israel palestine

No sooner did Donald Trump take the presidential oath of office and seemingly put a promised move of the United States Embassy to Jerusalem on hold, than Israel announced it was building some 6,000 new housing units in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank.

Despite the U.S. administration’s slap on the wrist in response, Israel’s far-right Jewish Home party, led by Naftali Bennett, pushed through a bill “legalizing” outposts built on private Palestinian land, a move that brought international condemnation and was described as “theft” even in Israel. In fact, any changes in occupied territories are illegal under international law, as was recently reaffirmed by the United Nations Security Council.

Yet, away from the headlines about settlements and the threat they pose to the two-state solution, there is little information about how settlement construction affects the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and the cumulative effect over almost 50 years.

Simply put, settlement construction for Israeli Jews means uprooting Palestinians from their homes, causing pain, grief and despair. In my work at the Human Rights Clinic and Community Action Centre at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, I see first-hand the human impact of Israel’s policies: Palestinian families whose homes have been demolished, or who have been denied the permits needed to bring in parents, siblings or children who are stuck on another side of a wall or border. This painful situation is familiar to those in the U.S. who would be affected by the expansion of the wall along the border with Mexico, which Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been encouraging Trump to move forward on, and which Israeli companies responsible for our walls are angling to build. The images of distraught family members waiting at U.S. airports for relatives impacted by Trump’s refugee and Muslim ban also feels all too familiar too many Palestinians.

In just the past few weeks in East Jerusalem alone, dozens of Palestinian homes have been issued with demolition notices on the basis that they were built without a municipal permit – a permit that is almost impossible to obtain. Over the last 50 years, Israel has demolished more than 1,800 homes in East Jerusalem on the grounds that they have lacked such permits.

Other means of displacement include the engineering of personal statuses so as to exclude residents from the right to live in their homes in Jerusalem. For example, a Jerusalemite who gets married abroad and lives for a while with their spouse will find their residency revoked, which cuts them off from their parents and other close relatives. I know several cases first-hand and they are heart-breaking. Just in the 10-year period 2005-2014, Israeli authorities revoked the residency of 7,797 Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

Other methods of pushing out Palestinians include discriminatory town planning that encourages Jewish expansion and suppresses Palestinian construction. Since 1967, Israel has confiscated 35 percent of Palestinian lands in East Jerusalem and allocated them to illegal settlements. Currently, only 13 percent of East Jerusalem is zoned for Palestinian construction, most of which is already built up and inhabited.

On a larger scale, Israeli authorities are creating unbearable circumstances that eventually drive the civilian population to leave their homes and move to other areas. One such method is discrimination in access to services provided for the Palestinian-populated part of the city versus the Jewish-populated parts, including welfare services, water access and postal services. Unsurprisingly, such discrimination contributes to approximately 82 percent of Palestinian Jerusalemites living under the poverty line.

Israel furthermore uses collective punishment in retaliation for actual or alleged attacks by Palestinians, including the demolition of the homes of alleged attackers, displacing entire families. This collective punishment of a population living under occupation is prohibited under international law.

Such measures are described, and justified, by the Israeli government as simply law enforcement measures, or “deterrence.” In fact, they are part of longstanding and ongoing policies of forced displacement. The aim is to maintain an overwhelming Jewish majority in Jerusalem, a priority openly stated by Jerusalem council members. As councilman Yakir Segev put it, “We will not allow residents of the eastern part of the city [Jerusalem] to build as much as they need… At the end of the day, however politically incorrect it may be to say, we will also look at the demographic situation in Jerusalem to make sure that in another 20 years we don’t wake up in an Arab city.”

In short, what we are seeing unfold in East Jerusalem is a systematic attempt to displace Palestinians and to “Judaize” the city, to use the term employed by Israelis. Israel’s stated aim in its 2020 master plan is to reduce the proportion of Palestinians to Jews to 40/60 by 2020 and eventually to 30/70.

Israel’s dispossession and displacement of Palestinians in East Jerusalem is a microcosm of the bigger picture, both in the West Bank and inside Israel’s pre-1967 territory, as evidenced by the recent violent demolition raid at the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev, which Israel is trying to destroy to build a new town for Jews. To protest the destruction, Palestinian citizens of Israel have launched a boycott of Hyundai given its complicity in home demolitions, the first such campaign for corporate responsibility launched within Israel.

It is vital for the U.S. and Europe to uphold international law and to prevent a further escalation of the crisis in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. Indeed, states that recognize Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem would themselves be violating international law. The European Union has taken a modest step by labeling settlement products that enter the EU, however they need to go further and ban them altogether. For its part, the U.S. administration should reject pressure to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and use its leverage to halt Israel’s settlement enterprise.

The international community must act immediately, not just to ensure the feasibility of a long-term political agreement, but because the situation in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem is a human rights emergency.

(Source / 11.02.2017)

Tags: #ICC4Israel

Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives.

Boycott Israeli diamond