B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories – reports that the gradual ethnic cleansing of occupied East Jerusalem continues as Israel is relentlessly taking measures to remove more and more Palestinian families residing in the city from their homes and hand the buildings over to Jewish settlers.
According to a report recently released by B’Tselem, in recent years the number of settlers moving into the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem – in the Old City, Silwan, Ras al-’Amud, a-Tur, Abu Dis and Sheikh Jarrah – has been on the rise, with the settler population there now numbering in the hundreds. The settlers and the organizations backing them have done so with the approval, support, budgeting and assistance of all Israeli authorities.
The resulting settlement enclaves in the Palestinian neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem have altered their social fabric and made the lives of the Palestinian residents unbearable: they suffer invasions of privacy, economic pressures, and daily harassment by settlers and their security guards, who are paid for by the authorities. This state of affairs leads to violent clashes between the settlers and young Palestinians. The state and settler organizations, with their vast resources and power, force the Palestinian residents to conduct lengthy and expensive legal proceedings to contest the demands that they leave their homes: in Silwan, suits are underway to remove more than 80 families from their homes; in Sheikh Jarrah, similar proceedings are being conducted against 62 families; and in the Old City dozens of Palestinian families are fighting to retain their homes.
In most cases, various bodies representing the settlers seek to evict Palestinians from their homes by applying the Israeli law which enables Jews to claim ownership of property they or other Jews were in possession of prior to 1948. The state has also enacted a law that bars Palestinians from taking similar action regarding property they owned in West Jerusalem before 1948.
All appeals made by Palestinians to Israeli courts that they be allowed to remain in their homes have failed, with representatives of the authorities and judges backing the policy and giving it their seal of approval. Israel does not consider the residents of East Jerusalem as individuals with equal rights, but rather actively seeks to evict from their homes since their continued presence stands in the way of the state’s objective of Judaizing Jerusalem. Israel uses a variety of methods – all illegal under international law – to achieve that end: it deliberately prevents Palestinians from building in the city – for housing or other purposes; it issues demolition orders for homes built without a permit – for want of any other option; and it demolishes dozens of homes every year. The Israeli authorities do not invest in infrastructure and services for the Palestinian neighborhoods, whether physical infrastructure, public institutions, schools, cultural centers or sanitation, and does not allow residents of Jerusalem who are married to residents from elsewhere in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip to live together in the city.
The implementation of this policy, aimed at ethnically cleansing parts of the city of Palestinians, is not new. Israel has been carrying it out for years, ever since it occupied the West Bank in 1967 and annexed East Jerusalem and its satellite villages.