Jun 13 2016

Occupied East Jerusalem Needs to Be Free

Published by at 1:15 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics


By Daoud Kuttab

In its attempt to force itself on the Palestinians of Jerusalem, the Israeli government and various Israeli radical groups have an arsenal of actions, activities and slogans all with the same purpose.

Unable to remove Palestinians from Jerusalem or wrestle total control over the holy city, various attempts are made to make the city more Jewish and to try to negate the Palestinian presence in the city. The Israeli prime minister’s office and a US tax exempt charity have been exposed as being financial supporters of the controversial right wing march in the Palestinian communities of East Jerusalem.
Christian and Muslim worshipers and leaders are regularly made to feel inferior in their city.

While some of the more flagrant, provocative, actions are usually blamed on the more radical right-wing Jewish elements, a quick review of the actions and words of Israeli government and municipal officials shows little difference from the radicals.
The Israeli mayor of Jerusalem walks around the Old City brandishing a weapon and wants to unilaterally remove some 200,000 Palestinians from 27 villages that are part of the city’s municipal boundaries.

The Israeli prime minister, ignoring all other civilisations that have and continue to be part of the city, attempts to rewrite history based on the Zionist narrative that negates all others.

This is also evident in the strange map of the Old City of Jerusalem put out by the Israeli tourism ministry that shows 57 Jewish sites seven Christian locations and a single Muslim site Al Haram Al Sharif/Al Aqsa, Israel renamed Temple Mount.
So the rowdy and racist flag-waving right-wing Israelis who were allowed to march throughout the Old City of Jerusalem are not an aberration but an honest translation of the poison that is spewed daily about Jerusalem’s Jewish exclusivity.

The irony is that at the same time everything that the Israeli public and private parties do to enforce this manufactured Jewish exclusivity in Jerusalem, Israel talks to Western audiences about how Israel is respectful of Christians and Muslims and their holy places.

Israeli security personnel forced Palestinian shopkeepers to close shops Sunday afternoon to allow the marchers who chanted insults against Palestinians and Prophet Mohammad while repeating claims that Al Harm Al Sharif/Al Aqsa was the Jewish Temple Mount.

This year an attempt was made to stop the rowdy parade from disturbing the lives of the Palestinian population in Jerusalem, but the Israeli courts refused the request, insisting on the right of Jewish Israelis to demonstrate.
Years earlier, the Israeli supreme court ruled against Mohammad Burqan who wanted to buy back his own house that was on sale so as not to harm the different religious and ethnic groups that live in Jerusalem’s various quarters. The Burqan home was at the edge of the Jewish quarter.

Israel’s acts in Jerusalem, both in the public and the private domain, certainly frustrate efforts for peace and coexistence, and expose the lie that Jerusalem is a united city and that all the residents of the city have equal rights.

A neutral observer of the situation of the people of Jerusalem will clearly see the existence of multiple layers or racism and discrimination that are encoded in law and enforced in practice.

Israeli officials said that they would like to keep the Palestinian population in Jerusalem at no more than 28 per cent. Today, according various statistics, Palestinians have reached 35 per cent of the population of the city.
In fact, the more Israel attempts to withdraw residency rights and pressure Palestinians to leave the more they are returning and insisting on their rights in the city.

Some Israeli NGOs have attempted to tackle this discrimination by reporting and publicly speaking out about these documented widespread facts, but to little avail. The mainstream Israeli parties and movements are in sync when it comes to the Jewishness and so-called unity of Jerusalem.

International efforts to deal with this issue have also been utterly ineffective, leaving a vulnerable population at the mercy of racist Israeli bureaucrats and politicians.
Human Rights Watch just issued a statement about the need to hold those responsible for the decades-long illegal occupation.

“After nearly a half century of impunity, it’s time that those responsible for some of the gravest crimes, whether against Palestinians or Israelis, pay the price,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the director of Middle East.
“The ICC prosecutor should move forward and investigate the crimes by all parties so that the victims can obtain a measure of justice that has long eluded them.”
The Arab Peace Initiative, which has also been endorsed by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, states clearly that Israel needs to withdraw from all areas it occupied in June 1967 and, in return, 57 Arab and Muslim countries will have normal relations with Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, last week hinted that Israel might be willing to accept some parts of the Arab peace plan, but failed to fully endorse it as a basis for any peace talks.

As Palestinians and the world remembered the 49th year since the Israeli military occupied Palestinian and Arab lands, it is important to realise that the unilateral Israeli attempts at giving Jerusalem some sort of civilian legal status through the process of annexing it to Israel has been a failure.

If anything, the Sunday scene in Jerusalem was that of a city occupied and ruled by the power of the Israeli military and security forces.

The sooner the Israelis agree to negotiate the end of their occupation of Jerusalem and the rest of the Palestinian land the sooner we can start seriously believe in any sort of peace process.

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