Saturday, December 05, 2009

Stop Israel swallowing whole of Jerusalem

RESISTANCE continues to the 'ethnic cleansing' of Jerusalem, the evictions and demolition of Palestinian homes, and what both human rights organisations and a European Union report confirm is a deliberate concerted policy, of wrenching East Jerusalem away from its West Bank hinterland and clearing Palestinians out.

In August, two families, totalling 59 people, including 19 children, were thrown out of their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah quarter, and settlers moved in. The Israeli Justice Ministry and authorities pretended this was just a matter of individual property disputes going back to Ottoman times; but the settlers moving in were newcomers, the (Israeli) Jerusalem municipality announced plans to build new homes in the area, and though a US State Department spokesperson said the evictions conflicted with Israel's obligations under the US-backed "road map" for peace, American millionaire Irving Moscowitz also has plans for property development in Sheikh Jarrah.

Arab families have put up what resistance they can, and last week a group of mainly Israeli youth marched against the clearance and settlement of Shaikh Jarrah.

The rights group Hamoked has reported:
"In 2008, the Ministry of the Interior revoked the Israeli residency status of 4,577 residents of East Jerusalem – including 99 minors. The number of cases of revocation of residency in 2008 alone is equal to approximately one half the total number of cases of residency revocation between 1967 and 2007. In April 2009, HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual sent an application under the Freedom of Information Law to the Ministry of the Interior, for receipt of information about the revocation of status from residents in East Jerusalem in 2008. This application was submitted by Hamoked for the second year in a row, after being forced to petition the court on the matter. The figures submitted by the Ministry of Interior clearly indicate a considerable broadening of the application of the residency revocation policy exercised by Israel in East Jerusalem since its occupation. This policy and Israel’s efforts to “encourage” residents of East Jerusalem who have lived there for many generations to uproot themselves and move elsewhere has been consistent over many years. The annexation of East Jerusalem to Israel has rendered the residents of the annexed area permanent residents of Israel, a status that differs from that of citizens in that residency may be revoked at the discretion of the Ministry of Interior. The revocation of residency status is not automatic, since the administrative authority has discretion in the matter. According to the data received, most of the revocations in 2008 were performed as part of a “campaign” which the Ministry initiated between March and April 2008, during which the Ministry actively sought out Palestinians who had lived
outside of Israel for more than seven years and revoked their residency under the revocation parameters set forth in the law. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been considered “abroad” for purposes of status revocation since 1996.

European Union consuls in Jerusalem have re-iterated what a suppressed report a few years ago pointed to. Israel is following a policy designed to sever East Jerusalem from the West Bank. Having unilaterally annexed the whole Jerusalem area and ringed it with settlements, the Zionists have no intention of letting East Jerusalem become capital of a Palestinian state under a peace agreement. They are carving up what remains of Palestine into separate chunks, and controlling movement between them. Anyone who is serious about wanting peace must do something to save East Jerusalem.

Here is Barak Ravid on the European envoys' report, in Ha'aretz on Thursday (December 3):

'A classified report drafted by European consuls in East Jerusalem and Ramallah slams Israeli policy in East Jerusalem and recommends that the European Union take steps to strengthen the Palestinian Authority's status in the city. It also advises taking various measures to protest Israeli policy in the city, as well as sanctions against people and groups involved in "settlement activity" in and around it.

"The report, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz, is updated annually by EU representatives to the PA. This year's report was completed on November 23 and presented to EU institutions in Brussels a few days ago. Due to the sensitivity of the document, the EU has never before published it, and in previous years Israel pressed the EU hard not to do so, for fear the publication would further undermine the European public's already negative view of Israel.

Senior Foreign Ministry officials said this year's report "left a harsh impression" in Brussels and helped Sweden promote its plan to have the EU formally recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

The report accused both the Israeli government and the Jerusalem municipality of working deliberately to alter the city's demographic balance and sever East Jerusalem from the West Bank. It said that both bodies assist right-wing organizations, such as Ateret Cohanim and Elad, in their efforts to implement this "strategic vision," especially around the Holy Basin area. These organizations buy houses in Arab neighborhoods, and make "attempts to implant further Jewish settlements into the heart of the Muslim Quarter."

The municipality, the report continued, discriminates against the city's Arab residents with regard to building permits, health services, education, sanitation and more.

"During the past years, Palestinians have received fewer than 200 building permits per year," it said. "Based on the population growth, permits for another 1,500 housing units annually would be necessary to cover the housing needs." For instance, the EU report noted, the village of Silwan has received only 20 building permits since 1967.

Though 35 percent of Jerusalem residents are Arab, only 5 to 10 percent of the city's budget goes to Arab neighborhoods, it continued. As a result, these areas present "a sharp contrast" to "West Jerusalem neighborhoods and East Jerusalem settlements where Israelis live."

A significant portion of the report deals with archaeological excavations in Jerusalem, especially near the Temple Mount. These digs, it charged, focus mainly on Jewish history.

"Archaeology in this case has become an ideologically motivated tool of national and religious struggle carried out in a manner that modifies the identity and character of the city and threatens to undermine its stability," the report said.

On another issue, it stated: "The expansion of Israeli settlements has sparked a trend of settler violence against the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem. Such criminal actions have been witnessed by Israeli police but are not met with adequate intervention."

Israel's closure of Palestine Liberation Organization and PA institutions in the city was also blasted in the report: "The general sense of neglect felt by many East Jerusalemites and the absence of Palestinian state-sponsored institutions and secular organizations are paving the way for Islamic religious organizations to expand their influence."

The European consuls proposed several measures to strengthen the PA presence in the eastern part of the city and pressure Israel to stop harming the Arab population. They include the following:

"Ensure EU presence at Israeli court cases on house demolitions or evictions of Palestinian families" and "when there is a risk of demolition or eviction of Palestinian families."

EU "celebrations, commemorations and national or Europe day events to be held in East Jerusalem."

"EU missions with offices or residences in East Jerusalem to regularly host Palestinian officials for dinners with senior EU visitors."

"Avoid having Israeli security accompany high-ranking officials from member states when visiting the Old City or East Jerusalem."

"Refraining from meeting Israeli officials in their East Jerusalem offices."

"Information sharing on violent settlers in East Jerusalem to assess whether to grant entry to the EU."

Four years ago when a report was produced it was the British government which used its presidency of the European Union to suppress it, even though it was Britain's consul in Jerusalem who had drafted it.
Then organisations like Jews for Justice for Palestinians and the Jewish Socialists' Group, affiliated with European Jews for Just Peace, obtained and published the report, and wrote to MEPs about it.

We can be grateful perhaps that Tony Blair, who was British prime minister then, has not succeeded in his bid to become European President, even if the person who has stepped into the job is little improvement.

More to the point, we can draw attention to this Early Day Motion now in the British parliament:

EDM 314
Linton, Martin

That this House supports the proposed statement by the Council of the European Union drafted by the Swedish Presidency calling for negotiations on a two-state solution leading to an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital; welcomes the statement’s clear reiteration that settlements are illegal under international law, as are the separation barrier on occupied land and the demolition of homes; agrees that all three constitute an obstacle to peace by threatening to make a two-state solution impossible; and asks the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to endorse this document at the meeting in Brussels on 7 December 2009.

32 signatures at 4 December 2009

Let's second that.

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