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The status of Jerusalem

Introduction

For more; than two millennia, Jerusalem was home to religious, cultural and ethnic diversity. At the end of nineteenth century, before the Zionist movement began its attempted takeover of the city, the population of Jerusalem was mostly Palestinian.

However, since 1948, Israel has illegally annexed much of Jerusalem. Today, in order to bolster their claim on the city, Israeli authorities continue to build illegal settlements in and around the city on Palestinian land and expel its indigenous Palestinian residents in a multiple of ways.

International law proclaims Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel, and it is in Tel Aviv that all foreign embassies are based. Despite this, Israel continues to insist that Jerusalem is the ‘undivided, eternal capital of Israel’. This claim, on the city, however, is an ideological one and has no legal effect under international law.

Even the US, Israel’s strongest ally, has renegaded on its recent promise (during President Trump’s presidential campaign) to move its embassy to Jerusalem. Such a move would have wrongly fortified Israel’s claim on the city by falsely recognising it as its capital.

The Israeli takeover of Jerusalem

When the UN decided to partition Palestine in 1947, Jerusalem was designated an international zone.

However, not content with the partition, Israel overran these boundaries and moved into West Jerusalem, declaring it their own. During this process, 38 Palestinian villages in the Jerusalem district were destroyed, and 80,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites were ethnically cleansed. These Palestinian natives were replaced by Israeli settlers.

Furthermore, when Israeli troops took over the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 war, soon to be followed by settlers, they also illegally annexed East Jerusalem. Their first step was to demolish 125 Palestinian homes in order to use this land for the construction of a plaza.

Expansion of illegal settlements

Following their illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, Israel began a project of illegal settlement expansion in order to continue their judaisation of the city, a project still being carried out today (July 2017).

According to the UN Human Rights Council, as of the end of 2015, over 208,000 illegal Israeli settlers were living in the Jerusalem area. By surrounding the city of Jerusalem with illegal settlements, Israel intends to isolate it from the West Bank, causing a fragmentation of Palestinian land. This fragmentation purposefully renders the establishment of a Palestinian state very difficult.

According to the Palestine Information Centre, the Israeli Planning and Building Committee is expected to approve the construction of 6,000 settlement units in East Jerusalem by the end of July 2017.

Ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian residents

The Israeli authorities have openly stated that they do not want the Palestinian population in Jerusalem to exceed 30%. To this end, Palestinians are continually pressured into leaving their homes.

The Palestinian people are presented with random eviction orders, and often find their homes invaded by violent settlers. From 2000-2008, more than 670 Palestinian homes were demolished under Israeli orders. Sometimes Palestinian families bribe the Israeli authorities large sums of money merely to delay the demolition of their homes.

This is a contravention of international law: “It is forbidden for an occupying state to destroy any movable or immovable private property belonging to individuals, groups, states, public authorities, social organisations or cooperatives unless military operations require such destruction.” (Article 53 of the IVth Geneva Convention).

For Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, accessing Jerusalem is almost impossible. Eight of the twelve routes to enter Jerusalem from the West Bank are closed to Palestinians who live there. They are denied access to the city unless they obtain special permits from Israel. Most crucially, this means reduced access to major religious sites and medical and educational centres.

The largest of these checkpoints in the occupied West Bank is the Qalandiya crossing. Watchtowers, barbwire and the Apartheid Wall looms over the approach and Palestinians are forced to wait in a cramped maze of metal grills and passages, leading to mini terminals where only three are allowed through the metal turnstiles at one time.

Discriminatory laws facing Palestinian Jerusalemites

In order to reduce the number of Palestinians living in Jerusalem, the Israeli authorities continue increasing the severity of discriminatory laws against the Palestinian population.

Identity and residency laws: Palestinians living in Jerusalem are forced to carry blue ID cards which have to be renewed annually, and without which the Palestinians cannot reside in the city. This ID can be cancelled on a number of pretexts; even staying one night at a friend’s house on the other side of the wall can mean your ID card can be confiscated. Identification technology used at checkpoints means that the Israeli authorities can monitor Palestinian movement. In the case of couples where only one person has a blue Jerusalem ID card, they must either live separately, or choose to move out of Jerusalem completely. Since the annexation of Jerusalem, over 14,600 Palestinian inhabitants have had their ID cards taken away from them.

Building permits: for a Palestinian to obtain the needed documentation to build on his/her own land in Jerusalem is next to impossible. Applying for a permit is expensive and takes years to be approved, if ever. Growing families have no choice but to risk ‘illegal’ construction, or consider emigration.

High taxation: Palestinians are charged extortionate tax rates, despite the desperate inadequacy of the infrastructure and services made available to them which differ in quality to those given to Israeli residents.

Conclusion

● Israel illegally intends to claim Jerusalem as its capital, and to this end it continues its plan of settlement expansion and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the city.

● Increasing numbers of settlements in occupied East Jerusalem threatens to leave the Palestinians without access to the city and has drastically fragmented their land.

● Israel’s continuing takeover of Jerusalem is damaging Palestinians’ fight for a Palestinian state.

● Both Israel’s measures to integrate West Jerusalem into Israel, and the measures taken by Israel following the June 1967 war to assert sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem, have been repeatedly condemned by the United Nations and have no effect under international law.

Sources:

https://www.nad.ps/en/publication-resources/factsheets/status-jerusalem-international-law

http://www.passia.org/images/meetings/2015/Material%20for%20the%20Website/Jerusalem%20(2015).pdf

https://www.palestinecampaign.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/jerusalem-factsheet-LOW-RES-July-2012-2.pdf

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session34/Pages/ListReports.aspx

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