Thursday, May 15, 2008

Judaizing East Jerusalem

Today we are commemorating the nakba of 1948, when 750,000 Palestinians were displaced and dispossessed of their homes and land, but the nakba was not a one time event, it is a continuing process. 240,000 more Palestinians were made refugees in and around 180,000 of the refugees from 1948 were forced to move again. Even today, Palestinians from Jerusalem are being forced from their homes. Israel claims all of East and West Jerusalem as its "eternal and undivided capital," and in order to secure its hold on the land, Israel has pursued a consistent policy to create and maintain a Jewish majority in the city. This demographic battle has 2 strategies, first to encourage Israeli Jews to move into East Jerusalem, and second to move out as many Palestinians as possible.

The UN plan that partitioned Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state did not include Jerusalem in either the Israeli or Palestinian state, it was a "corpus separatum" to be governed by an international body, since the city contained the holy sites of Jews, Christians and Muslims. The fighting in 1948 left the western part of the city in Israeli hands and the Old City and East Jerusalem were incorporated into the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. When the eastern part of the city was captured in 1967, Israel declared sovereignty over both sides of the city and redrew the boundaries of the eastern side to include some undeveloped West Bank land and to exclude some of the Arab villages that had been considered part of Jerusalem prior to 1967. This was the first step in the process of Judaizing Jerusalem.

According to international law, all of the territory captured in the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem, is occupied territory and its inhabitants are protected by 4th Geneva Convention which insists on the right of return and forbids collective punishments among other things. Three United Nations Security Council Resolutions are directly related to the status of Jerusalem.

* In response to Israel’s occupation of foreign territory,

United Nations Security Council Resolution

(UNSCR) 242 of 1967 calls for the “Withdrawal of

Israel armed forces from territories occupied in

the recent conflict.”

• In response to Israel’s expansion of Jerusalem’s

borders, UNSCR 252 of 1968 states that the Security

Council “Considers that all...actions taken

by Israel...which tend to change the legal status

of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change that


• In response to Israel’s attempt to annex Occupied

East Jerusalem, UNSCR 476 of 1980 states

that the Security Council “Recommends that all

actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power,

which purport to alter the character and status of

Jerusalem have no legal validity and constitute a

flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention relative

to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time

of War and also constitute a serious obstruction

to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting

peace in the Middle East.”

Palestinians in the annexed parts of East Jerusalem in 1967 were given "permanent resident" status in Israel. Residents who were not present at the time of the census after the war were excluded, including those that had gone abroad temporarily for work or educational reasons and those that fled from the fighting. Around 8,000 Jerusalemites lost their right to go home as a result of this. Permanent residents could become citizens if they were willing to swear allegiance to of the State of Israel, but unsurprisingly, few did. Jerusalemites were issued an ID card different from the IDs given to West Bank residents, and they have the right to live and work in Israel without other special permits and receive public education. They can buy land and vote in local elections. Since a 1988 Supreme Court ruling, they are also eligible for the national health insurance and social security benefits. And of course they pay taxes. A special permit is needed by Permanent Residents to leave and re-enter the country, and residency is not automatically granted to their spouse and children.

Israel has been changing the demographic balance of East Jerusalem by moving Israeli Jews into the area and pressuring Palestinians out. In an article in Forced Migration Review by Elodie Guego, the process of land confiscation and limits to Palestinian neighborhoods' growth is described:

Between 1967 and 1994 Israel confiscated 24.8 square kilometres of land in East Jerusalem, 80% of it belonging to Palestinians. Land expropriation is continuing. Today a mere 7% of the area of East Jerusalem remains available to Palestinians. Confiscated land has mostly been used for the construction of Jewish settlements and settlers’ bypass roads, in violation of international humanitarian law prohibiting an occupying power from transferring part of its own population into territory it has occupied. The Jerusalem Municipality has expediently used zoning restrictions to establish ‘green areas’, supposedly set aside for environmental and recreational purposes, but actually deployed as a tactic to remove the land from Palestinian use and create a reserve for Jewish housing.

The Town Planing Scheme (TPS), another key instrument of ‘quiet transfer’, restricts building permits in already built-up areas, the only areas available for Palestinian use. TPS has been used to restrict the development of Palestinian neighbourhoods. Palestinians are only permitted to build one- or two storey buildings while adjacent Israeli housing units may have up to eight floors. Palestinians must go through a complex and time-consuming administrative process to obtain a building permit. These cost around $25,000 – a considerable obstacle as Palestinian incomes are significantly below those of Israelis. Palestinians obtain a disproportionately small percentage of the building permits issued every year by the Jerusalem Municipality. Only 7.5% of the homes legally built during the period 1990-1997 belong to Palestinians.

It is ironic that despite promises to stop building settlements as part of the so-called peace plans (Oslo and the Road Map) the Israeli government has insisted that the settlements had to be allowed to expand for "natural growth," but Palestinians living in East Jerusalem on land they owned before 1967 are not usually allowed to build to accommodate their growing families. Even adding one room to an over crowded house is hard to do legally. The result is a housing shortage in Palestinian neighborhoods and extremely high prices for land and rents. As a result of the difficulty of obtaining permits, as many as one third of buildings in Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem are "illegal" according to Israeli law. These unlicensed houses are at risk of being demolished by the Israeli authorities. A fact sheet published by the Palestinian National Authority Ministry of Information explains the situation:

Between 1994 and 2006, 706 Palestinians houses were demolished.

While illegal construction also takes place in West Jerusalem, demolition orders are much less likely to be issued. In 2004 for example, the Jerusalem Municipality demolished 53% of illegal structures it located in East Jerusalem, compared to 26% in West Jerusalem; 95% of the demolition orders it issued against illegal structures in East Jerusalem were carried out, while only 65% of these orders were carried out in West Jerusalem.

East Jerusalem residents also receive less in the way of municipal services from the Jerusalem municipality. According to the same fact sheet:

While Palestinian Jerusalemites pay the same tax rates as their Israeli counterparts, whose per capita income is approximately 8 times higher, there are stark differences in the level of municipal services available to the two groups. Despite forming 33% of the city’s residents, just 12% of the municipal budget is allocated to East Jerusalem, while the rest goes to West Jerusalem.

The spouses and children of permanent residents are not automatically granted permanent resident status. If a Jerusalemite marries a resident of the West Bank, they have to apply for "family reunification," for the West Bank ID holder to be allowed to live in Jerusalem. In the Washington Report On Middle East Affairs, Katherine M. Metres says, The Israeli government's policy on family reunification is a bureaucratic nightmare. It is designed to pacify gullible human rights critics while frustrating Palestinians.” Until April 1994, it was "generally known" that Female residents' applications for their non resident husbands were usually refused. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel challenged that policy in an Israeli court, and now women can apply for family reunification. However, if the husband has any sort of security record, he will be refused. Ms. Metres explains:

Since a majority of young West Bank men have been incarcerated at some point during the intifada, a huge section of the population remains ineligible.

Refusing to let persons with "security records" live in Jerusalem puts Israel in violation not only of international law but also of minimum standards of fairness. First, the Israelis as an occupying power in East Jerusalem are prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention from altering the normal life of the civilians in such matters as residency with their families. Second, the security record of the relative submitting the application should never be considered as relevant, since the request is on behalf of a different person. Third, few persons with a security record have ever had an opportunity to defend themselves in a court of law since they were held without trial in "administrative detention." And finally, prisoners who actually received legal process have served their sentences. They should not be doubly punished, nor should their families.

Since May 2002, Israel has stopped accepting applications for family reunification for Jerusalem residents.

Children are registered according to their father's ID. A female Jerusalem resident cannot register her children on her ID. Children born in the West Bank cannot be registered on their parent's Jerusalem IDs. Those who are not registered on a Jerusalem ID will not be able to access public education or the healthcare Jerusalem residents are entitled to, even if their parents live and pay taxes in Jerusalem. When a child reaches 16, if he has not secured his own Jerusalem ID, he will not be able to pass though the checkpoints to enter Jerusalem even to visit his Jerusalem resident grandparents without a special permit. This whole policy is designed to pressure families where one spouse is from outside Jerusalem to leave Jerusalem.

As a result of the housing shortage, soaring land and rent prices, painfully high taxes and difficulty in obtaining family reunification, some Jerusalemites chose to move to the villages just outside the Jerusalem municipal boundaries. Then in 1995, Israel began taking the Jerusalem IDs of people who could not prove that their "center of life" was in Jerusalem. If they could not prove that they had lived and worked in Jerusalem during the previous 7 years, they might find themselves no longer allowed to live in the place they were born, or even to have to apply for a permit to visit their family home! This new rule was applied retroactively, and no warning was given so that residents could protect their status. To obtain birth certificates, family reunifications or travel permits, a long list of electric bills, tax papers and school records may have to be produced. Representatives of the Ministry of the Interior occasionally showed up at the listed homes of applicants to verify if the permanent resident was really living there. Accepting citizenship in another country is also grounds for the Ministry to revoke a permanent resident's ID. Traveling carrying the travel document Jerusalem residents are provided is difficult, and often involves long waits for visas, so many Jerusalemites who were able to take western citizenships took them, only to find they could no longer go home. However Israelis have no problems having dual citizenship.

Fearing the loss of their Jerusalem IDs many Jerusalemites moved back into the city, putting further pressure on the housing situation there, and leaving many vacancies in the villages on the boarders of Jerusalem, which had previously been experiencing a building boom. Other people who had lost their IDs were faced with a challenging life. They could stay in Jerusalem illegally, never leaving the city and trying to avoid the internal checkpoints that might be set up at a moments notice, or they could stay outside, cut off from their family home, jobs and places of worship. The "center of life" policy was suspended after 4 years because it was actually encouraging Palestinians to move back into Jerusalem, but it was revived after the outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada in 2002. The revoking of IDs has certainly continued. In 2006, 1,363 Jerusalem residents lost their IDs, 6 times more than the year before.

The Wall is the latest method of eliminating Palestinians from East Jerusalem. It runs right through many Palestinian neighborhoods, leaving many permanent residents out side. For instance, the Shofat refugee camp and West Anata, with 55,000 mostly Jerusalem residents, were left outside the wall. Families are separated and people are cut off from their jobs, schools, health care facilities and holy sites.

Israel is slowly, quietly, continuing the ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem of its Palestinian residents. While the world ignores the situation, the nakba in Jerusalem continues with out any massacres and headlines.


Jerusalem / al Quds Factsheet

‘Quiet transfer’ in East Jerusalem nears completion

by Elodie Guego

Israeli Ethnic Cleansing Undiminished in Jerusalem

By Katherine M. Metres in the Washington report for Middle East Affairs

(Click map to enlarge)

map from

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just want to say thank you for all of your recent posts and for educating me about the history and the current plights of the Palestinians. I certainly understand when you said you cannot post too often about this situation because it is too depressing. It depresses me just to read it and I feel so sad for these people. But your efforts are truly appreciated. We need to know these things. Thank you.