France would never deny Israel’s right to Jerusalem, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in a letter sent to Shmuel Rabinovitch, the Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel on Monday.
In April, UNESCO’s executive board released and then adopted a resolution, calling Israel “the Occupying Power” and urging it to “stop all violations against Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif [the Arabic name of a holy site in East Jerusalem].”
At the same time the resolution did not include the Israeli name of the site, known as Temple Mount, nor did it reference its role in Jewish culture. France is among the 33 countries that voted for the resolution. Jerusalem protested the resolution and the French vote on it.
France will never deny the “existing, true” Jewish historical right to Jerusalem, Valls was quoted as saying by The Jerusalem Post. “Unfortunate and clumsy formulations befell the language of UNESCO’s decision to the point of insult. I believe that this should have been avoided and that the vote should not have happened.”
On May 11, Valls condemned the UNESCO resolution.
In the letter to Rabinovitch, he added that Jerusalem “symbolizes the unification of the three major monotheistic religions.”
Palestinians have been vying for the recognition of their independent state, proclaimed in 1988, in the territories of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. The Israeli government refuses to recognize Palestine as an independent political and diplomatic entity, and continues to build settlements on the occupied land, despite objections from the United Nations.
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – The Israeli occupation police have handed professor Jamil Hamami, secretary-general of the higher Islamic commission in Occupied Jerusalem, a written order banning his travel abroad and to the West Bank.
According to this police order, Hamami will be prohibited from entering the West Bank for four months and the previous ban on his travel abroad will be extended for six months.
The police justified the measure against Hamami by saying that he is involved in banned activities and his departure for other countries will constitute a security threat to Israel.
For his part, Hamami, who works as a lecturer at al-Quds University, condemned Israel’s decision against him as “unjust and a violation of the Palestinians’ right to travel and movement”. He considered this Israeli step as “part of the Israeli campaign that targets the Palestinian dignitaries in Jerusalem.”
Palestinian journalist Samah Dweik has been sentenced by the Israeli Jerusalem court to six months and one day in prison, on charges of “incitement” for posting on her Facebook page. She was arrested on 10 April 2016 from her home in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood of Silwan, Jerusalem, in a pre-dawn raid in which occupation soldiers invaded and ransacked her home, accused of posting in support of the intifada on Facebook.
She is one of hundreds of Palestinians targeted for arrest and persecution on the basis of postings on social media. Dweik, 25, is a freelance journalist who works with Quds News Network. She is one of over 20 Palestinian journalists detained and imprisoned by Israel, including Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate leader Omar Nazzal, Addameer media coordinator Hasan Safadi, and multiple journalists accused of “incitement” for posting on social media.
Dweik is one of over 60 Palestinian women imprisoned by Israel, held in HaSharon and Damon prisons. On Saturday, 16 July, two more Palestinian women were arrested: Banan Mahmoud Mafarjah, 21, a medical student at Al-Quds University in Abu Dis, Jerusalem, was arrested at an Israeli occupation “flying checkpoint” west of Ramallah; while Amal Masalmah of al-Khalil was among 10 Palestinians detained in late night and pre-dawn raids on 17 July.
Fares Khader al-Rishq
RAMALLAH – A Palestinian youth was killed and another injured by Israeli forces while a third was detained early on Wednesday, as soldiers opened fire at the youths’ vehicle in the town of al-Ram in the occupied West Bank’s Jerusalem district.
The youth who was killed was identified as Anwar al-Salaymeh, 22, and the two survivors were identified as Fares Khader al-Rishq, 20, who remains critically injured, and Muhammad Nassar, 20, who was detained by Israeli forces after the incident.
Locals told Ma’an that Israeli forces opened fire at three Palestinians youths, all residents of al-Ram, in a vehicle inside the town around dawn, as the three were seemingly unaware that Israeli forces were deployed in the town and conducting raids.
An Israeli army spokesperson said that the presence of Israeli authorities in the town was due to the fact that Israeli forces, border guards and police reportedly found a blacksmith workshop in al-Ram that manufactured weapons.
Witnesses confirmed that Israeli forces and military vehicles raided al-Ram, closed the main street and raided a blacksmith workshop in the area.
The Israeli spokesperson added that during the military raid, border guards allegedly “saw a speeding vehicle heading towards them” and opened fire, killing one of the passengers and injuring another while a third was detained and transferred for interrogation.
According to locals, al-Rishq’s vehicle arrived near the area where the raid was taking place, and Israeli soldiers opened fire at the car from a close distance, injuring al-Rishq and al-Salaymeh, who later died.
Witnesses said that Israeli forces prevented Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances from reaching the injured.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health confirmed that an unidentified teen from al-Ram succumbed to his wounds after being critically injured by Israeli live fire aimed at the car, while another was injured during the same incident.
Locals added that clashes erupted between youths and Israeli forces, while soldiers opened live fire, rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear-gas bombs.
An unidentified youth was also reportedly detained during clashes.
Qalandia Refugee Camp, Occupied Palestine – The holy month of Ramadan has come to an end. But in Palestine, as in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and too many other places, Muslim families are not able to enjoy this special time of the year in peace and comfort. On Sunday night at 11pm, more than 1000 Israeli soldiers, according to locals’ estimations, entered Qalandia Refugee Camp in the Occupied West Bank. The huge military incursion sparked clashes in which 15 Palestinians were shot. Occupation Forces used live ammunition and rubber coated steel bullets on civilians while firing tear gas and stun grenades at approaching ambulances, preventing Palestinian Red Crescent medics from reaching the wounded.
Red Crescent ambulance damaged by Israeli forces
Among the injured was a 19 year old girl and a 15 year old boy, each shot with live ammunition and brought to the hospital in serious condition. The army entered the camp to demolish the homes of the families of two young men, Anan Habsah and Issa Asaaf, both 21, who carried out knife attacks and killed one soldier in East Jerusalem on December 23rd last year. Both were killed by soldiers while carrying out the attacks, so the demolition of the homes comes only as a form of collective punishment to terrorize the families and the people in Qalandia, who repeatedly suffer from night raids and house demolitions as well as beatings and arrests by the Israeli occupation forces.
Anan’s family first evacuated their home in January when the Israeli high court announced their decision to demolish the houses. The displaced family members lived spread across the area, staying at friends’ and family’s homes in Ramallah and elsewhere in Qalandia for two months until the lawyer suggested they could move back in in March. The father, Abu Saleh, refused to leave his home during the two month period however, staying in a tent outside the building. Three weeks ago the two families were yet again told to evacuate their homes and were informed that the demolition would take place within five days. However, the exact date of the demolition was not disclosed. Sunday night it finally happened without advance notice, and only two days before the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid celebrations.
In the ruins of his family home
Issa and his family have experienced severe trauma at the hands of occupation forces before, when he and his two younger sisters were brutally assaulted by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint near East Jerusalem. The incident left one of Issa’s sisters unable to speak for three months, and caused the Assaf family significant distress and anguish.
Both Issa and Anan were imprisoned for significant periods of time; Anan at age fifteen for a period of eight months, and Issa for seven months in the year before his death.The families’ suffering did not end there, however. In the week following Issa’s release from prison, he was again assaulted at his home in Qalandia when soldiers dragged him from his home in the middle of the night and beat him in the street without justification.
The Habsah family also bears the long lasting scars of pain and trauma. Anan’s imprisonment as a child devastated the family, and they say their boy was never the same afterwards. “I know he did not want to die … but when a boy is put in jail, deprived of sleep, and deprived of his childhood, something in him changes,” said Anan’s uncle.
Inside the Asaaf family home
When we arrived on Monday morning, neighbors and relatives had already begun to gather in support of the families. Anan’s aunt explained to us that this is the third time her family had been forcibly displaced; first in 1948, when the family was expelled from their home in West Jerusalem, and later again in 1975 when their modest home in the refugee camp was destroyed for the first time.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness condemned the demolitions on Monday, stating that punitive home demolitions “inflict distress and suffering on those who have not committed the action which led to the demolition, and they often endanger people and property in the vicinity.” A 2005 study by the Israeli army itself concluded that home demolitions are not effective as a deterrent or punitive measure, but the practice still continues. According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, about fifty thousand residential structures have been destroyed by Israel since 1967.
“This is psychological warfare. In the whole camp of more than ten thousand people, no one slept [last night], and they did not go to work today,” Adnan Habsah, the uncle of Anan said. Qalandia Refugee Camp has long been subjected to various forms of collective punishment by Israeli forces, and is severely affected by all aspects of the Illegal Occupation. The camp is located within area “C” and greater (East) Jerusalem, near the main checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem and beside the apartheid wall. According to the UNRWA, the construction and expansion of the Wall in the early 2000s has drastically affected the economic situation in the camp by isolating it from the Israeli job market and Jerusalem. According to the most recent data, Qalandia’s unemployment rate is as high as 40 percent, compared to Occupied Palestine’s overall rate of 26.6 percent.
The Camp was originally established to house some 5,000 Palestinians who were displaced by the 1948 Nakba. Today, according to Afaq Environmental Magazine, the population of Qalandia Refugee Camp has reached about 14,000. Under the 1993 Oslo Agreement, the whole territory of Qalandia Refugee Camp is classified as area “C,” where Israel retains full control over security and administration related to the territory; however, Qalandia camp, like other Palestinian refugee camps, is under the administrative control of UNRWA.
As the uncle of Anan said when we spoke to him on Monday, “This is a UN refugee camp. The whole world owns this place. You cannot destroy it.”
Abu Saleh, father of Anan Habsah
An obvious and oft-sighted criticism of the Nobel Peace Prize is just how many of its recipients have virtually no connection to the cause of peace or its advancement. If anything often it seems a reward for its negation. Henry Kissinger, recipient in 1973, would have to be the gold standard here. That very year saw Kissinger orchestrate the destruction of democracy in Chile and that was only after the secret bombing of Cambodia was concluded. Of Course stretch it forward and backward a couple of years and Kissinger’s trail of destruction extends from Bangladesh to East Timor.
A few years later Mother Theresa made an odd choice given the extra pain deliberately inflicted on the poor in her clinics and her support for Indira Gandhi’s suspension of civil liberties and in 1994 the triumvirate of Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin can hardly be deemed inspiring. Barack Obama got the nod less than a year into his presidency. It’s a good bet there are many in Pakistan, Yemen, and Honduras that would question the wisdom of that selection.
The year 1986 saw the Nobel go to recently deceased Elie Wiesel. Wiesel was famous for his novel/memoir Night and for being, according to the Nobel Prize’s webpage, ‘the leading spokesman on the Holocaust’, therefore seemingly by definition an alleged spokesman on human rights. A quick scan through many of the obituaries written for Wiesel the past couple of days show this quote from his Nobel acceptance speech given prominent status:
I swore never to be silent whenever human beings
Endure suffering and humiliation. We must always
Take side. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.
Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
A noble sentiment indeed but not one that seemed to inspire Wiesel to live up to his peace prize, in fact evidence suggests Wiesel had a soft spot for war, at least war in the Middle East. Four years before giving his acceptance speech of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, where even an Israel commission found the Israeli military indirectly responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacre, “I support Israel-period. I identify with Israel-period.” When asked to comment of the massacre: ‘I don’t think we should even comment’, then commenting he felt ‘sadness with Israel, not against Israel’ with nary a peep about the actual victims. Some years later Wiesel would be wheeled into the spotlight by the Bush administration to endorse the forthcoming invasion of Iraq. His statement at the time read: ‘Isn’t war forever cruel, the ultimate form of violence…. And yet, this time I support President Bush’s policy of intervention when, as is this case because of Hussein’s equivocations and procrastinations, no other option remains’.
In the midst of another Israeli operation in Lebanon, this one in 2006, Wiesel stood in front of a crowd in Manhattan (along with then Senator Hillary Clinton) and declared “Israel defends herself, and we must say to Israel ‘Go on defending yourself.’” His final years didn’t slow him down. Wiesel took out a full page ad in newspapers across the country during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict fully supporting Israel’s effort (Human Rights Watch went on to document several instances of war crimes by the Israeli military) without a syllable about diplomacy except that ‘before diplomats can begin in earnest the crucial business of rebuilding dialogue… the Hamas death cult must be confronted for what it is’. That ad was criticized by a large group of Nazi holocaust survivors in a subsequent ad in the New York Times which stated ‘Furthermore we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and murder more than 2000 Palestinians, including hundreds of children.’
If being consistently hawkish on matters in the Middle East wasn’t enough for the press and governing elites to question Wiesel’s peace credentials, after all there aren’t too many wars the estates don’t get behind, it is hard to believe Wiesel wasn’t pushing his luck with some of his pieces in the Times over the years. Consider his 2001 piece Jerusalem in My Heart. Wiesel began with the following:
As a Jew living in the United States, I have long denied myself the right to intervene in Israel’s internal debates. I consider Israel’s destiny as mine as well, since my memory is bound up with its history. But the politics of Israel concern me only indirectly.
Strange as it was to be claiming neutrality not only in the face of his constant support for wars involving Israel and in light of his famous stand of neutrality as evil, Wiesel goes on in the same essay to renounce any such neutrality on the question of Jerusalem.
Now, though the topic is Jerusalem. Its fate affects not only Israelis, but also Diaspora Jews like myself. The fact that I do not live in Jerusalem is secondary; Jerusalem lives in me… That Muslims might wish to maintain close ties with this city unlike any other is understandable.
But for Jews it remains the first. Not just the first; the only.
This ode to fundamentalist thought, enhanced further by Wiesel pointing out that Jerusalem is mentioned more than 600 times in the Bible (a statement that ignores the fact that up to a fifth of Palestinians are Christians, and it’s worth asking how many times Jerusalem is mentioned in the Torah if this line of thought is to be pursued), is followed by the blatant lie, long universally known to be false, that “incited by their leaders 600,000 Palestinians left the country (in 1948) convinced that, once Israel was vanquished, they would be able to return home”.
Wiesel then ended with a call to defer the question of Jerusalem until all other pending questions are resolved, perhaps for 20 years to allow “human bridges” to be built between the two communities- which would figure to leave the city completely in Israeli hands until these bridges are built or at least until the rest of the world accepts that it belonged there all along.
About five years later (August 21, 2005) Wiesel was at it again with a bizarre piece titled The Dispossessed. It was another putrid effort that spoke of peace while covertly praising the worst of Zionist mythology. The title referred to the last holdouts of Israeli settlements in Gaza and reading between the lines Wiesel hints that the evacuation, where the settlers received generous compensation packages from the government, had the aura of a pogrom.
The images of the evacuation itself are heart-rending. Some of them unbearable. Angry men, crying women. Children led away on foot or in the arms of soldiers who are sobbing themselves.
Those “dispossessed” by Israeli soldiers were the hardcore remnant of a Greater Israel ideology more committed to fleeting territorial dreams than individual homes- most of the Gaza settlers saw the writing on the wall and left prior to the events Wiesel describes with such anguish. Of course Israel has long subsidized its settlements that have been declared illegal by the international community (including the U.S.). But of this remnant Wiesel reminds his readers: “Let’s not forget: these men and woman lived in Gaza for 38 years in the eyes of their families they were pioneers, whose idealism was to be celebrated”. Given the complete lack of interest Wiesel displays to Palestinian feelings on the same issue can it be reasonably assumed that Wiesel shares that same sentiment?
And here they are, obliged to uproot themselves, to take their holy and precious belongings, their memories and their prayers, their dreams and their dead, to go off in search of a bed to sleep in, a table to eat on, a new home, a future among strangers.
When Wiesel does turn to the Palestinians it is to criticize a lack of gratefulness in the face of noble Israeli concessions:
And here I am obliged to step back. In the tradition I claim, the Jew is ordered by King Solomon “not to rejoice when the enemy falls”. I don’t know whether the Koran suggests the same… I will perhaps be told that when the Palestinians cried at the loss of their homes, few Israelis were moved. That’s possible. But how many Israelis rejoiced?
After this demonization, ‘perhaps be told’ of ‘possible’ Palestinian suffering (and King Solomon may have been correct about not rejoicing when enemies fall but that isn’t quite how one recalls the conquering of the Canaanites as recorded by scripture), Wiesel again ends his essay with a call for a “lull” to allow “wounds to heal”- during which time Israel can presumably redraw the borders of the West Bank making a functional Palestinian state impossible. Again, like in the previous, essay he mentions the sadness he feels over Palestinian hatred of Jews; so much for neutrality.
All this reactionary thought, the worst of which would find few defenders outside the extreme Zionist right, didn’t make its way into Obama’s statement on Wiesel’s death (‘He raised his voice, not just against anti-Semitism, but against hatred, bigotry, and intolerance in all its forms’), nor did the fact that Wiesel opposed Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran (again with a full page ad in the Times). The Times itself conveniently overlooked the words Wiesel wrote for the paper in its very long obituary. If it is a timeless truism that the greatest gift modern marketing can bestow on anyone in its graces is the luxury of being judged by reputation and not by actual words and deeds, is it ever truer than for another Nobel ‘Peace’ prize winner?
Israeli occupation forces and the Palestinian Authority carried out 34 violations against Palestinian journalists in June, Quds Press reported an NGO saying.
Palestinian Youth Congress for Journalists said in a statement that the Israeli violations included direct assaults, firing rubber bullets at journalists and cameramen, arbitrary arrests and the closure of media offices.
The group said the attacks happened while the journalists were documenting Israeli aggression at Al-Aqsa Mosque. Photographer Rami Al-Khatib and journalists Osaid Amarneh and Ahmed Jaradat were wounded during the violence.
Moreover, the statement noted that the Israeli policy of arbitrary detention of Palestinian journalists continued as several journalists, including 25-year-old Nasser Al-Khatib from Ramallah, 27-year-old Iyad Al-Taweel and 43-year-old Bassam Al-Safadi from the Golan Heights were arrested.
There are currently 20 journalists being held in Israeli jails, the statement said.
The group added that Israel had closed Musawat TV which broadcasts from occupied Palestinian territories under the pretext that it incites hatred.
The Youth Congress reported 17 violations against journalists at the hands of the Palestinian Authority.
On Sunday the Israeli Cabinet approved the expansion of several Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, adding an additional 800 new units to the existing thousands of units constructed in Jewish-only settlements in direct contravention of international law.
Israeli officials say that the approval of 800 new housing units is meant to somehow ‘balance’ the implementation of a court ruling that 600 construction permits be approved for Palestinian families in Beit Safafa.
But while the Israeli officials may have political reasons for making such a claim, Palestinian analysts point out that there is no legal justification or comparison between the court decision about Beit Safafa and the announcement Sunday of the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements constructed on illegally-seized Palestinian land.
In the case involving Beit Safafa, an Israeli court ruled last month that the Israeli government had provided no sufficient evidence to back its claim that the Palestinian residents’ building permit applications should be denied, and ordered that construction could begin. But the Israeli government has, for the past month, prevented the court decision from being implemented.
The announcement Sunday that 800 new settlement units would be constructed in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank colonial settlement of Ma’ale Adumim came just two days after Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu approved the expansion of another colonial settlement in Hebron by 42 additional units.
All Israeli settlements constructed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law, as they involve the direct transfer of Israel’s civilian population into areas seized by military force.
But the Israeli government considers many of these colonial settlements to be ‘legal’ under Israeli law, and provides infrastructure including water, sewage, electricity, policing and fire services to the majority of the hundreds of settlements that have been constructed on Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
In the case of Beit Safafa, the Israeli government had put together a plan to completely encircle the Palestinian town with several Jewish-only settlements, thus cutting off the town from the rest of the West Bank and Jerusalem.
The plan had involved the expansion of a small trailer park currently housing Ethiopian immigrants to Israel, on a hilltop in Beit Safafa. The trailer park, dubbed ‘Givat HaMatos’, was slated for massive expansion by the Israeli government until Palestinian residents of Beit Safafa took the government to court to challenge the expansion.
In a surprise victory a month ago, the Palestinian residents of Beit Safafa won their court battle. but the Israeli government failed to implement the decision before now.
Upon the announcement that the court’s decision would be carried out, the Israeli Minister for Jerusalem, Ze’ev Elkin, stated, “Anyone who is concerned about the Jewish majority in Israel’s capital cannot push a building plan just for Arabs [in Givat HaMatos]… You cannot just approve construction for Arabs in Givat HaMatos without also approving at the same time building for Jews in the same planned neighborhood.”
The plan to encircle Beit Safafa, while currently under scrutiny by international media and bodies, is just one part of the larger E1 Jerusalem plan, which would encircle East Jerusalem, kick out most of its Palestinian residents, and claim all the ‘conquered’ territory for the state of Israel. The plan was first introduced in the early 2000s, and has expanded since then.
Millions of people have attended the International Quds Day rallies across Iran and other countries to show their solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people and condemn Israeli atrocities.
The rallies in Iran, organized by the Islamic Propagation Coordination Council (IPCC), started at 10:30 local time (06:00 GMT) in Tehran and 850 others cities across the country.
Demonstrators, including Iranian Jews and other religious minorities, braved the sizzling heat of the summer, with the mercury touching 42°C in the capital.
People taking part in the rallies sought to communicate to the world the deplorable status of the Palestinians and press the Israeli regime to respect Palestinian rights.
Nine routes have been identified for the rallies throughout the Iranian capital, which witnessed the commencement of the demonstrations.
The late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini, named the last Friday of the lunar fasting month of Ramadan as the International Quds Day.
Each year, millions of people around the world stage rallies on this day to voice their support for the Palestinian nation and repeat their call for an end to the Tel Aviv regime’s atrocities and its occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (seen below) also joined the Friday rallies in the capital.
President Rouhani told reporters during the rally that the message of the Iranian people is that the Palestinians are not alone in their struggle against occupation and oppression.
He said the Israeli regime is bound by none of the internationals norms and rules and is a base for the US and the global arrogance in the region.
“Today, any country that fights this base and any country that wants stability and security in this region, is looked upon unfavorably by the global arrogance,” the Iranian president said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also took part in the rallies in Tehran. He said during the demonstration that, with their participation in the rallies, Iranian people are telling the world that they do not condone such wrong policies as occupation.
“The Muslim people of the region and the world,” Dr. Zarif said, “still identify the Zionist regime (Israel) as the biggest threat to the Islamic world and international peace and security.”
Other senior Iranian officials, including Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is the head of the country’s Expediency Council, Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Ali Larijani, and Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli-Larijani also took part in the rallies.
Israel & Arab governments
Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, a top military adviser to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, said the Israeli regime and its sponsors are behind all miseries and the insecurity in Islamic and Arab countries from North Africa to West Asia.
The objective behind the creation of the Israeli regime, Maj. Gen. Rahim Safavi said, was “to create insecurity in and establish dominance over Arab and Islamic countries… and to plunder the natural resources of… these countries.”
“The Israeli regime, with US help, is after normalizing [its] ties with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and some other Arab states,” he said, adding, “Hand-in-hand with some Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, the [Tel Aviv] regime seeks to stoke war between Sunnis and Alawites and Shias in Islamic countries [like] Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Lebanon and Yemen.”
Rallies are also underway in other countries, including in Iraq, where people took to the streets of the capital, Baghdad, on Friday.
Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, told Press TV that there is hardly any access to information about Israeli atrocities against Palestinians in the United States.
He said people trying to inform Americans of such Israeli behavior face acute antagonism.
At the end of the rallies, a statement was issued that called, among other things, for continued resistance in the face of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, unity among various Palestinian factions and continued support for Palestinian resistance, and maintaining unity in the Islamic world.
The final statement also condemned the proxy wars as well as the terrorist activities of Salafi and Takfiri groups in Islamic countries.
It also described the US as the number-one enemy of the Iranian nation, and called for vigilance in the face of US attempts to influence Iranian politics.
BETHLEHEM – Israeli settlers from the illegal Beitar Illit settlement raided Palestinian lands in the village of Wadi Fukin in the central occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem on Tuesday, according to local witnesses.
Ahmad Sukkar, head of the Wadi Fukin village council, told Ma’an that a group of Israeli settlers raided agricultural lands in the al-Fuwwar area of the village, destroying two greenhouses and tearing up plants belonging to Maher Sukkar, Jamil Assaf, and Muhammad Manasra.
Sukkar also said the Israeli settlers uprooted the plants of Muhammad Saleh Manasra and Naim Daoud Attiyeh, before spray-painting “Death to Arabs” on their property.
Israeli settlers from the illegal Beitar Illit settlement, which has been built on private Palestinian lands belonging to the villages of Husan, Nahalin, and Wadi Fukin, commonly raid the communities and destroy Palestinian property.
Beitar Illit is one of several settlements that comprise what Israel refers to as the “Gush Etzion” settlement bloc, which Israel plans to illegally annex into its territory, according to the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ).
According to ARIJ, Israel’s plans of incorporating the Gush Etzion settlement bloc into the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem — boundaries that Israel continuously redefines in order to annex land further into Palestinian territory — parallels with Israel’s objectives of reshaping the demographics of the city by lowering the Palestinian population to 20 percent, and filling in the rest with Jewish Israelis.
Local Palestinians often attribute settler attacks on Palestinian communities — 51 of which have been reported since the start of this year, according to UN documentation — to Israel’s larger goals of depopulating Palestinian villages near settlements by scaring Palestinians into leaving their lands in an attempt to make room for the expansion or connection of the illegal settlement blocs.
While the Israeli government does not make Israeli settler population statistics public, most rights groups agree that some 600,000 settlers reside in Israeli settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem — all of which are considered illegal under international law.
The Israeli tourism ministry has published a map of the occupied Old City of al-Quds (Jerusalem), which omits significant Muslim and Christian holy sites and entire neighborhoods in the area.
The so-called Old City map, which is distributed free of charge at tourist information centers across the city, does not refer to the venerated 14-hectare compound that comprises al-Aqsa Mosque — Islam’s third holiest site — and the Dome of the Rock, as “al-Haram al-Sharif,” and simply refers to it by its Jewish name of the Temple Mount, Al Jazeera reported.
Moreover, the map makes no reference to the Church of St. Anne, which is a Roman Catholic church located near the Lions’ Gate and churches of the Flagellation and Condemnation in East al-Quds.
The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, the second Protestant church in Quds, is also shown on the map with a tiny and hard-to-find name.
The map, however, highlights dozens of sites whose historical importance is disputed, and a large number of them are indeed illegal settlements constructed in the Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City of al-Quds.
Among 57 numbered sites, almost half are buildings occupied by illegal settlers in East Jerusalem and are largely unknown to licensed tour guides.
One such tour guide, requesting anonymity, said the map favors Jewish sites regardless of their touristic value and appears religiously flawed.
“When I saw it, I thought it was a map for only Jewish tour groups. The narrative it shows is quite exclusive to one religious group,” the tour guide said.
Aziz Abu Sarah, a resident of al-Quds, said, “The St. Anne’s Church, which I think is one of the most amazing places, is not on the map. There are many Christians coming to Jerusalem, and they are going to get a map that doesn’t identify their holy sites. It’s not a smart decision.”
He further suggested that the inclusion of certain sites within the boundaries of the Old City of al-Quds is aimed at promoting a one-sided Jewish representation of East Jerusalem and ignoring its Christian and Muslim identities.
“Politically speaking, it adds sites that are controversial, like the settlements in East Jerusalem, and I think that makes it political and one-sided,” Abu Sarah said.
“There are a bunch of sites that are not only historically unimportant, but that are run by settlers,” said Betty Herschman, the director of international relations at Ir Amim, an Israeli human rights NGO that gives tours of East al-Quds to diplomats and others.
She added, “That is to the detriment of historically relevant Christian and Muslim sites, which you would think would be far more prioritized on a map of the Old City, the hub of the three major monotheistic religions.”
“This map, in addition to erasing important Muslim and Christian holy sites in the Old City, completely erases entire neighborhoods around the historic basin, supplanting them not only with Hebrew names but with the names of settlements,” Herschman argued.
She stressed that the settlements, for example Bet Orot, are built by radical and illegal settlers within the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods.
“The map is legitimizing private settlement around the historic basin,” Herschman said.
More than half a million Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank and East al-Quds.
Jerusalem 2050: A largely-Jewish high-tech tourist destination with a minimal Palestinian presence. This is Israel’s vision of the city, and it is being implemented through three master plans – two of which are relatively unknown. Al-Shabaka Policy Fellow Nur Arafeh provides a succinct analysis of all three plans and the ways in which Palestinians can rebut them.
It is the year 2050 and Israel has fulfilled its vision for Jerusalem: Visitors will see a largely Jewish high-tech center amid a sea of tourists, with a minimal Palestinian presence. To achieve this vision, Israel is working on three master plans; one is well-known but two remain under the radar.
Edward Said had already warned in 1995 that “only by first projecting an idea of Jerusalem could Israel then proceed to the changes on the ground [which] would then correspond to the images and projections.” Israel’s “idea” of Jerusalem, as elaborated in its master plans, involves maximizing the number of Jews and reducing the number of Palestinians through a gradual process of colonization, displacement and dispossession (see Al-Shabaka policy brief on the methods used as well as this recent update).
The best known of the three Israeli master plans for the city is the Jerusalem 2020 Master Plan, which has not been deposited for public view even though it was first published in 2004. The least known are the Marom Plan, a government-commissioned plan for the development of Jerusalem, and the “Jerusalem 5800” Plan, also known as Jerusalem 2050, which is the outcome of a private sector initiative and is presented as a “transformational master plan for Jerusalem” (see below).
As Israel plans for 2050, the Palestinian Authority (PA) “idea” of Jerusalem dates back to 2010 when the Strategic Multi-Sector Development Plan for East Jerusalem (SMDP) 2011-2013 was published. And the PA’s current national development plan for 2014-2016 simply refers back to the 2010 plan. In addition, while the Palestinian leadership speaks of East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied and illegally annexed in 1967, as the capital of the State of Palestine and a priority development zone, only 0.44% of the PA’s 2015 budget was to be allocated to the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and to the Jerusalem Governorate.
In this policy brief Al-Shabaka Policy Fellow Nur Arafeh analyzes all three Israeli master plans for Jerusalem, explaining how they aim to shape the city into a tourism and high-tech center, and the ways in which they use urban planning to reshape the city’s demography. She spotlights the dangerous new laws Israel has reactivated or passed to advance its colonization of the city – the Absentee Property Law and the “third generation law”. She also addresses the role of the PA and the international community as well as of civil society organizations, and identifies achievable measures that can be implemented by those concerned with Jerusalem’s fate. 1
Before analyzing the ways in which the three plans reinforce each other, it should be noted that Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is illegal under international law and is not recognized by the international community. In addition, Israel’s declaration that Jerusalem is its capital, both West and East, has no international legal standing, which is why there is no diplomatic representation in Jerusalem, not even by the United States.
- The “Jerusalem 2020 Master Plan” was prepared by a national planning committee and first published in August 2004. It is the first comprehensive and detailed spatial plan for both East and West Jerusalem since Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967. Although the plan has not been validated yet as it was not deposited for public review, Israeli authorities are implementing its vision. The plan addresses several development areas including urban planning, archeology, tourism, economy, education, transportation, environment, culture, and art. The plan is available online in Hebrew as well as in Arabic at the Civic Coalition for Defending the Palestinians’ Rights in Jerusalem; this policy brief draws on the “Local Outline Plan”- Report N.4.
- The Marom Plan is a government-commissioned plan for the development of Jerusalem that will be implemented by the Jerusalem Development Authority. The Authority’s goal is to promote Jerusalem “as an international city, a leader in commerce and the quality of life in the public domain.” It is a major planning body for the Jerusalem Municipality, the land Administration, and other organizations in the fields of housing, employment, etc.
The Jerusalem Institute of Israeli Studies is conducting the consultation, research, and monitoring for the Marom Plan. The Institute is a multidisciplinary research center that plays a leading role in the planning and development policies for Jerusalem in the fields of urban planning, demography, infrastructure, education, housing, industry, labor market, tourism, culture, etc.
- The “Jerusalem 5800” Master Plan, also known as “Jerusalem 2050,” is a private initiative founded by Kevin Bermeister, an Australian technology innovator and real estate investor. The plan provides a vision and project proposals for Jerusalem up to the year 2050, serving as a “transformational master plan for Jerusalem” that can be implemented together with other municipal and national government agencies. It is divided into various independent projects, each of which can be implemented on its own. The team for the implementation of the plan is said to include “the best Israeli tourism, transport, environment, heritage and security planners.”
A Jewish Destination for Tourism, Higher Education and High-Tech
The development of the tourism sector in Jerusalem is at the heart of the three development plans examined in this policy brief. For example, under the 2020 Plan, the Jerusalem Municipality seeks to promote the tourism sector and to especially enhance the cultural aspects of Jerusalem. It is planning a marketing campaign to increase the potential of real estate development, support international and urban tourism, and invest in tourism infrastructure to ensure the sector’s development.
The Marom Plan also aims to develop Jerusalem as a tourist city. In 2014 alone, the Jerusalem Institute of Israeli Studies conducted 14 of its 18 studies for that year on the tourism sector and submitted them to the Jerusalem Municipality, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, and the Jerusalem Development Authority. Moreover, as part of the Marom Plan, the Israeli government earmarked around $42 million to boost Jerusalem as an international tourist destination, while the Ministry of Tourism was expected to allocate some $21.5 million for the construction of hotels in Jerusalem. The Authority also offers specific incentives to entrepreneurs and companies to establish or enlarge hotels in Jerusalem, and to organize cultural events to attract tourists such as the Jerusalem Opera Festival as well as events for the tourism industry, such as the Jerusalem Convention for International Tourism.
Promoting the tourism sector also lies at the core of the Jerusalem 5800 Master Plan, which envisages Jerusalem as a “Global City, an important tourist, ecological, spiritual, and cultural world hub” that attracts 12 million tourists (10 million foreign and 2 million domestic) and more than 4 million residents.
To make Jerusalem “the Middle East’s anchor tourist attraction and resource,” the Jerusalem 5800 plan aims to increase private investment and construction of hotels; build rooftop gardens and parks; and transform the areas surrounding the old city into hotels while prohibiting the use of vehicles. The plan also envisions the construction of high-quality transportation routes, including a “high-speed national rail line; an extensive network of buses and public transportation; the addition of numerous highways and the expansion of existing roads; and an express ‘super highway’ that transverses the country from north to south.” The plan also proposes the construction of an airport in the Horkania Valley between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea to serve 35 million passengers per year. The airport would be connected through access roads and rail to Jerusalem, Ben Gurion airport and other city centers.
Israeli Plans to Promote the Tourism Sector
$42 million: To boost Jerusalem as an international tourist destination (Marom Plan).
$21.5 million: For the construction of hotels in Jerusalem.
12 million tourists: Goal for annual visitors under the Jerusalem 5800 Master Plan
The Jerusalem 5800 plan attempts to present itself as an apolitical plan that promotes “peace through economic prosperity” but it has demographic goals that prove otherwise. In fact, it envisages that the $120 billion of total added value from the implementation of the plan, together with the 75,000 – 85,000 additional full time jobs in hotels plus 300,000 additional jobs in related industries would all reduce poverty – and would attract more Jews to Jerusalem, increasing the number of Jews living in Jerusalem and further tilting the Jewish-Palestinian demographic balance in their favor.
However, the tourism sector is not only seen as an engine of economic development to attract Jews into the city. Israel’s development of, and domination over, the tourism sector in Jerusalem, is a tool to control the narrative and ensure the projection of Jerusalem in the outside world as a “Jewish city” (see for example the official Ministry of Tourism map of the Old City.) Israel has strict rules over who can serve as tour guides and the narrative and history that the tourists are told. Palestinian tour guides who do not abide by Israel’s false branding and who try to give an alternative and critical analysis of the situation can lose their licenses.
These plans to promote the Israeli tourism industry have gone hand in hand with Israeli-imposed restrictions on the development of the Palestinian tourism industry in East Jerusalem. Israeli hurdles include: the isolation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), especially after the construction of the Wall; shortage of land and the resulting high cost; weak physical infrastructure; high taxes; restrictions on the release of permits to build hotels or convert buildings to hotels; and difficult licensing procedures for Palestinian tourist businesses. These obstacles, even as millions of dollars are being poured into the Israeli tourism market, ensure that the Palestinian tourism industry has no hope of competing with Israel’s.
The Palestinian tourism sector is further hampered by the lack of a clear Palestinian vision and promotional strategy, severely impeding its ability to fuel the limited economic development possible under occupation. Moreover, although civil society organizations have stepped in to promote the sector, their efforts have been described as “fragmented and poorly coordinated” in an analysis in This Week in Palestine.
Another common goal of the three plans is to attract Jews from all over the world to Jerusalem by developing two advanced industries: Higher education and high tech.
To promote the higher education industry, the 2020 Master Plan aims to build an international university in the city center with English as the main language of instruction. As for the Marom Plan, it seeks to make Jerusalem a “leading academic city” that is attractive to both Jewish and international students, who will be encouraged to settle in Jerusalem once they have finished their studies. In the same vein, the Jerusalem 5800 plan sees an opportunity to create jobs and achieve economic growth through “extended-stay educational tourism.”
The development of the higher education industry is intrinsically linked to the development of a high-tech, bio-information, and biotechnology industry. The 2020 Master Plan calls for the establishment of a university for management and technology in the city center of Jerusalem, and for government assistance in Research and Development (R&D) in the fields of high-tech and biotechnology. Similarly, the Marom Plan aims at promoting Jerusalem as a center of R&D in the field of biotechnology.
It is within this context that the Jerusalem Development Authority established the BioJerusalem Center to foster clusters of bio-med companies in Jerusalem as a potential engine of economic development. To attract these companies to Jerusalem, the Authority is offering very generous benefits including: Tax breaks, grants for hiring new workers in Jerusalem, and special grants to companies involved in R&D or in building physical infrastructure. High-tech and healthcare industries are also expected to be major beneficiaries of the “Jerusalem 5800” Master Plan.
Evicting Palestinians Using Urban Planning and the “Law”
While Israel works on creating Jerusalem as a business hub that attracts Jews and offers them employment opportunities, the problems faced in East Jerusalem are legion. They include a squeezed Palestinian business and trade sector, a weakened education sector, and a debilitated infrastructure. The result of the suffocation of East Jerusalem’s potential can be seen in the high poverty rates, with 75% of all Palestinians in East Jerusalem – and as many as 84% of children – living below the poverty line in 2015. In addition, there is a growing identity crisis in East Jerusalem, particularly amongst the youth, due to its isolation from the rest of the OPT, the leadership and institutional vacuum, and the loss of hope in the possibility of positive change.
The Wall is one of the most important demographic measures Israel has put in place to ensure a Jewish majority in Jerusalem and enforce Israel’s de-facto political borders of Jerusalem, thus transforming it into the largest city in Israel. The Wall is built in such a way as to enable Israel to annex an additional 160 km2 of the OPT while physically separating more than 55,000 Jerusalemites from the city center. Planning and development in neighborhoods that are now beyond the Wall is extremely poor and governmental and municipal services are virtually absent, despite the fact that the Palestinians who live in these areas continue to pay the Arnona (property) tax.
Urban planning is another major geopolitical and strategic tool Israel has used since 1967 to tighten its grip over Jerusalem and constrain the urban expansion of Palestinians as part of its efforts to Judaize the city. Urban planning is at the heart of the 2020 Master Plan, which views Jerusalem as one urban unit, a metropolitan center, and the capital of Israel. One of the main goals of the plan is to “maintain a solid Jewish majority in the city” by encouraging Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and by reducing negative migration. Among other things, the plan aims to build affordable housing units in some existing Jewish neighborhoods as well as by building new neighborhoods. The plan also envisages connecting Israeli settlements in the West Bank, geographically, economically, and socially, to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
2,300 dunums planned for Palestinian construction vs. 9,500 dunums for Israeli Jews. (Nasrallah, 2015)
55.7% of additional housing for Palestinians through building within existing urbanized areas; 62.4% of Israeli Jewish building to happen through expansion of urban areas (including settlements).
$30,000: Approximate cost of building permits in Jerusalem. (source: author’s interview)
The 2020 Master Plan recognizes the housing crisis suffered by Palestinians, the inadequate infrastructure in Palestinian neighborhoods, and the dearth of public services provided. It aims to enable the densification and thickening of rural villages and existing urban neighborhoods; restore the Shu’fat refugee camp, which lies within Jerusalem’s Israeli-defined municipal borders; and implement infrastructure projects.
However, while on the surface it appears that the Plan has an equal interest in Palestinian areas, it is actually discriminatory. It does not take into account the Palestinian growth rate in East Jerusalem and the accumulated scarcity of housing. 2 It allocates only 2,300 dunums (2.3 sq. km.) for Palestinian construction compared to 9,500 dunums for Israeli Jews. 3 Moreover, most of the new housing units proposed for Palestinians are located in the northern or southern areas of East Jerusalem, rather than in the Old City, where the housing crisis is the most acute and where the settlement activity is also the most intense.
In addition, (62.4%) of the increase in Israeli Jewish building will happen through expansion and building of new settlements, thus increasing Jewish territorial control. By contrast, more than half (55.7%) of the addition of housing for Palestinians will happen through densification, i.e. building within the existing urbanized areas, including through vertical expansion. Moreover, while Palestinians tend to have higher household densities and build at lower densities per dunum than the average, Israeli Jewish areas have lower household densities but build at larger densities than the average. 4
Furthermore, the plan’s proposals to address the housing crisis in East Jerusalem will most likely remain ink on paper due to serious barriers to their implementation. In fact, several preconditions must be met before the Israeli authorities issue building permits, including an adequate road system (building permits for six-story buildings is conditional on access to roads that are at least 12 meters wide); parking spaces; sanitation and sewage networks; and public buildings and institutions. Palestinians have no control over these requirements, which are the responsibility of the municipality; needless to say, this makes it extremely hard for Palestinians to build new houses. 5 The plan also neglects the shortage in classrooms, health facilities, commercial areas, and other public institutions necessary to meet the demand of the growing Palestinian population.
The Palestinian presence in Jerusalem and the development of Palestinian neighborhoods is also severely constrained by the plan’s commitment to “a strict enforcement of the laws of planning and building…to impede the phenomenon of illegal building.” However, only 7% of building permits in Jerusalem were issued to Palestinians in the past few years. Israel’s discrimination in issuing building permits to Palestinians, combined with the high cost of these permits (around $30,000, according to information shared with the author), has forced many Palestinians to build illegally.
Palestinians also face discrimination when it comes to enforcement of regulations. According to a report by the International Peace and Cooperation Center, 78.4% of building violations took place in West Jerusalem between 2004 and 2008, compared with 21.5% in East Jerusalem. Yet, only 27% of all violations in West Jerusalem were subject to judicial demolition orders, compared with 84% of violations in East Jerusalem.
Furthermore, in addition to the emotional impact and instability caused by the demolition of their home, as well as the lost investment and belongings, Palestinians must also pay “illegal construction” fees to the Israeli municipality to cover the costs of house demolitions, generating a large income for the Israeli municipality. OCHA estimates that between 2001 and 2006, the municipality collected an annual amount of NIS 25.5 million (around $6.6 million) for ‘illegal construction.’
The 2020 Master Plan is thus a political plan that uses urban planning as a tool to ensure Jewish demographic and territorial control in the city. The plan also supports “spatial segregation of the various population groups in the city” and considers it a “real advantage.” It aims to divide Jerusalem into various planning districts based on ethnic affiliation in which no area would combine both Palestinians and Israeli Jews.
It is worth noting that state institutions are not the only ones involved in the Judaization of Jerusalem. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and religious organizations also take part in remaking urban space. The right-wing organization Elad, for example, has as its main goal settling Jews in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan and running tourist and archeological sites, especially in the Silwan neighborhood – which they call the “City of David” – Elad is seeking to re-create Jerusalem as a Jewish city with a predominantly Jewish history and heritage by erasing the Palestinians’ physical presence as well as their history. Elad employed 97 full-time workers in 2014 and, according to Haaretz, received donations of more than $115 million between 2006 and 2013, making it one of the wealthiest NGOs in Israel. Other organizations involved in changing the demographic composition of Jerusalem include Ateret Cohanim, which seeks to create a Jewish majority in the Old City and in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.
Israel has also been using law as a tactic to evict Palestinians and appropriate their land, so as to ensure its sovereignty and control over Jerusalem. As recently as 15 March 2015, the Israeli Supreme Court activated the Absentee Property law. This law was issued in 1950 with the aim of confiscating the property of Palestinians who were expelled during the 1948 Nakba. It was used as the “legal basis” to transfer the property of displaced Palestinians to the newly established State of Israel. After 1967, Israel applied the law to East Jerusalem, which allowed it to appropriate the property of Jerusalemites whose residence was found to be outside Palestine. The law newly activated in 2015 enables Israel to confiscate the property of East Jerusalem Palestinians currently living in the West Bank, and to consider their property in East Jerusalem as “absentee property.”
Furthermore, while Palestinians cannot claim the properties they lost in 1948 or in 1967 in what is now West Jerusalem, Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Israeli settlers’ claims to win “back” homes that UNRWA had given to Palestinians who had fled West Jerusalem and Israel in 1948. In other words, the Supreme Court is being discriminatory since this law applies to Jews looking to return to property they had before 1948 but does not apply to Palestinians.
Another controversial and dangerous law is the third Generation law, which targets properties that were rented before 1968 and that are supposed to be protected by law. According to the new law, the protection period ends with the death of the third generation of Palestinian tenants after which the property goes back to its original owner, who are mainly Jews who owned the property before 1948. According to Khalil Tufakji, more than 300 Palestinians now face the threat of eviction from their home. In Silwan alone, 80 court orders threaten hundreds of Palestinians with eviction.
Since 2001, Israel has closed at least 31 Palestinian institutions, including the Orient House, the former headquarters of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Governorate of Jerusalem and the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs are also prohibited from working in Jerusalem, and are forced to operate out of a building in Al-Ram, which lies to the northeast of Jerusalem and is outside the Israeli-imposed municipal boundaries of the city.
Given the leadership and institutional vacuum Israel has created in East Jerusalem, it is especially challenging to find ways to rebut its colonization of the city and dispossession of its Palestinian population. In the course of the research for this policy brief, I had the opportunity to speak to representatives of several organizations, official bodies, and community groups. There was broad agreement that one of the most urgent steps that should be taken is to establish popular committees in each East Jerusalem neighborhood. Such committees could raise East Jerusalem residents’ awareness about their rights as residents and about Israel’s plans for the future; encourage voluntary work; monitor and prevent Palestinians from selling their land to Israeli Jews; represent the neighborhood at national forums; and cooperate with each other to reinforce their efforts to defend Palestinian land.
Indeed, once these committees have been established in all neighborhoods, they could form what Jerusalemite organizations believe is also urgently needed: A representative body for Jerusalem at the national level, an inclusive body that would include the Jerusalem Governorate, representatives of civil society organizations and the private sector as well as independents. This body would work as a channel between Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the PA as well as with the rest of the world. Such a representative body could work on three main fronts:
1. The PA/PLO. A representative body for Jerusalem could lobby the PA/PLO to propel Jerusalem to the forefront of the Palestinian government’s commitments and ensure that it receives the budget and other support it needs in order to counter Israeli Judaization policies.
2. The Arab and international community. In this sphere, a representative body for Jerusalem should take the lead in advocacy, lobbying and campaigning at the regional and international level, in coordination with the Palestinian Diaspora. For example, Jordan should be lobbied as Custodian of Holy places in Jerusalem to help maintain a secure environment for Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Other Arab countries, in particular Morocco and Saudi Arabia given their special relationships with Jerusalem, should also be mobilized.
More efforts should be made to reach out to countries that have already shown solidarity with Palestinians, such as Sweden, Latin American countries, and the BRICS among others, so that they might use their good offices directly and in collaboration with other countries to hold Israel accountable for its illegal annexation and colonization of East Jerusalem. The fact that East Jerusalem is part of the occupied West Bank is a point that is often neglected in the official discourse and that should be emphasized.
These countries should also use their good offices, working with the PLO/State of Palestine, at the UN at all levels, including the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, and the UN’s programs and specialized agencies to expose Israeli policies in East Jerusalem, and call on member states to fulfill their legal obligations. In particular, member states should activate Security Council Resolution 478 of 1980, which declared “all legislative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, which purport to alter the character and statues of the holy city of Jerusalem … are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.”
The European Union (EU) also has an obligation to ensure full compliance with the principle of non-recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over East Jerusalem. The EU should translate its rhetoric into effective measures by halting all direct and indirect economic, financial, banking, investment, academic, and business activities in Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and throughout the rest of the OPT.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) could play a major role in safeguarding Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem, providing direct support as well as in lobbying the EU and the UN to provide support and to take measures to stop and reverse Israel’s violations. Such measures could include the establishment by the UN and/or the EU of a register of Israeli violations of human rights and the damage incurred by Palestinians as a result of Israeli Judaization policies and settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and in the rest of the OPT.
It is also vital to create a funding body or a development bank to overcome the lack of funding, which is one of the major issues faced by Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem. Such a development bank could have several functions, including: providing credit facilities since most loans are only available at very high interest rates; helping to finance the development of the housing sector; and providing incentives to encourage investment and assist in the revival of the trade sector. The Palestinian private sector and Palestinian banks within and outside Palestine should also embrace their responsibilities and be part of this development bank.
3. Palestinian communities in their homeland as well as in the Diaspora. These communities should help to develop and project a clear vision and operational strategy for Jerusalem. Practical measures should be identified to counter Israel’s Judaization policies; enhance the productive capacity of the Palestinian economy in East Jerusalem and strengthen its links with the economy of the West Bank and Arab world; promote the tourism sector to support the limited economic development possible under occupation; revive the cultural and economic status of the Old City; enhance the educational and health sector; and foster the integration of Palestinians in East Jerusalem into the rest of the OPT.
Furthermore, the existing legal bodies that offer legal assistance to Palestinians in East Jerusalem – e.g. regarding revocation of residency IDs, family unification, land appropriation, house demolitions, and zoning and planning – should coordinate their efforts.
Palestinian civil society, particularly the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has a vital role to play in targeting Israeli plans for tourism and high tech in Jerusalem, through campaigns to boycott Israeli academic and cultural institutions as well as businesses that are involved in the Judaization of Jerusalem.
The development of a coordinated media strategy is urgently needed to raise Palestinian voices in a challenge to Israel’s discursive power and its de-historicized representation of Jerusalem. Academics and policy analysts also have a vital role to play: There is a dearth of research on the socio-economic development of East Jerusalem as well as Israel’s master plans for Jerusalem, with very few think tanks working in East Jerusalem. Future research should also move beyond diagnosis of problems to devise creative solutions, using a proactive approach rather than a reactive one. The gap between academics and policy makers needs to be bridged to ensure that all efforts are united towards the objective of achieving self-determination, dignity, freedom, and justice.
- The author thanks the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation’s Palestine/Jordan Office for their partnership and collaboration with Al-Shabaka in Palestine. The views expressed in this policy brief are those of the author and therefore do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation. The author also thanks the Jerusalem Industrial Chamber of Commerce, the Civic Coalition for Human Rights, the Sinokrot Core Group, the Jerusalem Governorate, and PASSIA for their time and the information they shared.
- Ir Amim, 2009. “Too little too late. The Jerusalem Master Plan.”
- Rami Nasrallah, 2015. “Planning the Divide: Israel’s 2020 Master Plan and Its Impact on East Jerusalem,” In: Turner, M. and Shweiki, O. (ed.), Decolonizing Palestinian Political Economy: De-Development and Beyond.
Nur Arafeh is the Policy Fellow of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network. She previously worked as a researcher at the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies at Birzeit University, as an Associate Researcher at the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS), and as a Lecturer of Economics at Al-Quds Bard Honors College, Al-Quds University. Nur has a dual BA degree in political science and economics from Sciences Po University (France) and Columbia University (USA), and holds an MPhil degree in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge (UK). Her main research interests include the political economy of development in the Middle East, sociology and politics of development, and economic forms of resistance.