x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

'Countless' reasons for world to push Israel on Jerusalem

Israel just keeps on working to marginalise and limit Palestinians in their own territory. An adviser to Mahmoud Abbas asks how long this can go on.

Countless are the UN resolutions referring to East Jerusalem as an occupied city, and countless are the international references to Palestine, which includes East Jerusalem, as a state under occupation.

Countless are the international laws violated by Israel; reaffirmations that there will be no peace without a free and sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

And countless are the reminders that Israel is not interested in a two-state solution with Palestine as a sovereign country on the 1967 borders. These reminders come in the form of Israeli colonial settlement construction in and around Jerusalem, families fearing eviction and demolition of their homes, and the many families divided by discriminatory Israeli laws intended to forcible displace Jerusalemites from their city.

From the beginning of the 1967 occupation, Israel's stated goal has been to make Jerusalem the "eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish people". For this purpose, Israel has imposed several policies of separation and fragmentation on the Palestinian people and their land, including denying Palestinians their right to access freely their holy sites in the occupied Old City. Just last month we witnessed how thousands of Palestinian Christians, members of the oldest Christian community in the world, were prevented from praying at Easter in their spiritual and national capital, Jerusalem.

The dire situation for Palestinian Christians and Muslims is discussed in many international documents, from the US State Department's International Religious Freedom Report to the report by the UN's fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements. The recent EU heads of mission report on Jerusalem stated that "the government of Israel selectively enforces legal and policy restrictions on religious freedom and on access in particular for Christian and Muslim worshippers to their holy sites located in Jerusalem/Old City throughout the year."

Along with countless other policies in East Jerusalem and wider Palestine, this is a reality that has dramatically affected the social fabric of Palestine.

Israel treats non-Jews as merely consumers to be brought to Israeli hotels by Israeli tour operators and to be presented with a Zionist narrative through their tour guides.

And the international community plays a direct and indirect role in this situation, by dealing with Israeli tour operators and Israeli government agencies that push the pro-colonial settler agenda rather than honouring Israel's international obligations. The guise of "technical cooperation" has resulted in governments and even churches signing agreements with the Israeli ministry of tourism and the so-called "Jerusalem Municipality", two of the main orchestrators of this campaign.

The Israeli government has been working tirelessly to coordinate the actions of the municipality with colonial settler groups, to consolidate their vision of an exclusively Jewish city. They have allowed settlers to take property considered to be "abandoned" (meaning, in reality, that the owners were expelled and are not allowed to return to their homes) as well as developing other ways to implant extremist colonial settlers in the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods.

From Silwan to Sheikh Jarrah and the Old City, Palestinians are suffering daily violence due to Israeli settlers under the permissive gaze of the occupation forces. Children being beaten, priests being spat at and families being harassed are becoming common practices for settlers in occupied parts of East Jerusalem.

Israel's precondition of Palestine recognising it as a "Jewish state" is part of the same goal: for Palestine to legitimise discriminatory policies to regulate demographics, restrict access and prevent Palestinian development.

This is what the repeated slogan of Jerusalem as the "eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish people" means for us. Despite several Israeli attempts, we will not be made to feel like tourists in our own country who should be thankful when the occupying power grants a few permits to let us visit our city. All that Palestinians are asking for is freedom and justice, rather than a consolidated occupation and continued colonisation.

The urgency of the situation demands nothing less than speedy international action - as opposed to countless statements - to protect the Palestinian people and the prospects of peace, by ending Israel's occupation and colonisation activities. Jerusalem is a very good example which reveals how Israel's belligerent occupation has been advanced over almost half a century.

The countless consequences to Palestine's social fabric are not getting us closer to peace. Destroying the two-state solution will not make Israel feel safer. Israel should be held to account before we witness another catastrophe. Ending Israeli colonialism and apartheid policies against the Palestinian people will allow Jerusalem to be, once again, what it is meant to be for the three monotheistic religions, for Palestine and for Israel: a city of peace.

 

Dr Sabri Saidam is an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas