Jerusalem, Capital of Palestine: Arab-Free by 2015
PALESTINE / ISRAEL, 17 September 2012
by Maath Musleh – Al-Akhbar
The Israeli Government is racing against time in a bid to put the finishing touches on its plan to annex and Judaize East Jerusalem. Palestinians represent roughly 58 per cent of the residents of East Jerusalem today. The Israeli plans in place aim to decrease the percentage of Palestinians to about 10 percent.
Israel has been determined to force irreversible facts on ground since day one of the occupation. On 10 June 1967, the Israeli government demolished the Moroccan quarter next to the Western Wall to make a public space for Jewish worshipers, destroying 135 historic residential buildings.
In 1980, Israel officially declared the annexation of East Jerusalem by passing the Jerusalem Law in the Knesset, declaring all Jerusalem, West and East, as the united capital of Israel. The United Nations Security Council condemned this declaration in its resolution 478. This disapproval did not stop Israel from freely pursuing its goals.
The mastermind behind the Israeli plans for Jerusalem is former-mayor Teddy Kollek. The strategy he devised consists of two parts: seizing the land and driving out the Palestinians.
The Israeli government seized the lands of East Jerusalem through creating the Law of Absentees, the building of settlements and the Apartheid wall. Demographic changes were also influenced by the increase of Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) estimated 267,643 settlers in East Jerusalem living in 26 settlements end-of-2011.
As Israel annexed East Jerusalem, the state laws applied to the city. The Israeli government used the Absentees Property Law to seize vast areas of Palestinian land. This law had been passed in 1950 in a bid to legalize the acquisition of the lands of the Palestinian refugees expelled in 1947 and 1948.
In an interview with Al-Akhbar, Ziad Hammouri, director of the Jerusalem Center for Social & Economic Rights (JCSER) said: “The Israeli government has confiscated about 86 percent of the Palestinian land in East Jerusalem since the occupation.” The mass confiscations limited the expansion of the Palestinian neighborhoods and villages in Jerusalem.
The Apartheid Wall was built in a way to annex empty land to Jerusalem. In some cases, inhibited areas were annexed, claiming the land while rejecting the citizens. Al-Walajeh, a village south of Jerusalem, is an example. The Israeli government annexed vast areas of land in Walajeh and the houses on it. Currently, many Palestinians are living in their own houses “illegally” [according to Israeli laws] in the annexed areas. The same happened in areas in Anata and Beit Jala.
Jan de Jong, a geo-strategic planner at the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA), said in an interview: “The Israeli government is working on drastically enlarging the settlements in Jerusalem.”
“The ring [Apartheid Wall] around Jerusalem is basically completed. You will be surprised to see how far the plans have already advanced…The old Oslo map might be changed,” added Jan de Jong.
According to PASSIA research, the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem decreased by 18.8 percent within the first weeks of the occupation. Within two years of the occupation, the percentage of Palestinians in East Jerusalem dropped from 100 percent to only 67.2 percent. In 2011 it dropped to only 58 percent (382,041 Palestinians).
After the annexation of East Jerusalem, Jerusalemites were given a blue Jerusalem ID based on the Entry into Israel Law. This law was passed in the Knesset in 1952. It regulates the granting of a residency to non-Israeli citizens.
“The mere idea of granting us the blue ID based on this law, as if we are new-comers, means they were prepared to reduce the Palestinian population in Jerusalem at any time,” said Hammouri. According to the law, residency could be revoked in three cases: spending more than seven years abroad, acquiring residency in another country or getting a foreign citizenship.
Between 1967 and 2011, the Israeli government revoked the residency of 14,561 Palestinians in East Jerusalem, according to latest JCSER statistics. A UN High Commissioner for Human Rights report estimated that in 2010, 10,000 Palestinian children in East Jerusalem were unregistered because only one parent is a permanent resident.
Yakir Segev, who holds the East Jerusalem portfolio in the Jerusalem municipality, declared at Hebrew University in January 2010 that the Palestinian neighborhoods behind the separation wall were no longer part of Jerusalem.
In December 2011, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barakat announced that the municipality would soon classify 70,000 citizens of Jerusalem as non-residents, referring to Palestinians living behind the wall. He added that these areas will be under the West Bank civil administration.
“This is a dangerous declaration,” said Hammouri. “It means that Palestinians in these areas will be subjected to the military law.”
Today, 290,000 Palestinians have the Jerusalem ID. According to Hammouri, between 100 thousand to 120 thousand of those live behind the wall.
“The municipality’s future plans will most probably include getting rid of highly-dense Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem that are currently within the wall,” he added. “This plan will include Essawiyeh, Sur Baher, Im Tuba and Anata.”
The tens of thousands of Palestinians whose residency will be revoked will be considered Absentees according to the Israeli law. Subsequently, all the properties they own in Jerusalem will be confiscated by the state.
In 1995, The Israeli government introduced the concept of “Center of Life,” circumventing the Entry into Israel Law. “The Center of Life concept means that you are required to prove continuous residency in Jerusalem for at least two years,” said Hammouri. “The concept is vague. The government can define it in any way it wants.”
Through building the Apartheid wall, the Israeli government has already managed to get rid of many densely populated Palestinian villages and neighborhoods such as Abu Deis, Shuafat, Qalandia and others. Nonetheless, they remain under the jurisdiction of the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem. In these neighborhoods, there is an estimated 100,000 Palestinians who still hold the blue Jerusalem residency ID.
Palestinian residents of the neighborhoods that are just behind the wall spend most of their day in the City [inside the wall]. They come for work or education.
“Because at the end of the day they sleep at home behind the wall, their ‘center of life’ is not considered Jerusalem,” said Hammouri.
In areas far from the wall [within the borders of the municipality of Jerusalem], Palestinians carrying Jerusalem IDs pay full taxes and receive medical and national insurance from the Israeli government. Governmental transactions are processed in special offices designated by the municipality inside a check point’s complex.
In early 2011, the municipality of Jerusalem stopped requiring some residents of these areas to pay Arnona tax. Paying the Arnona tax is pre-condition to prove that their center of life is in Jerusalem. “These special governmental offices designated at check points are tricky,” said Hammouri. “The government uses them to collect data on Palestinians living behind the wall and subsequently revoking their residency under what their Center of Life concept.”
In early 2012, the Israeli government introduced a new magnetic card that replaces the current blue IDs. Currently, acquiring the card is optional. In two years time it will become obligatory for all Israeli citizens and Jerusalem residents.
This magnetic card contains biometric information, tax records, movement [between Jerusalem and the West Bank], records and other information. Hammouri expects that in the near future Jerusalemites will be required to apply for permits in order to enter the West Bank. “They will declare all checkpoints as international crossing points,” said Hammouri.
Starting November 2011, Jerusalemites were permitted to carry their Jerusalem IDs abroad. Palestinians from East Jerusalem are required to deposit their IDs in Allenby Bridge before they leave the country. Hammouri predicts that Jerusalemites living abroad will not be granted the new magnetic card and the blue IDs they carry will be no more than a useless piece of paper.
The Ghost of Jerusalem
The emptying of Jerusalem from its residents is happening in a “soft” manner. The Israeli government does not physically expel Palestinians; the revoking of residency is happening in stages. As time progresses, thousands of Jerusalemites will be banned from entering the city.
In 2010, the Israeli government set a precedent by ordering the expulsion of four Hamas Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. The expulsion orders were based solely on their political activities. This comes under the Loyalty Law that will soon be effective on a wider scale.
Hamas MP Mohammed Abu Teir warned in 2010 that the expulsion order he received was the first in a series of orders that will see the expulsion of 315 politically active Palestinians in Jerusalem.
“In the near future, politically active Palestinians in Jerusalem will be expelled under the Loyalty Law,” said Hammouri. “It is one of the most ridiculous laws. They want us to be loyal to our occupiers.”
“Meanwhile, you will dream and live a fantasy that you are a Jerusalemite with an ID,” said Mahdi Abdel Hadi, head and founder of PASSIA. “But it will have no value because you are not part of the Israeli system.”
In efforts to pursue their plans undisturbed, the Israeli government is “drugging” Palestinians. The restrictions on entering Jerusalem during this Ramadan were eased in an unprecedented way since the eruption of the Second Intifada in 2000. Ma’an News Agency reported that the Israeli government granted around 150,000 Palestinians permits to enter Jerusalem in Eid al-Fitr. Even employees of Palestinian security forces, who were previously banned from getting permits, were granted permits. Palestinians who had a security ban in their files were granted permits despite the security ban.
“Israelis are enjoying 100 percent security in the West Bank and Jerusalem,” said Mahdi. Palestinians are being “domesticated,” lulled into accepting the Israeli reality for years to come. Currently, the Israeli government is testing the waters of the Palestinians reaction. We are in the experimental phase of the Israeli plans for Jerusalem.
The Israeli infrastructure was built on the determination never to withdraw from East Jerusalem. In 2011, Israel finished building the light train in Jerusalem. The track of the light train connects settlements in East Jerusalem to the center of West Jerusalem. The main highway that connects Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, “Road 1”, crosses portions of lands occupied in 1967 [Latrun Area].
The Guardian published in March 2009 an EU report that says: “Israeli ‘facts on the ground’ – including new settlements, construction of the barrier, discriminatory housing policies, house demolitions, restrictive permit regime and continued closure of Palestinian institutions – increase Jewish Israeli presence in East Jerusalem, weaken the Palestinian community in the city, impede Palestinian urban development and separate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.”
The 2010 statistics of the Israeli National Insurance Institute says that 78 percent of Palestinians in Jerusalem are below the poverty line. Today, there are 20,000 standing demolition orders for Palestinian houses and installations in East Jerusalem.
At this rate, within two years there will be a minimal Palestinian presence in Jerusalem. Palestinian negotiators will be faced with new facts on ground that make it impossible to reach an acceptable agreement on the status of Jerusalem. The Israeli government continues to stall to buy time to finish its plans, while the international community plays along and their only actions are ink on paper.
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