Decades of Palestinian Displacement in East Jerusalem – by Stephen Lendman
The UN General Assembly’s 1947 Resolution 181 internationalized Jerusalem as a separate body (a corpus separatum), administered by a UN Trustee Council, a policy still binding but not followed. Nor have other resolutions or international law provisions Israel rejects, ones interfering with its military occupation, affecting E. Jerusalem Palestinians repressively since June 1967, more still after passage of the July 30, 1980 Basic Law, declaring “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.”
Yet on June 30, 1980, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 476 (America abstaining), declaring “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal validity and constitute a flagrant (Fourth Geneva) violation.”
Following Israel’s non-compliance, the SC unanimously passed Resolution 478 (America again abstaining), “censur(ing Israel) in the strongest term” for enacting the Jerusalem Basic Law, calling it a violation of international law, saying the Council doesn’t recognize it, and telling member states to withdraw their diplomatic missions from the city.
The Security Council and General Assembly reaffirmed their positions that East Jerusalem is occupied territory, that expropriating its land is illegal, and that all Israeli legislative and administrative measures, altering the city’s character and status, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith. To this day, Israel never complied, continuing its relentless policies of land seizures, home demolitions, and dispossessions, flagrantly flouting its obligations under international law.
Also its illegal occupation in defiance of Hague Regulation 43, stating:
“The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in (its) power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.”
In addition, temporary administrative powers only are authorized, legitimate sovereignty to be restored as soon as possible, never indeterminately held by the occupier, what Israel has done for over 43 years, preventing the restoration of the pre-war status quo.
Under Article 64, Fourth Geneva explained it further, stating:
“The penal laws of the occupied territory shall remain in force, with the exception that they may be suspended by the Occupying Power in cases where they constitute a (legitimate) threat to its security or an obstacle to the application of the present Convention….
The Occupying Power may, however, subject the population of the occupied territory to provisions, which are essential to enable the Occupying Power to fulfill its obligations under the present Convention, to maintain the orderly government of the territory, and to ensure the security of the Occupying Power, of members and property of the occupying forces or administration….”
The Occupier may do nothing to enhance the economic or political deterioration of territory it controls, or permit societal chaos in it by its actions or inaction. Nor may it deprive the public of their rights and protections under Geneva or do anything in violation of international humanitarian law, such as imposing collective punishment, forcible transfers, or confiscations of private property. It may enact no laws or impose any measures that violate its legal obligations.
For the past 43 years, especially since July 30, 1980 in East Jerusalem, Israel has systematically and willfully flouted the law, severely repressing Palestinians, (protected persons under Fourth Geneva), aimed at displacing them.
In her 1999 book, “Separate and Unequal: The Inside Story of Israeli Rule in East Jerusalem,” former Advisor on Arab Affairs under Teddy Kollek, (Jerusalem’s mayor from 1965 – 1993), Amir Cheshin, explained Israeli policy saying:
“Israel’s leaders adopted two basic principles in their rule of East Jerusalem. The first was to rapidly increase (its) Jewish population….The second was to hinder growth of the Arab population and to force Arab residents to make their homes elsewhere.”
Since 1967, it was binding Israeli policy, evident today from the Haaretz Akiva Eldar and Nir Hasson June 28 article, headlined “Jerusalem master plan: Expansion of Jewish enclaves across the city,” saying:
“The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee is set to approve an unprecedented master plan that calls for the expansion of Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem….The committee’s proposal would codify the municipality’s planning policy for the entire city,” those objecting allowed 60 days to respond. However, at this “stage in the planning process,” rarely ever are plans altered, its approval “a fate accompli,” regardless of criticisms voiced.
Envisioned for years, architects have been working on it for over a decade to replace an earlier 1959 plan, eight years before the Six Day War. Once approved, accelerated Palestinian home demolitions and dispossessions will follow, Al Jazeera reporting on June 22 that 22 Silwan neighborhood homes will be replaced by a new tourist center, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced, final approval pending, Silwan residents saying it “fast-track(s the city’s) Judaisation,” preempting “the possibility of Jerusalem ever being a shared city, or indeed capital of a Palestinian state. This in itself precludes peace.”
Israeli officials said all 88 Silwan homes are illegal. The remaining 66 may retroactively apply for construction permits, but under a Kafkaesque approval process, all may be demolished, replaced by parks, open spaces, restaurants, boutique hotels, and Jewish only housing – 70 Jewish families already living in Silwan. Others will follow, the same pattern repeated throughout the city – Palestinians displaced, their homes demolished and land expropriated to make all Jerusalem exclusively Jewish, in violation of international law, Fourth Geneva prohibiting property destruction and land seizures in occupied territory.
On June 26, the Palestine Monitor reported that “Hundreds of Israelis joined Palestinians and international peace activists in (Silwan) streets, (protesting) the decision to destroy Palestinian homes, (a) historic show of support….,” likely to fare no better than opposition to other Israeli plans over the past decade, failing to stop about 900 demolitions displacing Palestinians.
Through June 2009, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) reported thousands more – an estimated 24,145 in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza since 1967, 4,247 alone during Cast Lead, others occurring regularly, illegal under international law, what Israel disdains and rejects, even though a signatory to many, including Geneva.
Under its illegal expropriation policy, B’Tselem reported that the “the Israeli government has choked (Palestinian) development and building….” In June 1967, it annexed nearly 18,000 acres in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, incorporating them within Jerusalem’s borders, over one-third expropriated, most of it Arab-owned, then used for thousands of Jews only housing, none for the city’s Palestinians.
“The Jerusalem Municipality did not establish outline plans for the Palestinian areas. The few (approved) plans….were primarily to prevent new construction by declaring broad expanses of land ‘green areas,’ restricting” construction. Overall, the Municipality enforces building laws “much more stringently” on Palestinians than on Jews, “even though the number of violations is much higher in the Jewish neighborhoods.”
East Jerusalem “Aggressive Urbanism”
The Civic Coalition for Defending Palestinians Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ) is a non-profit NGO, “dedicated to the protection and promotion of Palestinian rights in Jerusalem.” In December 2009, it published a report titled, “Aggressive Urbanism: Urban Planning and the Displacement of Palestinians within and from Occupied East Jerusalem,” accessed through the following link:
Since 1967, Israel has pursued a systematic home demolition/expropriation/displacement policy, illegally affecting thousands of Palestinian residents on the pretext of “unlicensed construction,” to achieve a “demographic balance” to consolidate Israel’s control of the city, taking it then to the next level, Judaizing all Jerusalem to make it exclusively Jewish.
To accomplish it, the Jerusalem Municipality and Interior Ministry “drafted, adopted and vigorously implemented a series of discriminatory laws, policies, and practices that collectively constitute the Israeli planning regime in occupied East Jerusalem,” authorizing confiscation of Palestinian land, restricting construction on the remainder, reducing building density, imposing a Kafkaesque building permit process, the result being to deny Palestinian rights on their own land, impose severe hardships, and force them to move and lose more, including their residency permits to return.
Without Israeli permission, those building new homes or extending existing ones risk demotions, fines, and displacement, a patently illegal process. Yet the Municipal authority “dictates where and when Palestinians can build,” as well as whether they can do it at all under the 1965 Israeli Planning and Building Law, providing “a thin veil of legitimacy” by systematically denying permits, prohibiting construction, and demolishing homes in violation.
This law, others, and official policies constitute Israel’s discriminatory, illegal planning system, implemented ruthlessly against Palestinians, given no recourse but to object and be denied nearly always. As a result, East Jerusalemites face an acute housing crisis, their right to live freely on their land denied, many forced to relocate or build without permits, risking recrimination and dispossession.
Amir Cheshin explained more about her experience under Teddy Kollek, saying:
“Israel has transformed urban planning into a tool in the hands of the Government whose object is to prevent the spread of the non-Jewish population of the city. This was (and remains) a cruel policy, if only by reason of the fact that it disregards the needs (and rights) of the Palestinian residents. Israel regarded the institution of a stringent urban planning policy as a way to restrict the number of new houses being constructed in Palestinian neighbourhoods (sic), and thus ensure that the percentage of Palestinian residents in the city’s population – 28.8% in 1967 – would not increase.”
“If we permit ‘too many’ new homes to be built in Palestinian neighbourhoods, that will mean ‘too many’ Palestinian residents in the city. The idea is to move as many Jewish residents as possible to Occupied East Jerusalem and to move as many Palestinians as possible out of the city altogether. Housing policy in Occupied East Jerusalem has focused on this numbers game.”
By so doing, it flouts international law, denies Palestinians their legal rights, imposes repression and violence under occupation, making Israel a rogue state, under lawless governments, defiling democratic principles of human rights, civil liberties, judicial fairness, and fundamental freedoms, ones afforded solely to Jews – how Israel has always been run.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.