The ‘Judaization’ of Arab East Jerusalem: A fait accompli?

‘Destroying the Palestinian state’

Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt); July 15, 2010

While the rest of the world talks about a peace process, and while President Barack Obama raises false hopes of a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel is working frantically to create irreversible facts in occupied East Jerusalem as well as across the West Bank.

These facts, which take the form of tens of thousands of Jewish settler units built all over the occupied city and beyond, are changing the demographic features and overall panorama of East Jerusalem in particular.

Jerusalem is not just another town. It is extremely sacred to more than 1.5 billion Muslims around the world, being home to some of Islam’s holiest shrines. Hence, progressive Judaicisation of the town by Israel is likely to drastically complicate any future effort to find a peaceful settlement to the conflict.

One Palestinian intellectual related to the situation in Jerusalem by saying that “it is now open-ended conflict similar to the Muslim quest to rid the city of the Franks in the 11th and 12th centuries.” “This strife might take several decades, even a century or more, but it must end with the dismantling or destruction of something called Israel,” said one resident of Hebron in the southern West Bank.

In a far-reaching interview with Al-Ahram Weekly, cartographer and demographics expert Khalil Tufakji argued convincingly that the situation in East Jerusalem has already reached the point of no return. “If someone tells you that it is still possible to have a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, don’t believe him. This is more of a fantasy than a realistic vision. It is a mantra that is near totally detached from reality.”

Tufakji explained that Israel had already confiscated 87 per cent of East Jerusalem, leaving only the built-up area, which doesn’t exceed 13 per cent of the city seized in Israel in 1967. “Even this small area is the subject of unrelenting daily harassment by Israel for the purpose of forcing us to abandon our property for Jewish settler interests.”

Tufakji pointed out that Israel has adopted two plans aimed finalizing the process of making Jerusalem Israel’s eternal and undivided capital. The first plan is called Jerusalem 2020, and envisages the construction of more than 58,000 settler units within the confines of East Jerusalem by the year 2020. The second plan is known as Jerusalem 30/A and envisages a growth in Jewish population by tens of thousands for the purpose of making Palestinians a small and shrinking minority in their own city.

“They plan to make Jerusalem a favored city, a city that would attract Jews from everywhere. And in order to implement this vision, they are offering a lot of inducements, including hefty tax reductions, easy housing conditions, mortgage allowances as well as enhanced infrastructure and attractive employment opportunities.”

Tufakji said Israel was also planning to expand the borders of the city in all directions to the point where the Arab population wouldn’t exceed 12 per cent, whereas the Jewish population would reach an unprecedented 88 per cent. The realization of this daring plan will take the form of a campaign of ethnic cleansing of Arab demography in Jerusalem.

“Their tactic is designed to confine as much as possible Arab inhabitants into the smallest amount of land. In addition, they will dramatically step up demolitions of Arab homes and withdraw residency rights from as many East Jerusalemites as possible in order to empty the city of its Arab residents and consequently obliterate its Arab-Muslim identity.”

Israel has already withdrawn residency rights from as many as 70,000 Arab residents, citing a host of concocted pretexts and justifications, such as traveling abroad or involvement in vague security violations. Since 1994, Israel has demolished nearly 1000 large buildings in East Jerusalem.

Tufakji pointed out that unmitigated Israeli pressure, coupled with Israeli policy of narrowing Arab horizons, has caused the size of the Arab population within the walled town to dwindle to 175,000 while the Jewish population skyrocketed to 200,000 plus. The Weekly asked Tufakji if he thought that the Palestinian Authority was playing on borrowed time as far as saving Jerusalem was concerned.

“Unfortunately, it is too late for Jerusalem for the time being. Others might say the same thing with regards to the West Bank as well. In the final analysis, we are talking about objective facts on the ground. To simplify things for your readers, I can say that Israel has killed the possibility of a true Palestinian state. And if anyone tells you that Jerusalem will become the capital of a prospective Palestinian state, don’t believe him.”

Tufakji added that Israel, under the rubric of disingenuous peace talks with a weak and demoralized Palestinian leadership, was changing the face of the occupied Palestinian territories so much that any Palestinian entity that might be established would be “severely deformed” and “looking very, very ugly.” “True, I am not a politician, but one doesn’t have to be a great politician to see the facts and the scandalous situation here.”

This week, Israeli sources reported that US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed that Israel would be able to keep up settlement expansion but without making public announcements to that effect. On 12 July, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the Jerusalem Municipal Planning Committee approved construction of 32 new settler units in East Jerusalem [see below]. The paper quoted a member of the committee as saying that “we will continue to build everywhere and in every neighborhood in Jerusalem.”

Netanyahu, who has just wrapped up a “successful visit to Washington,” has assured pro-settler coalition partners that he won’t extend the half-hearted moratorium on settlement expansion construction due to expire on 27 September. The Israeli media quoted Netanyahu as saying that “a promise is a promise, a date is a date and a goal is a goal.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah continues to dither on whether to rejoin direct talks with Israel as insisted upon by Netanyahu and demanded by Obama. With peace talks having gone on for years with no result, one must wonder what now can convince the Palestinians to give negotiations one more chance.

The above article can be found here:

‘Council approves construction of 32 new [Jewish-only] homes in East Jerusalem’

Haaretz (Israel); July 12, 2010

The Jerusalem municipal planning committee on Monday approved construction of 32 new apartments in a Jewish neighborhood across the Green Line, despite the Obama administration’s declared [but disingenuous] opposition to building in the eastern part of the city.

“We will continue to plan and build in every neighborhood in this city and we will not allow external forces to intervene,” said Elisha Peleg, a member of the Jerusalem Municipal Planning and Construction Committee.

The decision to build in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood comes less than a week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with US President Barack Obama in Washington.

Obama’s administration has voiced [feigned] extreme disappointment with Israel over its decision to continue building in East Jerusalem, despite the 10-month construction freeze.

Construction of the apartments could begin as early as Tuesday. The homes in question are just a fraction of the 250 units the committee is intent on building in the neighborhood.

The [fake] rift with the United States began in March when Interior Ministry approved the building of 1,600 new housing units in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of East Jerusalem during [self-declared Zionist] Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to the region.

Biden characterized the decision as undermining peace efforts, and the Obama administration has since made clear that it views construction in East Jerusalem as a violation of the settlement freeze. Israel, on the other hand, insists that neighborhoods in Jerusalem should not be likened to West Bank settlements.

The above article can be found here:

‘Military urbanism’

Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt); July 15, 2010

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

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

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

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

Also its illegal occupation is in defiance of The Hague Regulations Section 43, stating: “The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in [its] power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.” In addition, temporary administrative powers only are authorized, legitimate sovereignty to be restored as soon as possible, never indeterminately held by the occupier, what Israel has done for over 43 years, preventing the restoration of the pre- 1967 War status quo.

Under Article 64 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, this obligation is explained further, stating: “The penal laws of the occupied territory shall remain in force, with the exception that they may be suspended by the Occupying Power in cases where they constitute a [legitimate] threat to its security or an obstacle to the application of the present Convention… The Occupying Power may, however, subject the population of the occupied territory to provisions, which are essential to enable the Occupying Power to fulfill its obligations under the present Convention, to maintain the orderly government of the territory, and to ensure the security of the Occupying Power, of members and property of the occupying forces or administration… ”

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

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

In Separate and Unequal: The Inside Story of Israeli Rule in East Jerusalem, former advisor on Arab affairs to Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek (mayor from 1965-1993), Amir Cheshin, explained Israeli policy: “Israel’s leaders adopted two basic principles in their rule of East Jerusalem. The first was to rapidly increase [its] Jewish population. The second was to hinder growth of the Arab population and to force Arab residents to make their homes elsewhere.”

Since 1967, it has been binding Israeli policy, evident today from the Haaretz article of 28 June by Akiva Eldar and Nir Hasson headlined “Jerusalem master plan: Expansion of Jewish enclaves across the city” [see below] that: “The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee is set to approve an unprecedented master plan that calls for the expansion of Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. The committee’s proposal would codify the municipality’s planning policy for the entire city.” Those objecting were allowed 60 days to respond. However, at this “stage in the planning process,” rarely if ever are plans altered, approval “a fait accompli,” regardless of criticisms voiced.

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

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

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

Through June 2009, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) [The ‘Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions’? That’s an oxymoron — 800] reported thousands more demolitions — an estimated 24,145 in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza since 1967, 4,247 alone during Operation Cast Lead, others occurring regularly, and illegal under international law which Israel disdains and rejects, even though a signatory to many instruments, including the Geneva Conventions.

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

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

The Civic Coalition for Defending Palestinians Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ) is a non-profit NGO, “dedicated to the protection and promotion of Palestinian rights in Jerusalem.” In December 2009, it published a report entitled, “Aggressive Urbanism: Urban Planning and the Displacement of Palestinians within and from Occupied East Jerusalem.” The report reveals that since 1967 Israel has pursued a systematic home demolition/expropriation/displacement policy, illegally affecting thousands of Palestinian residents on the pretext of “unlicensed construction” in order to consolidate Israel’s control of the city, taking it then to the next level, Judaicising all Jerusalem to make it exclusively Jewish.

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

Without Israeli permission, those building new homes or extending existing ones risk demotions, fines, and displacement, a patently illegal process. Indeed, the municipal authority “dictates where and when Palestinians can build” as well as whether they can do it at all under the 1965 Israeli Planning and Building Law, providing “a thin veil of legitimacy” while systematically denying permits, prohibiting construction, and demolishing homes. This law, others, and official policies constitute Israel’s discriminatory, illegal planning system, implemented ruthlessly against Palestinians, given no recourse to redress. As a result, East Jerusalemites face an acute housing crisis, their rights to live freely on their land denied, many forced to relocate or build without permits, risking dispossession.

Amir Cheshin explained more about her experience under Teddy Kollek: “Israel has transformed urban planning into a tool in the hands of the government whose object is to prevent the spread of the non-Jewish population of the city. This was [and remains] a cruel policy, if only by reason of the fact that it disregards the needs [and rights] of the Palestinian residents. Israel regarded the institution of a stringent urban planning policy as a way to restrict the number of new houses being constructed in Palestinian neighborhoods (sic), and thus ensure that the percentage of Palestinian residents in the city’s population — 28.8 per cent in 1967 — would not increase.”

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

By so doing, Israel flouts international law, denies Palestinians their legal rights, and imposes repression and violence under military occupation, confirming its character as a rogue state.

The above article can be found here:

‘Jerusalem master plan: Expansion of Jewish enclaves across the city’

Haaretz (Israel); June 28, 2010

The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee is set to approve an unprecedented master plan that calls for the expansion of Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, a move largely based on construction on privately owned Arab property.

The committee’s proposal would codify the municipality’s planning policy for the entire city. In essence, Jerusalem would uniformly apply its zoning and construction procedures to both halves of the city.

Before giving the go-ahead, the committee will give objectors to the plan 60 days to submit their reservations. This is the decisive stage in the planning process, because only rarely are plans altered.

Once the 60-day period expires, the plan’s approval is a fait accompli. Such a development would probably invite a hail of criticism from the Palestinians, Arab countries and the international community.

The United States has recently communicated its expectation that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will prevent any change in the city’s status quo pending the conclusion of final-status talks with the Palestinian Authority. Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with US President Barack Obama in Washington early next month.

For over a decade, dozens of architects have worked to draw up the latest Jerusalem master plan, meant to replace the one in effect since 1959, eight years before the Six-Day War. While the plan did not attract opposition from the international community and leftist organizations, political developments over the last year — including the spat with the United States over the Ramat Shlomo building project — are likely to touch off renewed diplomatic tensions.

According to a document prepared by Ir Amim, an NGO that “seeks to render Jerusalem a more viable and equitable city,” the master plan vastly underestimates the construction needs of the Arab population in the city. While the plan calls for 13,500 new residential units in East Jerusalem for Palestinians, updated demographic studies indicate that this amount barely represents half the minimum needs for the Arab population by 2030.

Ir Amim officials also said that while the plan allows for Palestinian construction in the north and south of the capital, it barely provides for an expansion of Arab construction projects in the center of the city, particularly in the area next to the holy basin.

The group added that the plan creates a spate of bureaucratic obstacles for Palestinians who wish to build in the city. Ir Amim warns that the plan is likely to be perceived as an Israeli provocation because most of the Jewish building projects are designated for areas east of the Green Line.

In October 2008, the district committee opted to promote a master plan submitted by Moshe Cohen, formerly the chief Jerusalem planner at the Interior Ministry. Right-wing political parties in Jerusalem protested to Interior Minister Eli Yishai over the plan’s intention to add significantly larger residential areas for the benefit of the Arab population at the expense of green areas.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat instructed his subordinates to alter the plan in line with his policy of thickening the Jewish presence around the holy basin and the eastern half of the city.

Despite the National Planning and Building Committee’s decision to designate the City of David — which sits in the heart of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan — as “a national park,” the new master plan allows for the construction of residential units in the area.

The Ir David Foundation, a nonprofit group that seeks to increase Jewish settlement in the City of David and whose heads are close associates of the mayor, has in recent years bought houses near the Old City in an effort to “Judaize” the area.

Last week, the Jerusalem municipality’s planning and building committee approved a controversial plan for the Silwan neighborhood that calls for razing 22 Palestinian homes built without permits and constructing a tourism center in their place. Barkat said the illegal construction in the area is preventing the municipality from building a tourism center, which would include restaurants and boutique hotels.

Earlier this year planning officials received an internal memo circulated by Cohen, who was later dismissed as head of the master plan staff. Cohen wrote that the plans for the City of David are an example “of the district committee’s ambitious intention to satisfy contradictory positions.” He warned that this would not pass legal muster.

Cohen objected to the city’s decision to convert 2,500 dunams that were listed as “open areas” into residential neighborhoods.

A Jerusalem municipality spokesman said in response: “Indeed, the plan will be brought for a discussion before the district committee.” A spokesman from Yishai’s office said: “Professional deliberations are taking place in an effort to approve the plan.”

The above article can be found here:


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