We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.
Edward R. Murrow
Original Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

March 25, 2009

Israel Under Pressure Over Divided Jerusalem

by Jim Lobe

RAMALLAH - By late Saturday afternoon hundreds of heavily armed Israeli security forces on horseback and on foot had arrested over 20 Palestinians, assaulted a handful of people, and prevented numerous festivities from taking place.

Police in riot gear on horseback charged at groups of Palestinian youths in Salahadin Street, the major thoroughfare of Palestinian East Jerusalem, forcibly dispersing them.

Several Palestinian women handing out celebratory T-shirts at Damascus Gate at the entrance to Jerusalem's Old City were arrested and taken in for questioning.

A football game affiliated with the culture festival was broken up as students attempting to release balloons were arrested. A group of young girls gathered at a local youth club were forcibly dispersed.

Earlier in the week police stormed a meeting of festival organizers, arresting several participants and confiscating laptops, mobile phones, and files.

The Israeli police were following the orders of Israel's Public Security Minister Avi Dichter to use whatever force was necessary to prevent the Palestinian Authority (PA) from celebrating "Jerusalem as the capital of Arabic culture for 2009."

The tough crackdown, on what on the surface appeared to be a harmless and fun cultural event, underlines the growing conflict between the Israel government and the PA over the division of the city between Israeli West Jerusalem and Palestinian East Jerusalem.

Israel sees a united Jerusalem as its undivided capital forever. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Under international law, underpinned by various UN Security Council resolutions, East Jerusalem is illegally occupied by Israel and belongs to the Palestinians.

Jerusalem is not recognized as the legitimate capital of Israel by any foreign country, all of which base their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Following the breakout of the second Palestinian uprising (Intifada) in 2000, Israel banned the PA from carrying out any activities in East Jerusalem as competing claims over the future of the eastern part of the city exacerbated tensions.

The Palestinian population in East Jerusalem comprises 253,000 people, while there are approximately 192,000 Israeli settlers residing there in 12 illegal settlements.

The war over East Jerusalem has been fought on a number of fronts and on various levels since Israel captured the territory during the six-day Arab-Israeli war in 1967.

One of the first laws implemented after the 1967 war was the Absentee Property Law, which Israel used to expropriate Palestinian homes and property. Any Palestinian who vacated his home, even on a temporary basis to escape the fighting or as a result of expulsion, was designated an "absentee" landlord.

The "absentee" automatically lost ownership or the use of his or her property, and the homes were subsequently often sold or rented to Jewish Israelis. Since then the Jewish state has meticulously tried to establish facts on the ground by Judaizing East Jerusalem with the establishment of settlements. Jerusalem municipality has redrawn the city's municipal boundaries to incorporate the illegal settlements.

The building of the separation barrier, which separates Israel proper from the West Bank, has increased the number of Palestinians on the "wrong side" of the barrier or wall, thereby further limiting a Palestinian presence.

Conservative UN figures estimate currently that about 25 percent of the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have been cut off from the city by the barrier.

Furthermore, Israeli rights organization B'Tselem states, "Palestinians residing outside of Jerusalem for seven or more years lose their Jerusalem residency status unless they can prove Jerusalem residency within the municipal boundaries and the importance of the city in their daily life, which is imperative in order to keep their identity cards."

In 2003, the Citizenship and Entry Into Israel law was enacted. This prevents Palestinians from the territories from living in East Jerusalem, or Israel proper, with their Palestinian spouses who may have Israeli citizenship or Jerusalem residency.

Another tactic has been to limit the number of building permits for Palestinians, forcing many to build illegally and then risk demolition by the authorities.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) says there is currently a housing shortage of more than 25,000 units in East Jerusalem. Palestinians receive up to 300 permits annually, while 150 homes are simultaneously demolished.

Suhail Khalilieh, head of the Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem (ARIJ) settlement unit, told IPS that "even if Palestinians are fortunate enough to get the permits, they are still restricted to building on only 25 percent of their land."

Furthermore, B'Tselem explained that Palestinians account for only about 20 percent of illegal construction in the city, yet more than 75 percent of the demolitions are carried out on Palestinian homes.

While Israel has been winning the war on the ground and in the media to date, the tide may be turning.

Pressure from the new U.S. administration over Israel's planned demolition of 88 Palestinian homes in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, among others, might force the demolition orders to be frozen.

Furthermore, a report released by the EU in December accused Israel of using settlement expansion, the security barrier in the West Bank, Palestinian house demolitions, and discriminatory housing policies to gain control over East Jerusalem.

Another boost has come from an unexpected quarter recently. Turkish officials, at the behest of lawyers acting on behalf of Palestinian owners, have uncovered archives going back to the Ottoman empire days (that ended in 1922) in Ankara confirming that Palestinians are the owners of a number of homes in East Jerusalem.

The officials recently helped to trace documents which could end a 30-year-old dispute over the ownership of around 30 buildings in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood

Hitherto, a number of Sephardic Jews (Jews from the Arab countries) claimed to have legal documentation to prove their ownership.

The Palestinian owners had claimed for years that these documents were forged but were unable to prove their case due to lack of cooperation from the Turks who were hesitant to spoil their relationship with Israel prior to the Gaza war.

According to the Palestinians' attorneys, one of the Ottoman documents proves that the Sephardic leadership never purchased the compound but only rented it. Another Ottoman document confirms that the ownership document presented by the Jewish party is not authentic.

Other dispossessed Palestinians have also claimed forgery was committed in regard to their homes.

comments on this article?

  • US Jews Open to Palestinian Unity Govt

  • Bipartisan Experts Urge 'Partnership' With Russia

  • Obama Administration Insists It's Neutral in Salvador Poll

  • NGOs Hail Congressional Moves to Ease Embargo

  • Call to 'Resist and Deter' Nuclear Iran Gains Key Support

  • Washington Ends Diplomatic Embargo of Syria

  • Diplomatic, Aid Spending Set to Rise Under Obama Budget

  • Many Muslims Reject Terror Tactics, Back Some Goals

  • Lugar Report Calls for New Cuba Policy

  • U.S.-Israel Storm Clouds Ahead?

  • Calls Mount for Obama to Appoint 'Truth Commission'

  • Washington's Praise of Venezuelan Vote Suggests D├ętente

  • Rightward Shift in Israeli Polls Creates New Headaches

  • US Advised to Back Somalia Reconciliation Efforts

  • Hawks Urge Boosting Military Spending

  • More Troops, More Worries,
    Less Consensus on Afghanistan

  • Report: Most Citizens Kept in Dark on Govt Spending

  • Obama Raises Hopes of
    Mideast Experts

  • Obama Picks Israel-Arab, Afghanistan-Pakistan Negotiators

  • Rights Groups Applaud Move to Halt Gitmo Trials

  • Obama Offers Internationalist Vision

  • Around the World, High Hopes for Obama

  • Liberals, Realists Set to Clash in Obama Administration

  • Obama Urged to Take Bold Steps Toward Cuba Normalization

  • Clinton Stresses 'Cooperative Engagement,' 'Smart Power'

  • Bush Foreign Policy Legacy Widely Seen as Disastrous

  • Networks' Int'l News Coverage at Record Low in 2008

  • Amnesty Calls on Rice to Drop 'Lopsided' Gaza Stance

  • Israeli Attack May Complicate Obama's Plans

  • Report: Recognizing Hamas Could Help Peace

  • Business Groups Support Dismantling Cuba Embargo

  • Mumbai Massacre Seen as Major Blow to Regional Strategy

  • Obama Urged to Quickly Engage Iran, Syria

  • Diplomacy, Multilateralism Stressed by Obama Team

  • Obama Foreign Policy: Realists to Reign?

  • Hemispheric Group Calls for Major Changes in Americas Policy

  • Greybeards Urge Overhaul of Global Governance

  • Intelligence Analysts See Multi-Polar, Risky World By 2025

  • Obama Urged to Strengthen Ties with UN

  • Obama-Tied Think-Tank Calls for Pakistan Shift

  • Obama Advised to Forgo More Threats to Iran

  • First, Close Gitmo,
    Say Rights Groups

  • Obama's Foreign Policy:
    No Sharp Break From Bush

  • Coca Cultivation Up Despite Six Years of Plan Colombia

  • Obama to Seek Global Re-engagement, But How Much?

  • Two, Three, Many Grand Bargains?

  • Moving Towards a 'Grand Bargain' in Afghanistan

  • Top Ex-Diplomats Slam 'Militarization' of Foreign Policy

  • Bush Set to Go With a Whimper, Not a Bang

  • Pakistan 'Greatest Single Challenge' to Next President

  • Senate Passes Nuke Deal Over Escalation Fears

  • Brief Talks With Syria Spur Speculation

  • Iran Resolution Shelved in Rare Defeat for AIPAC

  • Bipartisan Group Urges Deeper Diplomacy with Muslim World

  • White House Still Cautious on Georgia

  • US' Somalia Policy Likely to Bring Blowback

  • Iran Could Reap Benefits of U.S.-Russian Tensions

  • A Really Bad Couple of Weeks for Pax Americana

  • Success of Attack on Iran's Nuclear Program Doubtful

  • US Gets No Traction in the Middle East

  • Gates Strategy Stresses Unconventional Warfare

  • Air Force Think Tank Advises Against Iran Attack

  • Pakistani PM May Be Pincushion for U.S. Frustration

  • Realists Urge Bush to Drop Iran Precondition

  • McCain Knee-Capped by Maliki

  • Jim Lobe, works as Inter Press Service's correspondent in the Washington, D.C., bureau. He has followed the ups and downs of neo-conservatives since well before their rise in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2003 Antiwar.com