
holders), the right to acquire citizenship or residency status, and thus
the opportunity to live with their partners in Israel and Jerusalem. As
a result, thousands of married couples are forced to live apart from one
In Israel, foreign spouses who are Jewish are automatically granted
citizenship under Israel's Law of Return.
Furthermore, since 1982 the Israeli Interior Ministry has not permitted
the registration of Palestinian children as Jerusalem residents if the
child's father does not hold a Jerusalem ID card, even if the mother is
a Jerusalem ID cardholder.
Jerusalem's urban planning too, has been fine-tuned to increase the
Jewish population with tax incentives and massive investment in Jewish
neighbourhoods, while severely restricting construction in Palestinian
neighbourhoods to seven percent of East Jerusalem.
"However, even before Palestinians are permitted to build they need to
obtain the requisite building permits which are both expensive and
extremely difficult to obtain," said Khalilieh.
Even if Palestinians are fortunate enough to get the permits, they are
still restricted to building on only 25 percent of their land. Again,
these restrictions do not apply to Jewish residents of West Jerusalem.
Jeff Halper from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)
says there is currently a housing shortage of 25,000 units in East
Jerusalem, and fewer homes means higher prices.
"Despite the housing shortage, Israel's municipality grants Palestinians
only around 150 to 350 work permits a year, yet demolishes 150 or more
existing homes at the same time," said Halper.
Houses built without permits are demolished by the municipality.
B'Tselem states that both Israelis and Palestinians build illegally, but
that the response of the authorities is not equal. Palestinians account
for about 20 percent of illegal construction, yet more than 75 percent
of the demolitions are carried out on Palestinian homes.
"While demolitions carried out in Jewish neighbourhoods target either
commercial buildings or additions to a house, in Palestinian
neighbourhoods such demolitions leave entire Palestinian families
homeless," added the human rights group.
ICAHD further asserts that Palestinians face discrimination in regard to
budgeting and taxation as well as essential needs like water, sewage,
roads, parks, lighting, post offices, schools and other services.
The PNA continues to negotiate with the Israelis despite the continued
settlement building and land expropriation.
"The Palestinians are in an extremely weak position. If they stopped
negotiations on this basis, Israel would put the blame on failed talks
squarely on their shoulders, with the support of the U.S., and continue
with establishing facts on the ground irrespectively," Khalilieh told
Destruction looms over East Jerusalem
Maisa Abu Ghazaleh -
Palestinian news Network
To the northeast of Jerusalem's city center in the Palestinian
suburb of `Anata, Israeli bulldozers are already busy at work.
Despite the protests of local residents, Israeli forces are constructing
the Wall to run around `Anata, cutting the whole town off from the
rest of Jerusalem.
This means that 18,000 people in `Anata will be denied access to
basic services they normally obtain in East Jerusalem. In addition,
residents of the area will be cut off from 32,000 dunams of their land
once the Wall is completed.
The President of the town council, Mohammad Hassan `Allan, explains
that this will lead to catastrophic consequences for the inhabitants of
`Anata. "The land is the only source of livelihood for these
people. Without access to it they will have no employment and no
income," he told PNN on Monday.
"The population will also be unable to attend prayers at the Al Aqsa
Mosque and they will be socially segregated from their relatives and
friends on the other side of the Wall," he added.
Upon completion of the Wall, `Anata will be hemmed in on all sides.
The only open access to the town will be from the east, via the West
Bank. Residents of `Anata wishing to travel to their city of
Jerusalem will have to pass through the Israeli military checkpoint at
Shuafat Refugee Camp, which is closed to all Palestinians except those
in possession of special permits.
`Alan is also fearful of the damage the Wall will cause to local
traders. `Israeli authorities refuse to allow local factories,
carpenters, blacksmiths and other traders to send their goods outside
the region." `Allan also cites the removal of access to health care
and education as evidence of the Wall's illegality in `Anata.
"There is no higher education in the town, no hospitals and only one
health clinic," he told PNN. "One Palestinian woman has already
been forced to give birth at the Shuafat Checkpoint as Israeli soldiers
would not let her through to the hospital in Jerusalem."
Alongside the damage caused by the Wall itself, `Anata residents
have also submitted protests concerning Israeli highways 45 and 70 which
cut through land in the `Anata area in order to connect Israeli
settlements in the northern West Bank to the Jerusalem area. It is
forbidden for Palestinians to travel on these highways.
Half of the `Anata district is classified by the Israelis as a
"peaceful suburb" within the city limits of occupied Jerusalem.
This means that half the residents carry the blue Jerusalem identity
cards, while the other half holds West Bank identity cards. Upon
completion of the Wall, however, the whole district will be cut off from
As the inhabitants of `Anata prepare to mount a legal case against
the Israeli authorities, they will argue that the Jerusalem Municipality
is neglecting its responsibility of providing water, education and
healthcare to those inhabitants with the blue Jerusalem cards. Israeli
forces will not issue permits for Palestinians to work.
Editor`s comments (VB)
Alas, one of the grim aspects of the above is the support of the
majority of the Jewish-Israeli public to the above policies. That
includes secular educated people, whose sons, during their army service,
provide military cover for the Israeli policies of colonization in the
Occupied Territories, and concurrent ghettoization of Palestinians.
Media and education system drummed into their heads that these policies
are necessary for the holy State Security. The number of people
(education level notwithstanding) who question whether the policies will
bring security or the opposite is miniscule. The terrorist acts such as
the one which occurred a few days ago constitutes for them an iron-clad
proof that encaging Palestinians en masse behind walls and military
cordons is justified. It seems to be beyond their intellectual capacity
to grasp that terror and more terror will come on us as a result of
depriving normal life to millions of people - who had nothing to do with
that Jerusalem terrorist, or any other terrorist act. While I
wholeheartedly condemn harming unarmed people, whoever they may be, let
us not forget that Palestinians have been subjected for years by Israel
to a state sponsored terror campaign - including bullying by military
and beaurocratic means, daily barrage of humiliation and systematic land
robbery. Such policies everywhere, at all times, inevitably brought
terror as a response. Our leaders know it. `Fight against terror` is a
great pretext for colonialist policies.
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