A November 10 Qatar News Agency article headlined, "Israel Plans to Rebuild Old Jerusalem - Palestinian Official," saying:
Attorney Ahmed Al-Ruwaidi, "responsible for the Jerusalem unit in the Palestinian Authority (PA), said Israel plan(s) to build new settlement homes in old Jerusalem where the ancient walls of the city will be overshadowed by modern bridges, synagogues and gardens spreading from the Arab neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah to Wdi Al Joze and Suwaneh."
The scheme involves home demolitions, dispossessions, and new settlement construction to solidify "the capital and spiritual center of Israel and the Jewish people (by creating) a world city which attracts the souls of millions of believers across the globe."
Projects completed so far are part of the plan, to completely transform Jerusalem's Old City, Al-Ruwaidi adding:
"All the settlement projects in Jerusalem during the past three years, some of which have been practically implemented, fall under the (plan's) framework, including a decision to erect a thousand new settlement units in Jebel Abu Ghunaim aimed at completing the isolation of the city with a wall of settlements."
"Israel announced previously it will build 50,000 new units in the city. The implementation of 20,000 of (them) has been initiated practically under projects that have been approved from time to time for political objectives linked to political and international action."
So far, 20,000 Palestinian housing units face demolition, to accommodate new settlements, Old City excavation projects, and other Jews only development. As a result, Palestinians will be dispossessed and excluded.
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) tracks them as they happen, its East Jerusalem data showing that:
"Since 1967, around 2,000 homes have been demolished," 670 from 2000 - 2008 with about 20,000 outstanding demolition orders.
Currently, Palestinians comprise about one-third of the city's population, confined to 7% of its land "in mostly inadequate housing." Prior Israeli master plans aimed at maintaining a 70 - 30% split favoring Jews, a policy to widen going forward.
Already, discriminatory measures exist, including encircling densely populated Palestinian neighborhoods by "green space" or "unzoned land" where building is prohibited. Applications to rezone, increase density, or build in small areas designated for residential construction are denied. As a result, new housing can't accommodate Palestinian population increases.
Moreover, their public services are restricted, including for education, healthcare, and vital infrastructure needs for roads, sewage and water connections. East Jerusalem Palestinians contribute around 40% of city taxes, yet get 8% of Municipal spending in return.
Since 1967, Jewish settlements have proliferated in East Jerusalem, to expand its Jewish character, and one day Judaize the entire city as Israel's exclusive capital. "Settlements built on the (city's) outskirts....also dissect the continuity between the northern and southern West Bank, jeopardizing the feasibility of a future Palestinian State."
East Jerusalem Palestinians hold city IDs, revokable for anyone residing outside its boundaries or assuming another citizenship, even temporarily. As second class residents, their rights keep eroding, including to their own homes.
From 1967 - 2003, 90,000 Jewish housing units were completed, most with government subsidies. "None were built for Palestinians with public funding." Israel's Master Plan 2020, discussed below, "purports to plan for the long term fate of East Jerusalem, yet it has been prepared with no consultation of any kind with the Palestinian community." Why? Because exclusion is eventually planned, though not explicitly stated in 2020's language.
Under international law, however, settlement construction is illegal. So are home demolitions, Fourth Geneva prohibiting "any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons," except when "absolutely necessary by military operations." Forced displacement is also banned, yet Israel continues it relentlessly, a discriminatory policy to delegitimize the Palestinian presence in the city as well as claim it as their rightful capital.
Titled, "Demography, Geopolitics, and the Future of Israel's Capital: Jerusalem's Proposed Master Plan ," it stresses assuring a Jewish majority, continuing Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion's judicial writ that:
"We must bring Jews to eastern Jerusalem at any cost. We must settle tens of thousands of Jews in a brief time. Jews will agree to settle in eastern Jerusalem even in shacks. We cannot await the construction of orderly neighborhoods. The essential thing is that Jews will be there."
As a result, after the 1967 Six Day War, 70,000 dunams (a dunam is about 900 square meters) were annexed to the north, south, and east of the old municipal boundaries. The plan was to control large areas "with a minimal Arab population and to prevent the possibility of the city's partition in the future." Thus, Jewish settlements proliferated and keep growing, Palestinians displaced to accommodate them.
Previous master plans called for accelerated Jewish population growth. It's still current policy, new settlement construction continuing to accommodate it. The latest plan calls for expanding Jewish neighborhoods, saying expropriating Arab land isn't "plausible" as in the past, when, in fact, that's precisely what's happening through tens of thousands of new housing units, ones for Jews only on Palestinian land.
According to Khalil Tofakji, head of the Arab Studies Society in Occupied East Jerusalem's Mapping Department: between now and 2020, Israel will complete its "Judaism plan."
Mustafa Barghouti, an MP and Palestinian National Initiative's Secretary General, said plans are underway to "impose a new reality on the ground," around $1.5 billion allocated this year alone to Judaize the city. Besides settlement expansions and new ones, projects include a $500 million light rail line, luxury hotels, synagogues, commercial and other development - on expropriated Palestinian land.
Barghouti said Israel is doing to East Jerusalem "what they did in Jaffa, Haifa and Acre, (incrementally) taking (it) over (to) then declare their demands" - total Judaization.
Despite softer Master Plan 2020 language, at issue is increasing Jewish presence in the city, dispossessing Palestinians to accommodate them. Jamal Juma, head of the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, says that:
Israelis "are occupying the Palestinian houses inside the old town, which was historically divided to four quarters, Muslim, Christian, Armenian and Jewish. (They're) slowly infiltrating the other quarters (as well by) taking over Palestinian properties."
A previous article explained that Jerusalem is politically important for Jews as its historic capital, national and religious center, and symbol of Judaism's revival and prominence. For Christians, it's where Jesus lived and died, and for Muslims it's their third holiest site (the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque) after Mecca's Sacred Mosque and the Mosque of the Prophet in Madina.
Israel, however, transformed Jerusalem from a multi-cultural, multi-religious city into a predominantly Jewish one toward eventually Judaizing it entirely. For decades, incremental progress continued. The goal remained constant, to establish irreversible "facts on the ground," making Jerusalem Israel's capital with an exclusive Jewish presence, despite Palestinians rightfully claiming it for their own.
Therein lies the heart of the conflict, along with ending the occupation, achieving peace and self-determination, as well as granting Palestinian refugees their right to return. Justice will be denied until those issues are equitably resolved, what so far is nowhere in sight.
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This story was published in the Baltimore Chronicle on December 16, 2010.