Condemning Israel’s occupation is not enough
World leaders must address the national rights of Palestinians
Last week Israel announced plans to build more than 1,800 new settler homes in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Israeli Housing Ministry announced plans for 1,076 units in annexed Jerusalem and 801 in the West Bank. Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) has expressed deep concern about Israel’s announcement of further settler homes in Palestinian territories.
However, the mere condemnation by world powers of the Israeli occupation and its construction of colonial settlement units in the West Bank including the occupied city of Jerusalem is criminal. There should be strong measures taken to stop the gangs of colonial Israeli settlers trying to infiltrate Palestinian territory. The separation barrier, settlements and the planning and zoning restrictions on Palestinians in occupied Palestinian territory are all blatant violations of universal human rights laws.
It is against human rights to keep seven million Palestinians as refugees or displaced people and to blockade the Palestinian territories and create “people warehouses.”
Since the 1967 war, the Israeli government has annexed nearly 70 sq. km of the occupied area to Israel, which includes East Jerusalem, as well as 64 sq. km of surrounding West Bank territory. The annexed area was subsequently added to the Municipality of Jerusalem.
East Jerusalem has always been the center of political, commercial, religious and cultural life for the entire Palestinian population of the occupied Palestinian territory. It is heartbreaking to watch the Israeli government’s municipal policies of harassment and abuse against 270,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
World leaders must address the national rights of Palestinians and not just pay lip service to core issues, such as the right of return, ethnic cleansing, dispossession, and Israeli apartheid policiesSamar Fatany
Since 1967, Israel has undertaken measures to alter the status of East Jerusalem, contrary to international law, in particular land confiscation, settlement building and construction of the separation barrier. These policies undermine the residency status of the Palestinian population and its access to education and health services. Palestinians are deprived of any opportunity to plan and develop their own communities.
Israeli apartheid policies restrict Palestinians of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from residing within the Israeli-defined municipal boundary, which they can only do through a process of “family unification.” Since the early 1990s, non-Jerusalem Palestinians have been forced by the Israeli authorities to obtain permits just to enter the city, even to visit places of worship during Ramadan and Easter.
Furthermore, the number of permits granted is very limited, and permit holders have to endure a humiliating experience through four checkpoints before entering East Jerusalem, compounding the separation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. East Jerusalem today is becoming increasingly separated from the remainder of the occupied Palestinian territory – physically, politically, socially and culturally.
Pending a final status agreement, East Jerusalem remains an integral part of occupied Palestinian territory. However, Palestinians living in the territory are deprived of access to basic health and educational facilities, work, cultural and family relationships and the ability to worship at Muslim and Christian holy places in East Jerusalem.
Right to reside
The right to reside in East Jerusalem is restricted to those Palestinians who are living within this expanded municipal boundary. However, East Jerusalem Palestinians are defined as permanent residents of Israel rather than citizens.
Extended stays by Jerusalem Palestinians outside the city has often resulted in the revocation of their Jerusalem ID cards. Approximately 14,000 East Jerusalem Palestinians have had their residency revoked since 1967, of which over 4,500 were revoked in 2008.
Moreover, if a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem wishes to marry someone from another part of occupied Palestinian territory and reside in the city, he or she must undergo the arduous process of applying for family reunification status, which the Israeli occupiers have made virtually impossible to achieve. In addition, the children of such “mixed residency” status marriages later face difficulties in registering for permanent residency.
The Israeli policy of planning, zoning and demolitions in East Jerusalem is another major violation of human rights. Since 1967, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have not been provided with basic housing and infrastructure needs. Only 13 percent of the annexed municipal area is currently zoned for Palestinian construction. It is only within this area that Palestinians can apply for building permits, which does not begin to meet the existing demand for housing.
Furthermore, the requirements for land registration make it impossible for Palestinians to apply. As a result many residents have been left with no choice other than to build structures “illegally” and, therefore, risk demolition and displacement. This is how Israel continues its designs to preserve a demographic majority of Jewish residents vis-à-vis Palestinians in the city.
Since 1967, Israel has continued to implement the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements over one third of the area within the extended boundary of East Jerusalem and in the wider metropolitan area beyond. Today, criminal settler organizations continue to target land and property within Palestinian residential areas in the so-called “Holy Basin” area. These settlements have created restrictions on Palestinian public space, residential growth and freedom of movement.
Under a pretext
Israel in 2002 began erecting a separation barrier in the greater Jerusalem area under the pretext of deterring suicide bombers in the West Bank from entering Israel. Today, this barrier is effectively redrawing geographical boundaries and compounding the separation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.
Consequently, certain Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem find themselves on the “West Bank” side of the barrier, and residents now need to cross checkpoints to access the health, education and other services to which they are entitled as residents of Jerusalem. In addition, West Bank neighborhoods and the suburbs of East Jerusalem are completely cut off from the urban center with devastating social and economic consequences.
While all of this is happening, international powers are reluctant to take a firm stand against these racist and unjust Israeli colonial settlement policies. World leaders must address the national rights of Palestinians and not just pay lip service to core issues, such as the right of return, ethnic cleansing, dispossession, and Israeli apartheid policies in Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Jan. 24, 2014.
Samar Fatany is a chief broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.