No, it is not unfair to criticise Israel 

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 13/5/2017

Israeli security forces break up Palestinian protests organised to show solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, in Ramallah, West Bank on April 23, 2017 [Issam Rimawi / Anadolu Agency]

As Palestinians mark a number of key, painful anniversaries in 2017, Israel is busy with not ending the occupation, but entrenching it and crying wolf claiming to be the victim in the decades-old conflict.

The Palestinians recently marked the 69th anniversary of the massacre of Deir Yassin in which tens of Palestinians were slaughtered by Zionist terror groups. They will shortly mark the Nakba and the creation of Israel on their homeland and against their will in 1948. June marks the 50th anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. June also marks the tenth anniversary of the siege on Gaza and, in November, the Balfour declaration will be 100 years old.

On the ground, prospects for a just peace are almost non-existent. Israel continues to occupy the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to move more of its citizens into these illegally occupied areas. Plans for more settlement units continue to surface and even the idea of settlers leaving their illegal housing units have brought accusations of “ethnic cleansing” by the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Jerusalem continues to be Judaised, and the lives of Palestinians in the holy city continue to be made miserable through restrictions on building, extortionate taxes, heavy handed security, house demolitions, evictions and the planting and expansion of Jewish only settlements in East Jerusalem. Extremist settlers continue to break into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, protected by Israeli security forces without coordination with the Jordanian endowment which administers the holy sanctuary. Even the sound of the Muslim call to prayer which has been heard in the city and the whole of Palestine for centuries is being suppressed.

Israel continues to impose an immoral blockade on Gaza and has the temerity to warn of a catastrophe in the enclave with Major General Yoav Mordechai warning that the Strip’s aquifer has been destroyed by years of excessive pumping and an estimated 96 per cent of water in the enclave is now unfit to drink. This is compounded by recent action by the Palestinian Authority to cut salaries of workers and to refuse to support the supply of electricity to the troubled strip.

The feeling of helplessness by Palestinians, particularly the youth, continues to rise and the regular extrajudicial killing of Palestinians at check points shows no sign of abating. On 7 May, Israeli security forces killed 16-year-old Fatima Afeef Abdulrahman Hajeiji, spraying her body with 20 bullets at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, alleging she was about to attack them with a knife, which eye-witnesses strongly dispute.

In March, Israeli forces killed Basel Al-Araj, a Palestinian intellectual and opponent of the Israeli occupation in an area which the Oslo Accords designated as coming under PA security control, clearly confirming Israel has no respect for any accords or agreements it signs. The killing of the popular activist enraged Palestinians who directed their anger at both Israel and the PA whose security coordination was recently lauded by US President Donald Trump during his meeting with Abbas in Washington saying “they get along unbelievably well. I had meetings, and at these meetings I was actually very impressed and somewhat surprised at how well they get along. They work together beautifully.”

The impact of the wall on the daily life of Palestinians is immeasurable, drawing concern and condemnation from many quarters including from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who has spoken of his “profound grief and sorrow” after hearing the testimonies of Palestinians whose land has been put beyond their reach by the vast concrete wall Israel has built near Bethlehem and Beit Jala.

Rising Jewish settler violence goes unchecked by Israel which continues to practice double standards when dealing with this when compared with Palestinian acts. Palestinian prisoners continue to be mistreated and have their legitimate rights denied by Israel, driving them to a mass hunger strike by 1,500 of the estimated 7,000 prisoners which recently entered its third week.

As for Palestinian citizens of Israel, they continue to be treated like second class citizens and to endure the effect of over 50 discriminatory laws. The Bedouin population in the Negev has been targeted for eviction and transfer, while Jewish settlements are built in their place.

In addition, the status of Arabic as an official language of the state is under threat as proposals have been approved by the Cabinet to downgrade it to having “a special status in the state” while the national language is “Hebrew”. This is part of the so called “Nation State Bill” which would also explicitly reserve “the right to realise self-determination in the State of Israel uniquely to the Jewish people.” In any other context, this would be seen as a racist move when at least 20 per cent of the population are not Jewish.

With such a litany of abuses, an objective assessment would conclude that not only is it legitimate to continue to criticise Israel for its policies, but also those western democracies which support it in order for them to rethink their support.

However, 2017 is proving to be the year of the absurd in the international community’s relationship with Israel. It is the year when Israel is pushing hard to change the discourse on the situation despite an escalation in its crimes. A year in which German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel was snubbed by Netanyahu for choosing to meet NGOs Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem.

While 2016 ended with UN Security Council resolution 2334 which criticised the continuing illegal settlement enterprise, criticising Israel in 2017 for the same indiscretions as it committed in 2016 is now suddenly “unfair”.

Recently all 100 US senators signed a letter asking UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to address what the lawmakers call entrenched bias against Israel at the world body. “Through words and actions, we urge you to ensure that Israel is treated neither better nor worse than any other UN member in good standing,” the letter said.

Amazingly it was lost on the senators, or more probably they chose to ignore, Israel’s refusal to adhere to the body’s multiple Security Council resolutions on the matter, including resolution 2334 which Israel said it would not respect and proceeded to announce further settlement building. This coincided with Washington’s UN envoy Nikki Haley choosing to turn the spotlight from Israel to Iran in her first session holding the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council. “If we are speaking honestly about conflict in the Middle East, we need to start with the chief culprit, Iran, and its partner militia, Hezbollah,” Haley told the Security Council Thursday. “For decades they have conducted terrorist acts across the region.”

The UK for its part put the UN Human Rights Council “on notice” at its last session accusing it of “bias against Israel”. “The persistence of bias,” the UK representative argued in his statement, “particularly the disproportionate volume of resolutions against Israel undermines the council’s credibility as the globally focussed and objective international human rights body we all want and need.”

It is incumbent on all who have fallen for Israel’s hasbara propaganda about it being treated unfairly to point to any change in Israeli policy that their collective cowardice in dealing with it has brought. In fact, they cannot. On the contrary, their strategy for dealing with the issue, if they are serious, has failed. There is also no evidence that if Israel is not criticised, it will do the honourable thing and meet the legitimate demands of the Palestinians.

If there is unfairness, it is Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians which has gone on since its creation, not our criticism of it. In fact criticism is not enough, but action is needed to find a just solution.

Israel’s ban on the Muslim call to prayer in Jerusalem is the tip of the iceberg

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 7/11/2016


Al-Aqsa mosque

Something is in the air in Jerusalem and if Israel has its way it soon won’t be; the Muslim call to prayer — the adhaan — is under threat. The state which is built upon the ethnic cleansing of the majority of the indigenous Palestinian people is inching its way towards banning the call for prayer, which was probably first heard in Jerusalem in 637 AD. That was the year in which Caliph Umar Ibn Al-Khattab travelled to Palestine to accept its surrender from Patriach Sophronius, bringing a six-month siege of the Holy City to a peaceful end.

The required respect for people of other faiths was exemplified by one of Caliph Umar’s first acts upon entering Jerusalem. He understood the sensitivity surrounding religious sites and the potential danger of changing the status quo. He thus declined an invitation from Sophronius to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre lest Muslims turn it into a mosque. Instead, he stepped outside the Church to perform the midday prayer; a mosque named after him was later built on the site and exists to this day. This is in sharp contrast to the establishment of Israel in 1948, when 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homeland at gunpoint. Villages and towns were ethnically cleansed and wiped from the face of the earth, and their mosques were also destroyed or turned into synagogues or museums; at least two became cafes and one became a cowshed.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967 and one of Israel’s first acts as the occupying power was to raze the 770-year old Moroccan Quarter of East Jerusalem in order to improve access to Al-Buraq Wall, which Jews call the Western (“Wailing”) Wall, in order to facilitate their prayers there. Just a year after issuing the Balfour Declaration in 1917, Britain had actually dismissed attempts by Chaim Weizmann to vacate the Moroccan Quarter and to place the Western Wall under Jewish ownership. Fifty years later, Israel had no qualms about bulldozing the Shaikh Eid Mosque which had stood since the time of Saladin.

Christian sites

Churches continue to come under attack by the Israelis. Benzi Gopstein, the leader of extreme right-wing Jewish group Lehava, voiced support for arson attacks against Christian churches in 2015; he has also called Christians “blood sucking vampires” who should be expelled from Israel.

Jewish extremists have on a number of occasions targeted churches in what are called “price tag” attacks. There was a particular rise in these in the lead-up to Pope Francis’s visit to the Holy Land in 2014. A top Catholic official received death threats and Hebrew graffiti appeared on the wall of the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre, the local headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church: “Death to Arabs and Christians and to everyone who hates Israel”.

At the end of last month, the Israeli flag was raised at the Eastern entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, enraging the Christian community and raising serious concerns about Israel’s commitment to protecting Christian sites. The Church fought a two-year battle with its water supplier which threatened to cut the supply due to unpaid bills, which was settled in 2012. Add to this Israel’s restrictions on visits by Christians to the holy sites in Jerusalem, and on Christians from Gaza visiting either Jerusalem or Bethlehem, and the difficulties faced by Palestinian Christians becomes clear.

Muslim sites

The situation for key Muslim sites in the occupied Palestinian territories is even more precarious than those of Christians. When East Jerusalem was occupied in 1967, the Israeli flag flew for a short time over the holiest site, Al-Aqsa Mosque. The mosque was set alight in 1969, reportedly by an Australian tourist; the damage included the complete destruction of a 1,000-year old pulpit.

An agreement between the Israelis and the Jordanian custodians of the holy sites, which covers the whole of the area on which Al-Aqsa Mosque stands, stated that the Jordanian Waqf would administer the compound and that Jews would be able to visit but not pray. The status quo has largely stood the test of time but in recent years has come under great strain, particularly since Ariel Sharon’s “visit” to the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa in 2000, which triggered the Second Intifada. The visit seems to have given Jewish extremists the green light not only to dream about praying on what they call the “Temple Mount” but also to plan to build a Jewish temple thereon; the plans include the destruction of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock Mosque.

Recent years have seen an upsurge in the frequency and extent of incursions by extremists during which the use of the sanctuary by Muslim worshippers is restricted. This practice has increased tensions and prompted fears of a change to the “status quo”, moving the Jordanian government to act by withdrawing its ambassador from Tel Aviv in protest. Clashes have erupted frequently between Israeli security forces and Palestinians devoted to protecting their mosque. Israeli forces have also harassed worshippers, banning some from entering the Noble Sanctuary or withholding their Jerusalem ID cards, without which they struggle to move around the territories. Such practices were a major contributory factor to the ongoing year-long uprising in which individual Palestinians have attacked mainly security forces but in some instances Israeli civilians in what has been termed the “knife intifada”.

Another city that has suffered disproportionately, probably due to its religious significance, is Al-Khalil (Hebron). The city is home to 120,000 Palestinians whose lives are blighted by the planting of 700 particularly extreme Israeli settlers in the centre of the city; they are protected by hundreds of Israeli soldiers and a system of closed military zones and checkpoints. The city is home to the Ibrahimi Mosque which Jews call the Cave of the Patriarchs. The mosque was the scene of a terrorist attack in 1994 by a Jewish American-Israeli named Baruch Goldstein who killed 29 Muslim worshippers while they were praying; although the murderous attack was condemned by the Israeli government it was — and is — applauded by some Israelis, particularly the extreme right-wing settlers. Israel’s response was — perversely — to impose greater restrictions on Palestinians and to divide the Ibrahimi Mosque physically, as well as to open it up exclusively to Jews for ten days of the year and to Muslims for another ten days.

Restricting the call to prayer

Israel’s restrictions on access to the holy sites in Jerusalem and Hebron have recently been complemented with bans on the daily call to prayer. In Hebron, the practice has been ongoing for a number of years and included the call being silenced 49 times in January 2014, 52 times in December 2015 and 83 times last month.

The practice seems to be spreading to Jerusalem. Israel recently banned three mosques in Abu Dis from broadcasting the morning call. Lawyer Bassam Bahr, head of a local committee in Abu Dis, condemned the “unjustified ban”, saying that “Israel attacks Palestinians in all aspects of their lives.” It seems that the ban was a response to complaints from illegal settlers in nearby Pisgat Zeev who complained to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat about the “noise pollution” coming from local mosques. Both Barkat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are clearly set on applying the “unbearable noise” law to the call for prayer.

The mayor and prime minister know the importance of the call to prayer to the Muslim community; their plan to eradicate it from the air of Jerusalem to appease illegal settlers shows that neither has the wisdom of Caliph Umar. Their plan has not only enraged Palestinians, but also damaged yet further attempts to create a climate that will lead to peace; it is most definitely part of Israel’s attempts to Judaise Jerusalem and empty the Holy City of its Islamic and Christian heritage. The ban is, in fact, just the tip of the Judaisation iceberg.

As for the settlers objecting to the Muslim call to prayer are concerned, there is an easy solution. They could leave the houses that they have built — illegally — on land stolen from its Palestinian owners and either go back to where they came from in North America or Europe or live within the internationally recognised borders of the state whose citizenship they carry. That would be the most moral of solutions, although it is doubtful if they know what morality is.

TV Interview: Israel Suspends UNESCO Ties

I contributed to the Press TV programme ‘On the news line’ about the UNESCO resolution confirming that East Jerusalem including the religious sites is illegally occupied. This was broadcast on 20/10/2016.

 

Israël ne peut utiliser l’archéologie pour justifier le colonialisme et la dépossession

Israël ne peut utiliser l’archéologie pour justifier le colonialisme et la dépossession

Translation published first by the Middle East Eye on 18/4/2016

L’enchevêtrement entre archéologie et politique en Israël est une tendance dangereuse

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Depuis que le sionisme a mené à bien son projet de création d’un foyer juif en Palestine, les Palestiniens ont dû faire face aux tentatives quotidiennes d’Israël de négation de leurs droits et de leur appartenance à la terre. Celles-ci prennent de nombreuses formes, dont des références générales à l’époque biblique, la connexion spirituelle entre les juifs et la Palestine historique culminant dans le « Dieu nous a donné cette terre ». C’est « dans la Bible ».

On devrait en déduire que tout le territoire situé entre le fleuve Jourdain et la mer Méditerranée appartient aux juifs, que Jérusalem est la « capitale unie et éternelle » du « peuple juif » et que la Cisjordanie est la « Judée et Samarie ». Collectivement, cela est censé prouver que la connexion des juifs à la terre est beaucoup plus forte que celle de n’importe quel autre groupe, dont les Palestiniens. Les hommes politiques israéliens utilisent ceci pour affirmer qu’il n’y a pas d’occupation dans la mesure où les juifs sont simplement en train de retourner dans leur terre natale.

Aujourd’hui, la Palestine historique ne manque pas de symboles historiques liés aux trois grandes religions monothéistes, et Jérusalem en possède un nombre abondant dans un espace minuscule qui contient le Mur occidental, l’église du Saint Sépulcre et la mosquée al-Aqsa. Chaque année, des milliers de fidèles partent en pèlerinage en Terre sainte, essentiellement des juifs et des chrétiens. Des milliers de musulmans seraient aussi du voyage si la paix prévalait et s’ils étaient autorisés à visiter leur troisième plus sainte mosquée, al-Aqsa.

Le contexte ci-dessus montre non seulement l’importance de la Palestine historique pour les trois religions mais aussi le potentiel de million de personnes la visitant chaque année, générant des bénéfices économiques substantiels pour les juifs, les chrétiens et les musulmans. Pour qu’un tel potentiel se réalise, il est important que la paix soit établie et que l’histoire de cette terre soit préservée pour les générations actuelles et à venir.

Celui qui en est responsable, en tant que puissance étatique et puissance occupante, est Israël. Son rejet de cette responsabilité est au mieux suspect. Israël s’est lancé en fait dans un processus consistant à ramener systématiquement sur le devant de la scène l’histoire juive de la terre et à cacher, ou dans certains cas effacer, la connexion qu’en ont les autres habitants. 

Lorsqu’Israël a occupé Jérusalem-Est en 1967, les forces d’occupation ont commencé par hisser le drapeau israélien sur la mosquée al-Aqsa. Bien qu’ils l’aient ensuite enlevé, les Israéliens ont rapidement procédé à la destruction au bulldozer du quartier marocain de Jérusalem, dont plusieurs mosquées, afin de faciliter l’accès des juifs au Mur occidental, qu’ils désignent aussi sous le nom de Mur des Lamentations.

Depuis lors, Israël s’est lancée dans un projet archéologique d’envergure dans cette zone sensible et dans d’autres zones moins sensibles afin de trouver des preuves de l’existence des juifs en ces lieux après leur exode d’Égypte et pour l’utiliser comme justification de leur revendication à la Palestine historique des temps modernes.

Les Israéliens sont particulièrement désireux de mettre au jour la preuve que les premier et second temples existèrent sur le site de la mosquée al-Aqsa. Depuis leur occupation de Jérusalem-Est, ils ont creusé autour et sous le site, suscitant les vives préoccupations des Palestiniens et de la Jordanie, qui craignent que les excavations viennent endommager les fondations de la mosquée, précipitant son effondrement. On pense aussi que les fouilles menées par l’Autorité des antiquités d’Israël menacent les maisons du quartier palestinien de Silwan, qui se trouve en contre-bas du mur méridional de la mosquée al-Aqsa.

Si les fouilles étaient simplement menées pour des raisons purement historiques, on pourrait avancer l’argument que, si elles étaient faites avec précaution, elles pourraient être tolérées par les Palestiniens. Or, cette zone, que les Israéliens de droite appellent la Cité de David, est l’une de celles dont ils veulent se saisir, séparant ainsi de fait la mosquée al-Aqsa de l’un de ses quartiers palestiniens les plus proches. 

L’utilisation de l’archéologie en Israël pour délégitimer la connexion des non-juifs à la terre et légitimiste le projet colonialiste d’Israël ne se limite pas aux organisations de droite. En 2013, le Premier ministre Benjamin Netanyahou a qualifié de « magnifique » la découverte d’un ancien médaillon d’or à Jérusalem. Il avait alors affirmé : « Il est intéressant de voir que même alors, plus de 500 ans après la destruction du second Temple, nous voyons la menorah dans une illustration originale. C’est un témoignage historique, de la plus grande qualité, du lien du Peuple juif à Jérusalem, sa terre et son héritage – menorah, shofar, parchemin de la Torah. » 

En 2015, le ministre de l’Éducation Naftali Bennett s’est servi de sa page Facebook pour envoyer un « Mémo à Mahmoud Abbas [président de l’Autorité Palestinienne] et d’autres qui crient “occupation” : une jarre vieille de 3 000 ans portant l’inscription Ishba’al fils de Beda a récemment été découverte près de Beit Shemesh. Ishba’al est un nom mentionné dans le Tanach (Bible) et est uniquement propre à la période du roi David. Ce n’est qu’un autre exemple des nombreux faits sur le terrain racontant l’histoire de l’État juif qui a prospéré ici sur cette terre il y a 3 000 ans. À cette époque, il y avait des communautés qui levaient des impôts, jouissaient d’une économie forte, fournissait des transports, des institutions éducatives et une armée – comme aujourd’hui. Une nation ne peut pas occuper sa propre terre. »

Les institutions étatiques peuvent aussi se trouver mêlées à la controverse lorsqu’elles se risquent à utiliser des symboles historiques. Récemment, l’authenticité de l’image musicale représentée sur la pièce d’un demi shekel de la Banque d’Israël a été remise en question. Le « kinnor » ou lyre, qui ressemble à une harpe, donnait à cette pièce une apparence caractéristique et historique. L’instrument de musique apparaît au-dessus d’une inscription sur un sceau en pierre découvert en 1979 et daté du Royaume de Judée du VIIe siècle avant notre ère.

La Banque d’Israël a frappé la pièce décorée de la lyre en 1985, et cette dernière y figure encore à ce jour. Cependant, Haaretz a récemment rapporté que de nombreux archéologues pensent que ce sceau est un faux, une contrefaçon, ce qui place la Banque d’Israël dans une situation délicate. Devrait-elle retirer la pièce ou continuer à l’utiliser comme sa monnaie légale ?

Sa réponse a été la suivante : « Rien ne prouve que le sceau “Appartenant à Maadana, fille du roi” n’est pas authentique. Et quand bien même ce serait le cas, cela n’a aucune importance en ce qui concerne la pièce en tant que telle, de nombreuses années après sa production. Nous pouvons garantir au public que la pièce qu’il tient entre ses mains est une monnaie légale à tous égards. »

L’enchevêtrement entre archéologie et politique en Israël est une tendance dangereuse qui semble s’être intensifiée à mesure que la société et les politiques israéliennes ont viré vers la droite et que les hommes politiques du pays ont manœuvré le conflit d’un conflit politique à un conflit religieux. Cependant, personne, y compris les Palestiniens, ne nie que les juifs ont vécu en Palestine il y a environ deux mille ans ou qu’ils ont une connexion spirituelle à la terre. 

Cela n’empêche pas que d’autres groupes aient aussi des revendications. Avant que les juifs ne viennent en Palestine, celle-ci était habitée par les Cananéens. La chrétienté est née en Palestine, et par conséquent les chrétiens ont eux aussi une forte connexion à ce lieu. Plus récemment, dans les années 630, les musulmans l’ont conquis et l’ont habité depuis sans discontinuer.

La Palestine historique est appelée Terre sainte parce qu’elle est sainte pour les religions monothéistes. Refuser un tel attachement à n’importe lequel de ces groupes est égoïste et injuste. Les tentatives visant à mieux comprendre l’histoire, notamment à travers l’archéologie, sont très importantes, mais l’honnêteté l’est tout autant.

 Kamel Hawwash est un professeur britannico-palestinien d’ingénierie de l’université de Birmingham et un militant de longue date pour la justice, en particulier pour le peuple palestinien. Il est vice-président de la Campagne de Solidarité Palestine (CFP) et apparaît régulièrement dans les médias comme commentateur sur les questions du Moyen-Orient. Il écrit ici à titre personnel. Il blogue sur http://www.kamelhawwash.com.

Jerusalem at the heart of the conflict

My article was first published in Palestine News in February 2016

  
Jerusalem at the heart of the conflict

Violence has erupted in Jerusalem in recent months with scores of deaths and regular clashes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli Occupation Forces. Here Kamel Hawwash, a native of East Jerusalem and vice chair of PSC, explains why the future of the city lies at the heart of any peace agreement.

The issue of Jerusalem was one of the final status issues under the Oslo Accords, one that was so sensitive that the peace process may not have been set up if it had been one of the issues the Israelis and Palestinians had to tackle first. But after 22 further years of futile negotiations, the peace process has now failed in its entirety. Meanwhile, on the ground, Israel has created facts that make the achievement of peace based on what is termed “the two-state solution” unattainable.

Jerusalem has suffered more “facts on the ground” than most. This is because after Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, it illegally annexed the city and successive Israeli governments have referred to it as the eternal united capital that will “never be divided.” They have pursued a policy of the Judaisation of East Jerusalem in an attempt to destroy its Palestinian Arab, Muslim and Christian character.

Fast forward to 2015/16 and, apart from the iconic skyline of Alaqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock compound, the city is unrecognisable. Many Israeli flags flutter over the city, both in the old part and where illegal settlements have been deliberately planted in what used to be completely Palestinian neighbourhoods like Attur and Silwan.

The settlements are built on Palestinian land which mainly ended up in the hands of settler organisations through shady deals, for example where Palestinians believe they are selling to other Palestinians but find they are victims of an act of deception. Israel also uses the law of absentees to confiscate Palestinian land and homes handing them over to settlers with Israeli courts generally approving these immoral acts.

In addition Israel has almost completely encircled Jerusalem with a belt of settlements built on illegally occupied land in the West Bank to cut the city off, making it impossible for East Jerusalem to become the capital of a Palestinian state. The rest of the area in the centre of the West Bank, often referred to as E1, is subject to regular Israeli plans for construction which the international community strongly opposes as filling the area with settlements would finally kill off any prospect of the two-state solution.

As well as building settlements, the Israelis have evicted many Palestinians from homes in Jerusalem neighbourhoods like Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah because settler organisations claim they used to belong to Jews before 1948. Apart from the immorality of these acts, the effect is that space for Palestinians to build and develop is reduced and opportunities for young people to set up homes in their neighbourhoods are almost nonexistent. Meanwhile they are forced to watch Jewish Israelis develop their lives on land illegally taken from them as a people.

When Israel occupied East Jerusalem it issued the indigenous Palestinian population with special identity cards carried in a blue wallet which denoted residency rights. But the Israeli authorities can take away the “blue ID,” as it is known, at any time if they judge that Jerusalem is longer the “centre of your life.” This can be if a Palestinian moves to work in the West Bank or live or study abroad. A Jewish Jerusalemite who leaves the city to work elsewhere in Israel or to live abroad does not lose the right to live in Jerusalem.

Israel has also used the route of the separation wall to exclude tens of thousands of Jerusalemites from the city. They have to pass through checkpoints to reach services they used to access prior to the construction of the wall such as education or health. They pay taxes to the city’s council but do not receive services in their neighbourhoods and Israel bars the Palestinian Authority from offering alternative services. This leaves residents of areas such as Abu Dis and Alram in no man’s land.

Palestinians are also witnessing a replacement of Jerusalem’s Palestinian history with a Jewish one by stealth. This can be seen through road signs which no longer list the road or neighbourhood name in Arabic using its historical Arabic name but by a Hebrew replacement. So young Palestinians and visitors will use the Hebrew replacement thus providing further Judaisation of the city.

Under PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s government, the number of “visits” by Jewish settlers to Alaqsa mosque has increased. They take place without invitation or coordination with the Jordanian Waqf, which under the various agreements administers the Muslim Holy site. The settlers are accompanied by Israeli Occupation Forces and clashes erupt regularly between Palestinian worshippers and the settlers.

In order to facilitate the settler visits, Israel regularly bars Palestinians from entering the mosque. This has led Palestinians to believe that Israel plans eventually to divide the site between Jews and Muslims and to fear that the number of settlers who wish to replace Alaqsa with a Jewish temple is increasing both in number and influence in what is a settler-led government.

In Jerusalem Palestinians and Israelis interact regularly, unlike other parts of the West Bank. At times of rising tensions, this can lead to friction and in some cases outright violence. While Israelis are protected by the occupation forces, Palestinians feel vulnerable as they have no confidence in the occupation forces offering protection. Incidents such as the burning alive of Palestinian child Muhammed Abu Khdair in 2014 and the lack of justice for him confirm these fears.

The impact of all these things has been to create a feeling among the Palestinians of Jerusalem that they are losing their city to the colonisers. Israel controls every aspect of their daily lives and does all it can to control the demography of the city to at best maintain the current proportions of Israeli Jews and Palestinians but at worst to change it over time to ensure a clear Jewish majority.

This has helped ferment a state of continuous Palestinian anger as they see their city being taken away from them. This anger can explain the recent Palestinian uprising which started in October in which over 150 Palestinians have lost their lives in alleged attacks against Israeli civilians and occupation forces. Because the Palestinian Authority, which exercises a security cooperation with Israel in the rest of the West Bank, has no presence in annexed East Jerusalem, it has paradoxically allowed the population to hit back at the occupation with acts of revenge that have at times been violent.

As the French try to initiate another attempt to find a way forward to peace, all stakeholders should see East Jerusalem Street as the barometer for the seriousness of any initiative. If Palestinians can see an end to the rabid Israeli colonisation of their city, then peace might have a chance of coming to the Holy Land. Without this, the current rise that started in Jerusalem could morph into a full intifada.