Palestine: Occupied, Divided, Isolated, Oppressed and Unaided

Stephen Lendman

Stephen Lendman, 19 August 2010

Imagine the following:

You’re ruthlessly oppressed in an occupied country under a system of institutionalized racism, affording rights solely to Jews. You have no recognized nation, no right of citizenship, no democratic freedoms or civil liberties, including no power over your daily life.

You live in constant fear, collectively punished, politically denied, and economically strangled in a continuing cycle of violence. Military orders deny free expression and movement, enclose population centers, close borders, and impose curfews, checkpoints, roadblocks, separation walls, electric fences, dispossessions, land seizures, and domination over all aspects of life under draconian military orders like the following:

— No. 92 giving Israel control of all West Bank and Gaza water;

— No. 158 stipulating that Palestinians can’t construct water installations without (nearly impossible to get) permit permission and those built will be confiscated or demolished;

— No. 1015 requiring Palestinians get permission to plant trees on their own land;

— No 128 authorizing the IDF to take over any Palestinian business not open during regular business hours;

— No. 107 prohibiting Arabic grammar, Crusades history and Arab nationalist publications;

— No. 101 banning gatherings of more than 10 people without advance notice with names of participants;

— Nos. 811 and 847 letting Jews buy land from Palestinian owners with or without their consent;

— No. 998 requiring Palestinians get permission to withdraw funds from their bank accounts;

— No. 818 authorizing how Palestinians can plant decorative flowers;

— No. 329 preventing the right of return; and

— Nos. 1649 and 1650 turning all West Bank residents (including native born ones) potentially into “infiltrators,” making them vulnerable to deportation, fines or imprisonment without IDF-issued permits.

Overall, your land is occupied, communities isolated, homes invaded, friends and relatives arrested, neighborhoods attacked, homes bulldozed, land stolen, fields uprooted and burned, businesses closed, and livelihoods denied. You’re impoverished, unemployed, starved, tortured, murdered, punitively taxed and fined, and demonized for being Muslims in a Jewish state. You endure it daily on your own unaided, yet you go on, hoping others later will do better.

Separation – A Dominant Aspect of Daily Life

The Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement promotes, defends and protects the right of free movement, “guaranteed by international and Israeli law,” yet denied Palestinians under a draconian “system of rules and sanctions,” restricting the lives of millions in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

As a result, their basic rights are violated, including the right to life, to access medical care, to education, to livelihood, to family unity, and to freedom of religion.

Gisha’s new Safe Passage (SP) spg.org web site shows what’s “not new and not ‘internal’ or ‘geographical,’ but rather intentional, about the separation of Gaza and the West Bank,” Israel’s draconian control over daily life.

In May, SP examined the affect on families and trade, including legal obligations under international and Israeli laws, spurned with impunity.

Family Separation

Since September 2000 (the start of the second Intifada), travel throughout the Territories (especially between Gaza and the West Bank) has been restricted or denied, notably after Israel’s imposed siege. As a result, visiting relatives, pursuing education, accessing medical care, or living normally is virtually impossible, particularly for Gazans wanting to reach the West Bank. “The policy is taking a heavy personal toll on women, men and children, (since) many families have close relatives living in both areas.”

ID card addresses affect normal life, including for West Bank natives identified as Gazans, making them subject to dispossession and deportation, separating them from families, husbands from wives, children from a parent, and friends from neighbors – because Israel controls the process, the Palestinian registry, and remains hardline.

Since 1990, Gaza-born Samir Abu Yusef has lived in Qalqilya in the northwestern West Bank. He’s a carpenter, married with four children, yet in early 2008 was arrested entering Israel and deported because of his ID card address.

For over two years, he was separated from his family causing immense anguish and hardships, including financial ones. His application to return home was denied because he didn’t observe Israel’s permit criteria. His wife and children also couldn’t visit him for the same reason.

Gisha petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ) on his behalf and succeeded, reuniting him with his family in March, Samir saying months earlier:

“Two years have passed since I saw my children. I yearn to touch them, to watch them grow up, to hug them….It’s very hard (being) away from them….The holiday season is the hardest time….On the holiday, I stay alone in my room and cry….What have my children done to deserve such a terrible punishment – to live without a father?”

Thousands of others in the West Bank fear the same fate – arbitrary removal, so they restrict their movements, fearing arrest at a checkpoint or by military patrols and deportated.

Gaza-born Ahmed Alul, a Tulkarm resident since 1996, visited his parents and family in Gaza in April 2001. He was then prevented from returning, his wife Samar saying how hard it is “to raise two boys by myself. I am both father and mother to them….no one can (replace their) father.”

Unlike most countries and all civilized ones, Palestinians are denied free movement. As a result, Gazan men and women with West Bank spouses can’t reunite to be together, yet Israel lets West Bank and East Jerusalem residents move to Gaza, but not return – an option risking livelihoods, land, homes, and family support networks, one few wish to choose.

West Bank-born Gazans face an impossible choice. They can stay with their spouse, detached from West Bank families, or return and be separated from wives or husbands who can’t leave. The toll for many is unbearable, living half lives not whole ones.

If allowed, leaving Gaza involves hardships even in extreme cases, such as battered or divorced wives or widows seeking West Bank shelter with parents or other family members. Travel restrictions between the Territories are so strict, that it’s easier for Gazans to meet family members abroad than internally, despite the difficulties reaching Egypt through Rafah.

Even Gazans managing to do it can’t enter the West Bank via the Allenby Bridge (on the Jordanian side) to reunite with families. Mohammed Abu Aishah’s case is tragic. Born in Jordan, his family moved to the West Bank when he was eight, yet his ID card address is Gaza even though he never lived there, because it was his mother’s original address.

In February 2007, he visited his brother in Gaza, couldn’t leave for over two years, got to Egypt through Rafah, and from there to Jordan. Yet he was denied entry to the West Bank and now lives under impoverished conditions, age 22, “with no future, no profession, no livelihood, no roof over my head. For three years I’ve (tried) to survive another day.”

According to international accords Israel signed, West Bank and Gaza residents live in a single territorial entity. Yet Israel’s separation policy creates “an almost impenetrable barrier,” disrupting families, including husbands from wives, parents from children, siblings from each other, and friends from neighbors and community ties – in violation of international law and common decency.

Legal Implications of Family Separation

As an occupying power, Israel is required to ensure proper functioning of public life and institutions, including protection and welfare of families. The High Court of Justice (HCJ), in fact, affirmed these obligations because Israel control’s Gaza’s borders and occupies the West Bank, the populations dependent after decades of military control.

In addition, the Oslo Accords committed Israel to recognize Gaza and the West Bank as a single territorial entity in which free movement (notably safe passage) was allowed between the two by private vehicles or buses through Israel. Crossing permits were required but didn’t require residency in either area exclusively.

Yet military orders or regulations separate families, creating inducements to move to Gaza and stay. Family visits, including between spouses, are prohibited, except under specially allowed humanitarian circumstances rarely granted. In addition, Israel now arrests West Bank residents with Gaza addresses, removing them by force. Also, strict criteria restrict Gazans from reuniting with family members in the West Bank, those returning removed by force.

“Understanding this policy requires understanding control over the Palestinian population registry,” ostensibly given the Palestinian Authority (PA) under Oslo on these terms:

The PA must “inform Israel of every change in its population registry, including, inter alia, any change in the place of resident of any resident.”

Nonetheless, Israel usurped control, treating PA address change notifications as a request it can approve or deny. As a result, since 2000, Israel refused to register them for Gazans who moved to the West Bank. Palestinians relocating thus had no way to record the change. At the same time, West Bank residents with Gaza IDs must get “staying permits” (rarely granted) to remain.

To quality, they must have entered the West Bank before 2000, be married to a resident there, have children, and demonstrate exceptional humanitarian circumstances.

Israel then prohibited Palestinians with Gaza addresses from traveling to the West Bank to reunite with families, except under “extraordinary restrictive circumstances.”

Its policy states that family separation alone isn’t a qualifying factor, effectively banning reunifications, even for parents and children, spouses, and siblings, with these exceptions:

— children under 16 seeking reunification with a surviving parent;

— elderly invalids needing help from a first degree West Bank relative; and

— chronically ill people needing assistance from a first degree West Bank relative.

Even then, Gazans must prove they have no local relatives to provide care. Only then may they get temporary permits for up to seven years before being able to request an address change. However, if the humanitarian need expires before the permit, it’s rescinded. If all conditions are met, Israel conducts a security check before deciding whether or not to grant permission. As a result, “family reunification is nearly impossible.” For example:

— a very young Gazan girl would be prohibited from reuniting with her West Bank mother if any Gaza relative can care for her; if not, hard to get special permission would be required;

— a elderly invalid would be refused permission to be cared for by a West Bank niece because she’s not a first degree relative; if one is there, the applicant must prove no one can provide assistance in Gaza; and

— if all qualifications are met and permission granted, permits would be rescinded if the humanitarian need expires.

Other obstacles also exist, including the requirement for the Palestinian Civil Affairs Office Director-General to personally transmit requests to the military. In addition, if families are divided between the Territories, West Bank members are prohibited from visiting others in Gaza unless they waive their right to return.

Separation Policy’s Damaging Affect on Trade between Gaza and the West Bank

Before closure, Gaza and the West Bank comprised single territorial entity, letting goods produced in one area be sold in the other, some (now destroyed) Gaza factories earning most of their revenue from West Bank sales.

However, during the 1990s, Israel imposed restrictions, to advantage its own companies over Palestine’s. By late 2006, trade had markedly declined, and with Gaza under siege, virtually all its exports are prohibited, only limited amounts entering, including minimal amounts of essential to life items.

Excluded are medical equipment, all kinds of spare parts, construction materials, and basic items like books, wheelchairs, pens and pencils, shoes, cleaning and hygiene products to bring the Strip to its knees, induce malnutrition, illness, and systemic hardship for 1.5 million people – in gross violation of international law.

In mid-June, modest easing was announced, though hardly enough to matter, and it won’t help the West Bank. Prior to closure, dealers earned a living selling goods in Gaza at affordable prices. Afterwards things changed, restricting items to a limited few, and imposing an expensive, lengthy, uncertain process to operate.

West Bank goods must be bought remotely, without checking for quality, then await permit permission to import them, provide storage, and coordinate with Palestinians and Israeli truck drivers for transportation through Israel to the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza.

About 12 days are needed, costing over $2,000 per truck, plus storage costs and the possibility that distribution will be impeded or denied, forcing longer storage, lost sales and spoilage.

Previously, Gaza merchants could travel between the areas freely, selecting goods prior to buying them. No longer, and crippled Gazan industries can’t compensate. As a result, unemployment and impoverishment skyrocketed to some of the highest levels globally, making Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid to survive, never enough because Israel restricts amounts and excludes most items, including essential ones.

Unsurprisingly, Gaza – West Bank business relationships have deteriorated, each cut off from the other, one Gaza farmer/fruit and vegetable dealer saying:

“In 2000, I used to export 10 – 12 tons of vegetables to the West Bank every day….Now I….can’t export a thing. I had 1.2 acres of land where I grew guavas, among the best (in the Strip). They used to say that someone with a guava orchard is like a king, because they could be exported to the West Bank. Now, guavas mean a loss – the market has completely disappeared….I’m broken inside.”

The few remaining Gaza businesses suffer huge losses, and most factories were either destroyed or shut down because West Bank raw material imports are prohibited. As long as the siege continues, a productive economy is impossible. So is earning a living, even one modest enough to survive and support a family.

The announced “economic peace” skipped Gaza, the World Bank saying:

“The West Bank and Gaza are now almost completely delinked, with Gaza starkly transformed from a potential trade route to a walled hub of humanitarian donations.”

Besides their damaged societies and economies, the Gaza – West Bank disconnect destroys the possibility of unifying Palestine, the World Bank adding:

“(T)he strategic goal of an economically viable Palestinian state is achievable only if Gaza and the West Bank are maintained as an integral economic entity,” what Israel prevents, keeping Gazans under siege and West Bank communities confined to Bantustans, isolated in the Territory’s least valued areas, hoping they’ll wither, perish or leave, transforming all Palestine into a greater Israel, exclusively for Jews, pressuring Israeli Arabs to comply, move, or be forced out.

A Final Comment

Phillip Weiss and Adam Horowitz blog on Mondoweiss on Israel/Palestine and Middle East issues daily. A July 18 entry related the distaste some Jews have for Arabs, one man saying they’re guests as long as they behave. Another called them stinking Arabs (“aravim masrichim”). A third hoped the next war would drive them out because they’re the modern incarnation of Amalek, the enemy of God and the Jews, and still another said “We like to be with people who think like we do.”

Settlers are especially hostile, notably religious extremists believing they’re chosen, Israel given them by God, the Messiah’s reemergence imminent once it’s entirely gotten, the “infidels” driven out.

With that mindset, American support, and a complicit world community, prevailing is a formidable task, yet achievable with enough tenacity to persist. If Palestinians are committed, can global activists do less and be true to their ethics, principles, honor, and resolve to demand equal justice, self-determination and peace.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/

Decades of Palestinian Displacement in East Jerusalem

Stephen Lendman

Stephen Lendman, 9 July 2010

The UN General Assembly’s 1947 Resolution 181 internationalized Jerusalem as a separate body (a corpus separatum), administered by a UN Trustee Council, a policy still binding but not followed. Nor have other resolutions or international law provisions Israel rejects, ones interfering with its military occupation, affecting E. Jerusalem Palestinians repressively since June 1967, more still after passage of the July 30, 1980 Basic Law, declaring “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.”

Yet on June 30, 1980, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 476 (America abstaining), declaring “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal validity and constitute a flagrant (Fourth Geneva) violation.”

Following Israel’s non-compliance, the SC unanimously passed Resolution 478 (America again abstaining), “censur(ing Israel) in the strongest term” for enacting the Jerusalem Basic Law, calling it a violation of international law, saying the Council doesn’t recognize it, and telling member states to withdraw their diplomatic missions from the city.

The Security Council and General Assembly reaffirmed their positions that East Jerusalem is occupied territory, that expropriating its land is illegal, and that all Israeli legislative and administrative measures, altering the city’s character and status, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith. To this day, Israel never complied, continuing its relentless policies of land seizures, home demolitions, and dispossessions, flagrantly flouting its obligations under international law.

Also its illegal occupation in defiance of Hague Regulation 43, stating:

“The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in (its) power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.”

In addition, temporary administrative powers only are authorized, legitimate sovereignty to be restored as soon as possible, never indeterminately held by the occupier, what Israel has done for over 43 years, preventing the restoration of the pre-war status quo.

Under Article 64, Fourth Geneva explained it further, stating:

“The penal laws of the occupied territory shall remain in force, with the exception that they may be suspended by the Occupying Power in cases where they constitute a (legitimate) threat to its security or an obstacle to the application of the present Convention….

The Occupying Power may, however, subject the population of the occupied territory to provisions, which are essential to enable the Occupying Power to fulfill its obligations under the present Convention, to maintain the orderly government of the territory, and to ensure the security of the Occupying Power, of members and property of the occupying forces or administration….”

The Occupier may do nothing to enhance the economic or political deterioration of territory it controls, or permit societal chaos in it by its actions or inaction. Nor may it deprive the public of their rights and protections under Geneva or do anything in violation of international humanitarian law, such as imposing collective punishment, forcible transfers, or confiscations of private property. It may enact no laws or impose any measures that violate its legal obligations.

For the past 43 years, especially since July 30, 1980 in East Jerusalem, Israel has systematically and willfully flouted the law, severely repressing Palestinians, (protected persons under Fourth Geneva), aimed at displacing them.

In her 1999 book, “Separate and Unequal: The Inside Story of Israeli Rule in East Jerusalem,” former Advisor on Arab Affairs under Teddy Kollek, (Jerusalem’s mayor from 1965 – 1993), Amir Cheshin, explained Israeli policy saying:

“Israel’s leaders adopted two basic principles in their rule of East Jerusalem. The first was to rapidly increase (its) Jewish population….The second was to hinder growth of the Arab population and to force Arab residents to make their homes elsewhere.”

Since 1967, it was binding Israeli policy, evident today from the Haaretz Akiva Eldar and Nir Hasson June 28 article, headlined “Jerusalem master plan: Expansion of Jewish enclaves across the city,” saying:

“The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee is set to approve an unprecedented master plan that calls for the expansion of Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem….The committee’s proposal would codify the municipality’s planning policy for the entire city,” those objecting allowed 60 days to respond. However, at this “stage in the planning process,” rarely ever are plans altered, its approval “a fate accompli,” regardless of criticisms voiced.

Envisioned for years, architects have been working on it for over a decade to replace an earlier 1959 plan, eight years before the Six Day War. Once approved, accelerated Palestinian home demolitions and dispossessions will follow, Al Jazeera reporting on June 22 that 22 Silwan neighborhood homes will be replaced by a new tourist center, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced, final approval pending, Silwan residents saying it “fast-track(s the city’s) Judaisation,” preempting “the possibility of Jerusalem ever being a shared city, or indeed capital of a Palestinian state. This in itself precludes peace.”

Israeli officials said all 88 Silwan homes are illegal. The remaining 66 may retroactively apply for construction permits, but under a Kafkaesque approval process, all may be demolished, replaced by parks, open spaces, restaurants, boutique hotels, and Jewish only housing – 70 Jewish families already living in Silwan. Others will follow, the same pattern repeated throughout the city – Palestinians displaced, their homes demolished and land expropriated to make all Jerusalem exclusively Jewish, in violation of international law, Fourth Geneva prohibiting property destruction and land seizures in occupied territory.

On June 26, the Palestine Monitor reported that “Hundreds of Israelis joined Palestinians and international peace activists in (Silwan) streets, (protesting) the decision to destroy Palestinian homes, (a) historic show of support….,” likely to fare no better than opposition to other Israeli plans over the past decade, failing to stop about 900 demolitions displacing Palestinians.

Through June 2009, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) reported thousands more – an estimated 24,145 in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza since 1967, 4,247 alone during Cast Lead, others occurring regularly, illegal under international law, what Israel disdains and rejects, even though a signatory to many, including Geneva.

Under its illegal expropriation policy, B’Tselem reported that the “the Israeli government has choked (Palestinian) development and building….” In June 1967, it annexed nearly 18,000 acres in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, incorporating them within Jerusalem’s borders, over one-third expropriated, most of it Arab-owned, then used for thousands of Jews only housing, none for the city’s Palestinians.

“The Jerusalem Municipality did not establish outline plans for the Palestinian areas. The few (approved) plans….were primarily to prevent new construction by declaring broad expanses of land ‘green areas,’ restricting” construction. Overall, the Municipality enforces building laws “much more stringently” on Palestinians than on Jews, “even though the number of violations is much higher in the Jewish neighborhoods.”

East Jerusalem “Aggressive Urbanism”

The Civic Coalition for Defending Palestinians Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ) is a non-profit NGO, “dedicated to the protection and promotion of Palestinian rights in Jerusalem.” In December 2009, it published a report titled, “Aggressive Urbanism: Urban Planning and the Displacement of Palestinians within and from Occupied East Jerusalem,” accessed through the following link:

http://www.ccdprj.ps/new/pdfs/Aggressive%20Urbanism%20Report.pdf

Since 1967, Israel has pursued a systematic home demolition/expropriation/displacement policy, illegally affecting thousands of Palestinian residents on the pretext of “unlicensed construction,” to achieve a “demographic balance” to consolidate Israel’s control of the city, taking it then to the next level, Judaizing all Jerusalem to make it exclusively Jewish.

To accomplish it, the Jerusalem Municipality and Interior Ministry “drafted, adopted and vigorously implemented a series of discriminatory laws, policies, and practices that collectively constitute the Israeli planning regime in occupied East Jerusalem,” authorizing confiscation of Palestinian land, restricting construction on the remainder, reducing building density, imposing a Kafkaesque building permit process, the result being to deny Palestinian rights on their own land, impose severe hardships, and force them to move and lose more, including their residency permits to return.

Without Israeli permission, those building new homes or extending existing ones risk demotions, fines, and displacement, a patently illegal process. Yet the Municipal authority “dictates where and when Palestinians can build,” as well as whether they can do it at all under the 1965 Israeli Planning and Building Law, providing “a thin veil of legitimacy” by systematically denying permits, prohibiting construction, and demolishing homes in violation.

This law, others, and official policies constitute Israel’s discriminatory, illegal planning system, implemented ruthlessly against Palestinians, given no recourse but to object and be denied nearly always. As a result, East Jerusalemites face an acute housing crisis, their right to live freely on their land denied, many forced to relocate or build without permits, risking recrimination and dispossession.

Amir Cheshin explained more about her experience under Teddy Kollek, saying:

“Israel has transformed urban planning into a tool in the hands of the Government whose object is to prevent the spread of the non-Jewish population of the city. This was (and remains) a cruel policy, if only by reason of the fact that it disregards the needs (and rights) of the Palestinian residents. Israel regarded the institution of a stringent urban planning policy as a way to restrict the number of new houses being constructed in Palestinian neighbourhoods (sic), and thus ensure that the percentage of Palestinian residents in the city’s population – 28.8% in 1967 – would not increase.”

“If we permit ‘too many’ new homes to be built in Palestinian neighbourhoods, that will mean ‘too many’ Palestinian residents in the city. The idea is to move as many Jewish residents as possible to Occupied East Jerusalem and to move as many Palestinians as possible out of the city altogether. Housing policy in Occupied East Jerusalem has focused on this numbers game.”

By so doing, it flouts international law, denies Palestinians their legal rights, imposes repression and violence under occupation, making Israel a rogue state, under lawless governments, defiling democratic principles of human rights, civil liberties, judicial fairness, and fundamental freedoms, ones afforded solely to Jews – how Israel has always been run.

  • Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/

Judaizing Jerusalem

Holy Sepulture - Crosses etched in wall (Nick Marouf)

Stephen Lendman. 6 July 2010

The Middle East Monitor (MEM) covers significant regional issues and events through its weekly newspaper and reports like Samira Quraishy’s September 2009 Briefing Paper titled, “The Judaization of Jerusalem,” discussing Israel’s “escalating campaign of land seizures, house demolitions and eviction(s) of Palestinians.”

Israeli scholars agree, including Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Professor Oren Yiftachel, in a 1999 paper titled “Ethnocracy: the Politics of Judaizing Israel/Palestine,” saying Israel is an ethnocratic regime “enhanc(ing) a rule by, and for, a specific ethnos, and a dominance of ethnicity over citizenship (by) facilitat(ing) the expansion of one ethnic group over contested territory or polity.” It evolved around “the central Zionist (uni-ethnic) project of Judaizing and de-Arabising Israel/Palestine, (and as a consequence undermining) equal citizenship and popular sovereignty,” reserving it solely for Jews, exposing the myth of a democratic nation.

Hebrew University Professor Moshe Ma’oz, Ankara’s Bilkent University Professor Jeremy Salt, Professor Norman Finkelstein, Professor James Petras, and many other scholars agree that Israel pursued this policy since 1967, planning it decades earlier, based on the Zionist notion of dispossessing Arabs to make greater Israel an exclusive Jewish state.

Jerusalem is its epicenter, a religiously important city for Christians, Muslims and Jews, today the scene of epic injustice and discrimination of its Palestinian residents.

For Zionists, the city is politically important, as its historic capital, national and religious center, as well as the symbol of Judaism’s revival and prominence. For Christians, it’s where Jesus lived and died, and for Muslims it’s their third holiest site (the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque) after Mecca’s Sacred Mosque and the Mosque of the Prophet in Madina.

Settlement Expansions 2009

Settlement Expansions 2009 (Click for larger image)

After its 1967 annexation, East Jerusalem underwent legal and bureaucratic changes to its physical, cultural and spiritual character under Israel’s Judaization plan. Settlements were established and expanded, at the expense of land expropriations, dispossessions, home demolitions, the Separation Wall, and other draconian measures to transform the city to an entirely Jewish one. As a result, Palestinian culture and religious heritage are threatened by the establishment of “facts on the ground,” a process begun after the city’s annexation that continues relentlessly to this day.

At the time, official annexation would have caused rupture or confrontation with the international community, because of the city’s symbolic, religious and historic importance. In addition, international laws would have been hard to get around besides ideological differences among Israeli officials. Further, direct annexation would have forced the government to make all city inhabitants citizens, contrary to the plan to Judaize the entire city

On the Six Day War’s final day, Israeli leaders ordered the demolition of the Old City’s Moroccan Quarter, allowing for easier access to the Western Wall. It left 650 residents homeless, many others killed, two mosques destroyed along with other religious and cultural sites, and set the tone for what continued.

Under military occupation, Israel transformed Jerusalem from a multi-cultural, multi-religious city into a predominantly Jewish one under exclusive Israeli control toward the final goal of making the entire city exclusively Jewish – meaning Arabs had to go, voluntarily, by dispossessions, or other means.

Thereafter, Israel manipulated city demographics in its favor toward establishing a Greater Jerusalem by reinforced municipal boundaries – separating Jerusalem from the West Bank by land seizures, dispossessions, home demolitions, the Separation Wall, and a matrix of restrictions over Palestinian residents in the Old City as well as 64 additional square kilometers from surrounding West Bank areas, affecting 28 villages inside the new municipal boundary. As a result, the demographic balance shifted markedly to one predominantly Jewish.

On July 30, 1980, the Knesset introduced the Jerusalem Law, officially annexing the city as Israel’s unified capital – a ceremonial move as East Jerusalem residents were already under military occupation rule.

Yet on March 1, 1980, UN Security Council Resolution 465 declared that:

“all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel’s policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant (Fourth Geneva) violation….and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”

On July 9, 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and an obstacle to peace and to economic and social development (and) have been established in breach of international law.”

Throughout its history, Israel routinely defied all UN resolutions and court rulings against its interests, knowing it can get away with it, always with Washington’s backing. Instead, it’s intensified efforts to annex East Jerusalem through continued settlement expansions on expropriated land. For the West Bank, E. Jerusalem and Golan combined, they’re home for a 500,000 Jewish population, growing at around 4 – 6% yearly.

Extremist groups spearhead it, supported generously by Washington, the Jewish diaspora, and others, contributing billions of dollars annually for Israeli occupation, militarism, and settlement expansions.

Through 2009, settlements covered over one-third of East Jerusalem land, and another 30% is designated as “unplanned area” where little or no development is allowed.

In 2009, OCHA reported that Palestinian construction is allowed only in 13% of East Jerusalem, provided required permits are issued. Because of the bureaucratic nightmare getting them, a huge housing shortage exists, exacerbated by regular home demolitions to provide more space for Jews.

Religious, cultural and archeological sites aren’t spared either to accommodate them, Silwan a notable example. Occupied in 1967, Judaizing followed to change its religious and demographic character, an initiative promoted by ELAD (the Hebrew acronym for the City of David), a Jewish organization wanting full control of the area, using extremist measures to achieve it, including excavations destroying priceless antiquities.

Ones below the Al-Aqsa Mosque continue. Others also to control the town through more land ownership, Palestinian dispossessions, and destruction of Islamic and Christian heritage sites.

In 2004, 88 Al Bustan neighborhood homes were demolished to create King’s Garden, an archeological park located where King David established his kingdom.

Islamic cemetery excavations also aroused anger, including converting Bab al-Rahmad into recreational biblical gardens. So far, the cemetery has lost 1,800 square meters on which new burials are prohibited, a portion already converted into a park.

Ma’man Allah Cemetery is Jerusalem’s largest, reputed to hold the remains of important Islamic figures, including Companions of Prophet Muhammad and Muslim intellects and soldiers who fought the Crusaders.

Yet Israel intends a Museum of Tolerance there, turning it into a large excavation site, over 300 skeletons removed, contrary to international law. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, they were desecrated – dumped into a single mass grave.

Worse still may await the Al-Aqsa Mosque because of excavations under and around it, weakening its foundation, threatening its existence. In 2007, Israel began excavating a pathway from the Western Wall to the compound, sparking Muslim outrage.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock Restoration Committee, established in 1956 to restore it and other Jerusalem holy sites, warned that further excavations would imperil the structural integrity, most seriously by the western tunnel (one of 60) near the Mosque.

Deputy Committee head, Ra’if Najm also said chemicals used to break up rocks are causing more damage. As a result, the Security Council and UNESCO demanded that Israel comply with international law, halting further excavations and related operations. Israel didn’t respond.

Other excavations in the Old City and Silwan have also been damaging, Adnan Al-Hussaini, special PA adviser on Jerusalem Affairs warning that Israel is destroying Islamic antiquities, “replacing them with other ones.”

PA legislator Hatem Abdul Qader threatened an International Court of Justice (ICJ) lawsuit to stop the looting. In early 2009, an Umayyad-era artifact was stolen, an ancient stone, transferred to the Knesset’s courtyard, Israel blocking demands to return it.

The Separation Wall, checkpoints, and other restrictions have also been devastating, impeding Palestinian access to, in and around Jerusalem. Yet prohibiting them from worshipping at Al-Aqsa and nearby mosques violates Fourth Geneva, Christians wanting access to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other religious sites also affected.

The extremist Netanyahu government exacerbates the problem, Palestine’s Chief Justice, Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Al-Tamimi, expressing deep concern about outlandish racist policies threatening “to cancel Arab identity.”

On March 28, 2010, the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported that he urged Palestinians “to exert more efforts and unite in order to protect the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque (by) defy(ing Jewish extremists) attempts to storm the holy shrine,” adding that Judaizing has been ongoing since 1967, in calling for efforts to stop it.

PA Authority under Fatah

Shortly after assuming office, Abdul Qader, PA Minister for Jerusalem, resigned in protest, saying inadequate funding defends Palestinian interests in the city – for law suits, against land confiscations, home demolitions, Israeli security force and settler violence, and the destruction of the city’s religious, historical, cultural and demographic character.

Final Comments

Throughout 43 years of colonization, displacement, land seizures, and East Jerusalem annexation, Judaization continues relentlessly to establish irreversible “facts on the ground (to) cancel Arab identity” by making the entire city exclusively Jewish along with the West Bank’s most valued areas.

MEM supports efforts to stop it and demands accountability. “The Israeli authorities and settlers who impede the civil liberties of the rightful Palestinian owners should be brought (before) an open and fair court of law,” to halt Israeli lawlessness, ensure holy, historic Muslim sites are protected, preserved and restored, and to defend their right to a sovereign state, East Jerusalem its capital, or a one-state solution for all.

Israel will react violently, viciously, and illegally against it, its customary behavior as a rapacious occupier, defying the rule of law in pursuit of a Greater Israel and regional dominance, partnered with Washington in its global imperial agenda, threatening all humanity unless stopped.

  • Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening. http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.