Last week, NIF grantee Ir Amim published secret plans by the Israeli government to create ‘facts on the ground’ preventing Jerusalem’s eventual status as a capital for two states. According to Ir Amim, which advocates for policies to make Jerusalem more equitable, the government plans include demolishing several dozen Palestinian homes in the Silwan neighborhood to make way for a series of parks, promenades and archeological trails around the City of David.
According to Ir Amim founder Daniel Seidemann, executing this plan could further destabilize the city’s delicate balance. “It would transform a national dispute into a religious one that could spiral out of control,” said Seidemann. “The city’s Christian and Muslim authorities must be consulted on plans to develop East Jerusalem.”
The report also noted that the government has essentially “outsourced” development in east Jerusalem to private groups representing the interests of religious, ultra-nationalist settlers. On Monday, the U.S. and European Union formally protested to the Israeli foreign ministry regarding a High Court ruling permitting the eviction of two Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood at the request of Nahalat Shimon, a settlers’ organization.
Seidemann observed that the plan would also divide the Arab neighborhoods of northeast and southeast Jerusalem, making any future territorial compromise extremely difficult. Coinciding with the visit to Jerusalem by Pope Benedict XVI, disclosure of the plan gained international media coverage, including a story in the New York Times.
Meanwhile, coinciding with Jerusalem Unification Day tomorrow on May 21, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) published a comprehensive report on "Human Rights in East Jerusalem 2009: Facts and Figures", as well as a second report titled "200 Days of Grace", which delineates developments in East Jerusalem since Nir Barkat became Jerusalem’s mayor. Both reports present an alarming picture of systematic discrimination, along with routine and deliberate violation of the political, social and economic rights of the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem:
- 2 out of every 3 residents live below the poverty line
- 160,000 people are denied suitable and legal connection to the water network
- 9,000 children don't attend school owing to a lack of classrooms
- There is a dearth of urban planning along with the refusal to issue building permits
- Thousands are denied the right to build or expand, live in fear of house demolitions
To read the reports, please click here.
ACRI is also spearheading a Jerusalem Day protest tomorrow afternoon near the entrance to Damascus Gate in the Old City.
The demonstration will take place several hours before the Jerusalem Day Procession, which marks 42 years of the "unification of the city", in order to remind the world that the city is not, in fact, unified. Organized by ACRI, East Jerusalem neighborhood committees and residents, Rabbis for Human Rights, and the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, the demonstration – the first of its kind - is meant as a wakeup call, demanding the authorities to allow East Jerusalem residents to live in dignity and peace in their hometown.
For a flash presentation of the demonstration announcement, click here.