Jerusalem….When it is too late

Jerusalem….When it is too late

I paid a visit to the city of Jerusalem, “the expected capital” of the upcoming Palestinian state, the cradle of the three heavenly religions and one of the world”s oldest cities. It was first inhabited by the Canaanite Arabs followed by the Jebusites, then the Palestinians.


My aim was to visit, learn and engage with people whose homeland was fragmented into mostly occupied parts that were called sixty years ago Palestine, historical Palestine. This involved from the onset violation of visitors’, especially Arab visitors’, right of movement and right to closely examine the conditions of this country which have rendered it a prison for its indigenous inhabitants; those forgotten people who undergo all kinds of pressure and rights violations to give in and leave their homeland for people who flocked from all over the world to invade a land, which they claimed to be a land without a people for a people without land.


One sees gloomy faces of residents who quickly return to their homes by sunset. One notices also a huge difference between East and West Jerusalem. Any one can notice this salient and outrageous contrast between a beautiful part of the city blessed with care and wealth. On the other hand, the other part is neglected and marginalized like isolated slums in outskirts of metropolitan cities.


Only 5%-10% of Jerusalem“s budget is spent on Jerusalem“s Arab residents who account for 34 % of its population, depriving them of suitable service and infrastructure. Also, two thirds of them live under poverty line.


Since the first day of occupation of Jerusalem in 1967, the occupying state started demolishing houses, to later impose a military system and carry out ethnic cleansing, detentions, deportations and cancellation of citizenship rights.


Only one month after 1967 defeat, the occupation demolished 5000 houses. Neighborhoods were fully demolished, including Magharba neighborhood which was established in the era of Saladin at Al-Buraq Wall neighborhood. Also, some mosques were turned into Jewish synagogues, tourist and trade places and even camel pens.


Some Islamic graves that contained remains of some Companions of the Prophet were desecrated and their remains were moved to undisclosed places. Also, the archives of the Islamic Sharia Court were confiscated, and the Supreme Islamic Council building was demolished although the Waqf (endowment) status doesn”t perish with the passage of time. Then, “secret” forgery and excavations were carried out under Al Aqsa Mosque. They continue through today..


Papers of illegally moving ownership of 120 buildings to settlers through forged documents have been revealed. The occupation authorities controlled more than 60 thousand square meters of lands and confiscated more than 100 buildings and houses in the vicinity of the mosque, turning them into settlement outposts in which more than 50 Jewish synagogues have been built so far.


The operation is still going as dozens others are opened and as the authorities started to build the world”s biggest Jewish synagogue. This means that 90 % of Arab lands are put under control of occupation authorities (including 34 % confiscated, 40 % natural reserves, 10 % suspended lands, 6 % of the infrastructure and roads).


Al Aqsa Mosque, whose key buildings and landmarks are built on a total area of 144 square meters, has faced not only looting and robberies including seizing Al-Buraq Wall that the occupation authorities renamed the Wailing Wall, but it also suffered the demolition of Magharbeh Gate in early 2007. In its place a building was erected in addition to a bridge, buildings and fortresses which bear no relation to this place.


The occupation authorities intensified excavations in and below Al-Aqsa courtyard from southern wall till the Rock Mosque in its northern part and from its east to its west. It also makes tunnels to give access to trucks and bulldozers and eliminate Islamic monuments and appearances and to claim the presence of Temple Mount below Al Aqsa Mosque, seriously posing dangers to its foundations, walls and to many of the buildings and houses in its vicinity.


Although there are cracks and collapses in its western and southern walls, the occupation authorities refused the Islamic Endowments Department to restore the ruined parts in its courtyard, in Al-Buraq mosque, Old Al Aqsa Mosque, Marwani mosque and in its affiliated schools.


Meanwhile, Palestinians living in Gaza Strip and the West Bank are still denied access to the mosque to pray inside it. Only certain age groups of Jerusalem and Green Line residents are given access provided that they obtain an administrative permit from authorities in their place of residence. The occupation authorities launch a fierce war on any thing or anyone that may reinforce Palestinian resistance, fight occupation or expose Judaization schemes.


Aqsa Foundation for Reconstruction of Islamic Sanctities was closed on 14th August last year, after occupation authorities had started since 1996 to close Palestinian Islamic movement institutions, arrest their leaders and confiscate their documents and money to force them, under constant pressure, to change its policies to avoid further arrests and closure of institutions, and distract and overwhelm in defending itself, while the occupation carries its schemes against al-Aqsa and other Islamic sanctities.


It also aimed to highlight the marginal Arab society and to reinforce Arab and Palestinian defeatism in the face of Israelization. These measures aim also to show that treating the Palestinians would be in accordance with emergency laws.


Since the latest assault on Gaza, Judaization operations have escalated. More than 2200 buildings and houses and thousands of square meters are facing confiscation threats. Al Ansari Library, the oldest and most important public cultural library in Jerusalem, faces threats of evacuation and destruction.


The occupation authorities are speeding up measures of annexing and confiscating thousands of square meters of lands and hundreds of buildings under various pretexts and through issuing various orders, decisions and more than twenty laws, the most prominent of which are: Laws of confiscating absentees properties, natural reserves, green land and for the public interest, and so on.


This definitely targets displacing Jerusalem residents, so that the remaining, a decade from now, would be only 12 % of their current population, i.e. a quarter of a million, and increasing the Jewish population an additional million in the coming decade.


In contravention to demands of the international community and commitments of the Road Map, the Hebrew State is speeding up its illegal seizure of East Jerusalem through building settlements and demolishing houses of the Palestinians and building the Separation Barrier that divides and fragments East Jerusalem and worsens the economic problem of for its Arab residents.


In addition to the Jerusalem municipality”s strictness in giving building licenses to Palestinians of Jerusalem, preventing them from vertical and horizontal expansion in building, it may allow an exception which is very costly indeed, i.e. 25 thousand dollars for building a residential apartment. Meanwhile, Jews are given all required licenses and facilitations in return for very little fees. Due to this restriction, some were forced to build their houses without these licenses, giving authorities a pretext to demolish them.


Therefore, more than 400 houses have been demolished since 2004, while no less than 1000 houses are expecting demolition orders. The authorities do not grant the houses to Israelis to reside in them after evicting owners.


These eviction measures are capped by the occupation authorities withdrawing identity cards of as many Jerusalemites as possible. No less than 40000 IDs have been withdrawn. The occupation authorities require that blue IDs must be received from the Interior Ministry, in addition to other papers like water bills, electricity bills and taxation papers, in order to verify residence in Jerusalem.


The authorities rely on many pretexts: Amending laws of entry, residence according to years of absence and getting a foreign nationality and others. The occupation authorities have started to close houses of the Jerusalemite under pretext that they did not live in them for a period of time although they show official documents that refute such allegations. Also, they deny Palestinians holding a foreign passport residence in Jerusalem, effectively making them a tourist who is obliged to renew his residence visa every three months. In addition to this, couples can”t reunite if a spouse is from outside Jerusalem, otherwise, the violator faces prison sentence and the partner gets fined.


Israel“s goals aren’t restricted to political and demographic aspects, but they include also the cultural and religious aspects by removing the Arab and Islamic identity of Jerusalem city, and replacing it with a Jewish identity as much as historical and religious aspects are concerned.


Implementing plans of demolition and eviction have recently been accelerated to turn Jerusalem into a Jewish city after emptying it of its Arabs residents by 2020. Figures show that about 260 thousand Arabs live in East Jerusalem compared to more than 182 thousand Jews. Building the separation wall evicted 1635 families out of the city, i.e. about 100 thousand Arabs, to build Greater Jerusalem and impose a demographic domination for Jewish colonists in “The Sacred Basin” and impose a new reality on the ground.


A reality is also imposed on the ground through economic and tourist investments to force, when arrangement for the situation are completed, a recognition of Jerusalem as a capital of Israel. Settlement building has increased in the first half of 2008, 1.8% increase more than the previous year according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.


Through intensive settlement building, the occupation authorities work for removing the so called Green Line. There are no less than 192 thousand settlers illegally living in 12 settlement outposts in East Jerusalem, these settlements include also agricultural, industrial and military settlements. The occupation authorities encourage their expansion through giving tax breaks and broad financial projects. This creates a final reality on the ground, one which will be decisive in any upcoming talks.


The Hebrew State, that declared annexing East Jerusalem in 1980 after it occupied it in 1967, still refuses to accept 19 UN resolutions that see Jerusalem as an occupied territory. The Israelis have imposed through Knesset bill law ratified in late 2007 stipulating not conceding East Jerusalem in any solution that their governments reaches unless it is approved by a two third majority of MKs, i.e. 80 out of 120 MKs. This seems very difficult today, especially as an ultra rightist government is now at the helm.


Since resolution 303 was issued by UN General Assembly on 9th December 1949 the city of the three heavenly religions was granted a special international status, with highlighting a protection to sacred places and respecting religious, cultural and social privacies for all its residents. However, the occupation state tabled this resolution and has never respected it.


As for the supervising body, that consists of five Security Council permanent member states, delegated with implementing the resolution, it has been suspended since 1994 Oslo agreement took effect.

The Hebrew state has never allowed the United Nations to practice any administrative authority over Jerusalem, distorting the United Nations credibility all over the world, not only among Arabs. The United Nations sees that Israel has annexed Jerusalem by military force and occupation in spite of all its resolutions including resolutions 181 and 242 issued by the Security Council. This annexing of the Holy City is also in contravention to the UN General Assembly resolution 303 stipulating that any measure that a government takes can”t prevent the supervising body from maintaining the status of Jerusalem city as it adopted it.


According to the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967, Israel’s actions in the Occupied Territories indeed violate fundamental norms of human rights and humanitarian law and cannot be justified on grounds of self-defense or necessity. If the United Nations is serious about human rights, it cannot afford to ignore this Opinion in the deliberations of the Quartet, as it is an authoritative affirmation that Israel is in serious breach of its international commitments. Failure to attempt to implement, or even to acknowledge, an advisory opinion dealing with international humanitarian law and human rights law, brings the very commitment of the United Nations to human rights into question.”


The Hebrew State is only UN member state that has not declared borders, enabling it to continue swallowing the Palestinian territories without restriction. It is also the only country that does not have a constitution and sees that is home to every Jew in the world. It is the country that the United Nations conditioned, for recognition, accepting the return of Palestinian refugees and the emergence of an Arab country but it did not respect either of these two conditions.


It is also the only country that makes religion and ideology a reason for driving people out of their land, replacing them with anyone claiming Judaism. As for the six million persons who were driven out of their country and are now refugees all over the world, there is no signed agreement that establishes their return to their homeland.


In spite of all the humiliating agreements, concessions and talks, the number of settlers in the West Bank since Oslo Agreement in 1993 has jumped from 190 thousand to half a million today.


25 % of its lands have been swallowed in building the racial discrimination barrier and expanding Jerusalem and Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The remaining of historical Palestine is only 22 % which isn”t practically appropriate for establishing a state after divisions and fragmentations into Bantustans to isolate people and deny them the chance to communicate with each other.


Unfortunately, this situation and the demographic, geographical, social and economic changes were met by only individual and personal reactions in the absence of an all-out Arab Palestinian Islamic and Christian strategy to protect the city.


There is no clear policy to confront projects of settlement building and Judaization. The Palestinian Authority seemingly has no relation with Jerusalem residents and it doesn”t know how to deal with the city”s file. Many warn that dark days are coming ahead in Jerusalem, as we may wake up to see a city that used to be called Jerusalem. As for its residents who hear calls for remaining steadfast and restive, they have never received compensation for their resilience.


Ehud Barak said one day to Yasser Arafat “You own what is above land in Jerusalem and we own what is below it”, but this was rejected. However, Israel is operating out of insatiable greed, which isn”t restricted to Oslo agreement or other agreements, to the extent that it owns both what is above and what is below earth in this city.


Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority continues to hold talks and meetings with only meager results. This helps the Zionists to usurp lands, loot wealth and steal underground sources of energy, gas, waters and stones to build houses of settlers and even monuments to decorate houses of the settlers too.


Translated by Sadek Mosa and revised by Saja,