Noot 7/NOS en Extreem-rechts in Israel




”The establishment of the settlements contravenes international humanitarian law (IHL), which states that an occupying power may not relocate its own citizens to the occupied territory or make permanent changes to that territory, unless these are needed for imperative military needs, in the narrow sense of the term, or undertaken for the benefit of the local population.”



”Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”

De Staat, die een gebied bezet heeft, mag zich slechts beschouwen als beheerder en vruchtgebruiker der openbare gebouwen, onroerende eigendommen, bosschen en landbouwondernemingen, welke aan den vijandelijken Staat behooren en zich in de bezette landstreek bevinden. Hij moet het grondkapitaal dier eigendommen in zijn geheel laten en die overeenkomstig de regelen van het vruchtgebruik beheeren.”


Art. 55. The occupying State shall be regarded only as administrator and usufructuary of public buildings, real estate, forests, and agricultural estates belonging to the hostile State, and situated in the occupied country. It must safeguard the capital of these properties, and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct.  




Israel’s policy of settling its civilians in occupied Palestinian territory and displacing the local population contravenes fundamental rules of international humanitarian law.

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” It also prohibits the “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory”. 




The situation in the OPT is primarily governed by two international legal regimes: international humanitarian law (including the rules of the law of occupation) and international human rights law. International criminal law is also relevant as some serious violations may constitute war crimes.


Israel’s policy of settling its civilians in occupied Palestinian territory and displacing the local population contravenes fundamental rules of international humanitarian law.

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” It also prohibits the “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory”. 

The extensive appropriation of land and the appropriation and destruction of property required to build and expand settlements also breach other rules of international humanitarian law. Under the Hague Regulations of 1907, the public property of the occupied population (such as lands, forests and agricultural estates) is subject to the laws of usufruct. This means that an occupying state is only allowed a very limited use of this property. This limitation is derived from the notion that occupation is temporary, the core idea of the law of occupation. In the words of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the occupying power “has a duty to ensure the protection, security, and welfare of the people living under occupation and to guarantee that they can live as normal a life as possible, in accordance with their own laws, culture, and traditions.”

The Hague Regulations prohibit the confiscation of private property. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the destruction of private or state property, “except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations”.

As the occupier, Israel is therefore forbidden from using state land and natural resources for purposes other than military or security needs or for the benefit of the local population. The unlawful appropriation of property by an occupying power amounts to “pillage”, which is prohibited by both the Hague Regulations and Fourth Geneva Convention and is a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and many national laws.

Israel’s building of settlements in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, does not respect any of these rules and exceptions. Transferring the occupying power’s civilians into the occupied territory is prohibited without exception. Furthermore, as explained earlier, the settlements and associated infrastructure are not temporary, do not benefit Palestinians and do not serve the legitimate security needs of the occupying power. Settlements entirely depend on the large-scale appropriation and/or destruction of Palestinian private and state property which are not militarily necessary. They are created with the sole purpose of permanently establishing Jewish Israelis on occupied land.

In addition to being violations of international humanitarian law, key acts required for the establishment of settlements amount to war crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Under this body of law, the “extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly” and the “transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory” constitute war crimes. As stated above, “pillage” is also a war crime under the Rome Statute.

Israel’s settlement policy also violates a special category of obligations entitled peremptory norms of international law (jus cogens) from which no derogation is permitted. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) affirmed that the rules of the Geneva Conventions constitute “intransgressible principles of international customary law”. Only a limited number of international norms acquire this status, which is a reflection of the seriousness and importance with which the international community views them. Breaches of these norms give rise to certain obligations on all other states, or “third states”, which are explained below.


States have a duty to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of people under their jurisdiction, including people living in territory that is outside national borders but under the effective control of the state. The ICJ confirmed that Israel is obliged to extend the application of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other treaties to which it is a state party to people in the OPT. Israel is a state party to numerous international human rights treaties and, as the occupying power, it has well defined obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of Palestinians. 

However, as has been well documented for many years by the UN, Amnesty International and other NGOs, Israel’s settlement policy is one of the main driving forces behind the mass human rights violations resulting from the occupation. These include:

Violations of the right to life: Israeli soldiers, police and security guards have unlawfully killed and injured many Palestinian civilians in the OPT, including during protests against the confiscation of land and the construction of settlements. UN agencies and fact-finding missions have also expressed concern about violence perpetrated by a minority of Israeli settlers aimed at intimidating Palestinian populations.

Violations of the rights to liberty, security of the person and equal treatment before the law: Amnesty International has documented how Palestinians in the OPT are routinely subjected to arbitrary detention, including through administrative detention. Whereas settlers are subject to Israeli civil and criminal law, Palestinians are subject to a military court system which falls short of international standards for the fair  conduct of trials and administration of justice.

Violations of the right to access an effective remedy for acts violating fundamental rights: Israel’s failure to adequately investigate and enforce the law for acts of violence against Palestinians, together with the multiple legal, financial and procedural barriers faced by Palestinians in accessing the court system, severely limit Palestinians’ ability to seek legal redress. The Israeli High Court of Justice has failed to rule on the legality of settlements, as it considered the settlements to be a political issue that that it is not competent to hear.

Violations of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly: Amnesty International has documented Israel’s use of military orders to prohibit peaceful protest and criminalize freedom of expression in the West Bank. Israeli forces have used tear gas, rubber bullets and occasionally live rounds to suppress peaceful protests.

Violations of the rights to equality and non-discrimination: Systematic discrimination against Palestinians is inherent in virtually all aspects of Israel’s administration of the OPT. Palestinians are also specifically targeted for a range of actions that constitute human rights violations. The Israeli government allows settlers to exploit land and natural resources that belong to Palestinians. Israel provides preferential treatment to Israeli businesses operating in the OPT while putting up barriers to, or simply blocking, Palestinian ones. Israeli citizens receive entitlements and Palestinians face restrictions on the grounds of nationality, ethnicity and religion, in contravention of international standards.

The Israeli authorities have created a discriminatory urban planning and zoning system. Within Area C, where most settlement construction is based, Israel has allocated 70% of the land to settlements and only 1% to Palestinians. In East Jerusalem, Israel has expropriated 35% of the city for the construction of settlements, while restricting Palestinians to construct on only 13% of the land. These figures clearly illustrate Israel’s use of regulatory measures to discriminate against Palestinian residents in Area C.

The UN has also pointed to discrimination against Palestinians in the way in which the criminal law is enforced. While prosecution rates for settler attacks against Palestinians are low, suggesting a lack of enforcement, most cases of violence against Israeli settlers are investigated and proceed to court.

Violations of the right to adequate housing: Since 1967, Israel has constructed tens of thousands of homes on Palestinian land to accommodate settlers while, at the same time, demolishing an estimated 50,000 Palestinian homes and other structures, such as farm buildings and water tanks. Israel also carries out demolitions as a form of collective punishment against the families of individuals accused of attacks on Israelis. In East Jerusalem, about 800 houses have been demolished since 2004 for lack of permits. Israel also confiscates houses inhabited by Palestinians in the city to allocate them to settlers. By forcibly evicting and/or demolishing their homes without providing adequate alternative accommodation, Israel has failed in its duty to respect the right to adequate housing of thousands of Palestinians.

Violations of the right to freedom of movement: Many restrictions on freedom of movement for Palestinian residents are directly linked to the settlements, including restrictions aimed at protecting the settlements and maintaining “buffer zones”. Restrictions include checkpoints, settler-only roads and physical impediments created by walls and gates. 

Violations of the rights of the child: Every year, 500-700 Palestinian children from the occupied West Bank are prosecuted in Israeli juvenile military courts under Israeli military orders. They are often arrested in night raids and systematically ill-treated. Some of these children serve their sentences within Israel, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The UN has also documented that many children have been killed or injured in settler attacks.

Violations of the right to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health: Restrictions on movement limit Palestinians’ access to health care. Specialists working with Palestinian populations have also documented a range of serious mental health conditions that stem from exposure to violence and abuse in the OPT.

Violations of the right to water: Most Palestinian communities in Area C are not connected to the water network and are prevented from repairing or constructing wells or water cisterns that hold rainwater. Water consumption in some Area C communities is reported by the UN to be 20% of the minimum recommended standard. Israel’s failure to ensure Palestinian residents have a sufficient supply of clean, safe water for drinking and other domestic uses constitutes a violation of its obligations to respect and fulfil the right to water. 

Violations of the right to education: Palestinian students face numerous obstacles in accessing education, including forced displacement, demolitions, restrictions on movement and a shortage of school places. An independent fact-finding mission in 2012 noted an “upward trend” of cases of settler attacks on Palestinian schools and harassment of Palestinian children on their way to and from school. Such problems can result in children not attending school and in a deterioration in the quality of learning. 

Violations of the right to earn a decent living through work: The expansion of settlements has reduced the amount of land available to Palestinians for herding and agriculture, increasing the dependency of rural communities on humanitarian assistance. Settler violence and the destruction of Palestinian-owned crops and olive trees have damaged the livelihoods of farmers. The UN has reported that in Hebron city centre, the Israeli military has forced 512 Palestinian businesses to close, while more than 1,000 others have shut down due to restricted access for customers and suppliers.


Most states and international bodies have long recognized that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. The European Union (EU) has clearly stated that: “settlement building anywhere in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law, constitutes an obstacle to peace and threatens to make a two-state solution impossible.”

The settlements have been condemned as illegal in many UN Security Council and other UN resolutions. As early as 1980, UN Security Council Resolution 465 called on Israel “to dismantle the existing settlements and, in particular, to cease, on an urgent basis, the establishment, construction and planning of settlements in the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem.” The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention have reaffirmed that settlements violate international humanitarian law. The illegality of the settlements was recently reaffirmed by UN Security Council Resolution 2334, passed inDecember 2016, which reiterates the Security Council’s call on Israel to cease all settlement activities in the OPT. The serious human rights violations that stem from Israeli settlements have also been repeatedly raised and condemned by international bodies and experts.





”Cruciaal hierin was de bezetting van Oost-Jeruzalem, samen met de Westoever en Gaza, door Israël in 1967. Die vormde het startschot van de Israëlische politiek om in Oost-Jeruzalem een ‘Joodse meerderheid’ tot stand te brengen. Sindsdien wordt het stadsdeel agressief gekoloniseerd. Israël heeft intussen ruim 225 duizend burgers naar Oost-Jeruzalem overgebracht (cijfers 2019).”




10 MEI 2021

De verdrijving van Palestijnse inwoners, het permanente Israëlisch geweld en andere factoren hebben in Oost-Jeruzalem geleid tot een explosieve situatie, die zich inmiddels tot ver buiten de stad uitstrekt. Decennia van kolonisering hebben een rampzalige situatie opgeleverd.

De afgelopen dagen is in Oost-Jeruzalem de spanning geëscaleerd die zich afgelopen weken heeft opgebouwd tussen de Israëlische autoriteiten, politie, groepen rechtse nationalisten en kolonisten enerzijds, en de lokale Palestijnse bevolking anderzijds. Vrijdag-, zaterdag- en zondagavond, en ook al daarvoor, vonden harde botsingen plaats in de wijk Sheikh Jarrah, bij de Damascuspoort en in andere delen van de Oude Stad.

Op media zoals Middle East Eye, dat eigen verslaggevers ter plaatse heeft, is een aaneenschakeling te zien van video’s waarin zwaar bewapende Israëlische troepen grof geweld gebruiken tegen Palestijnen, die vanwege het einde van de vastenmaand Ramadan juist massaal bijeenkomen. Vrijdag bestormden Israëlische troepen zelfs de voor moslims heilige Al-Aqsa-moskee. Aan Palestijnse zijde werden circa 290 gewonden gemeld, van wie er ruim honderd in ziekenhuizen moesten worden opgenomen. Ook 18 Israëlische politieagenten raakten gewond. Die aantallen liepen zondagavond verder op.

Sheikh Jarrah

De belangrijkste aanleiding tot de onlusten ligt in de wijk Sheikh Jarrah, even ten noorden van de Oude Stad, waar vier Palestijnse families acuut op straat dreigen te worden gezet ten gunste van Israëlische kolonisten. In de wijk wacht in totaal 78 families dit lot. Simultaan vindt hetzelfde proces van huisuitzettingen plaats in andere wijken van Oost-Jeruzalem, waaronder Silwan. In een eerder artikel beschreven wij een aantal concrete voorbeelden, onder meer in Sheikh Jarrah.

De Palestijnse families in Sheikh Jarrah maken deel uit van (nazaten van) de circa 750 duizend Palestijnen die in 1947-48 door Joodse milities op de vlucht werden gejaagd of verdreven uit hun woonplaatsen binnen het huidige Israël. Nadat Israël hen het recht van terugkeer naar hun woonplaatsen en bezittingen ontzegde, werden 28 families in 1956 gehuisvest in het onder Jordaans gezag staande Palestijnse Oost-Jeruzalem, waar de VN-organisatie UNRWA de bouw van woningen faciliteerde op door Jordanië beschikbaar gesteld land. Het is deze, sindsdien toegenomen, gemeenschap die nu in Sheikh Jarrah uit haar huizen dreigt te worden gezet.

Joodse meerderheid

Cruciaal hierin was de bezetting van Oost-Jeruzalem, samen met de Westoever en Gaza, door Israël in 1967. Die vormde het startschot van de Israëlische politiek om in Oost-Jeruzalem een ‘Joodse meerderheid’ tot stand te brengen. Sindsdien wordt het stadsdeel agressief gekoloniseerd. Israël heeft intussen ruim 225 duizend burgers naar Oost-Jeruzalem overgebracht (cijfers 2019).

Daarnaast worden Palestijnse inwoners door Israël op alle denkbare manieren de stad uitgedreven: door het intrekken van vergunningen, landconfiscatie, huisuitzettingen, afbraak van woningen, en de aanleg van parken en archeologische zones op Palestijns land of tussen Palestijnse gemeenschappen, die zich daardoor niet kunnen uitbreiden. Per 2017 was ruim 14 duizend Palestijnen het inwonerschap van Oost-Jeruzalem ontnomen, en waren ruim tweeduizend Palestijnse woningen gesloopt. Het huidige aantal Palestijnse inwoners van Oost-Jeruzalem bedraagt circa 350 duizend.

De huisuitzettingen in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan en andere wijken passen in deze praktijk van etnische zuivering, die tot doel heeft het Palestijnse deel van de bevolking van Jeruzalem te vervangen door Joods-Israëlische kolonisten. Daarover wordt niet geheimzinnig gedaan: in een video legt een woordvoerder van de Israëlische kolonisten in Sheikh Jarrah uit hoe dat proces in zijn werk gaat, en erkent hij volmondig dat dit neerkomt op verdrijving van de Palestijnen. Een andere video toont een kolonist die het stelen van een Palestijns huis legitimeert met de opmerking dat anders een ander dat wel zal doen.

Israëlisch ‘recht’

Daartoe wordt gebruik gemaakt van Israëlische wetgeving, die buiten de eigen grenzen wordt toegepast op bezet Palestijns gebied. Zaterdag werd Israël door de Hoge VN-Commissaris voor de Mensenrechten gewezen op de ondeugdelijkheid van die constructie, en gewaarschuwd dat op Oost-Jeruzalem het internationaal recht van toepassing is, waarbinnen de Israëlische kolonisering als mogelijke oorlogsmisdaad geldt, en acties als huisuitzettingen strikt verboden zijn. Als bezettingsmacht is Israël verantwoordelijk voor het welzijn van de lokale bevolking.

De door Israël gebruikte wetgeving is een amendement op de zogenoemde Absentee Property Law, waarmee Israël in 1950 al het land en de bezittingen confisqueerde van de ‘absente’ Palestijnse eigenaren – de 750 duizend verdreven en gevluchte Palestijnen die tegelijkertijd het recht van terugkeer werd onthouden. Dit nadat de bezittingen van 600 duizend Palestijnen al in 1948 in een nationale plundertocht door Joden geroofd waren, zoals verleden jaar na Israëlisch onderzoek kwam vast te staan.

Nadat Israël in 1967 Oost-Jeruzalem en de overige Palestijnse gebieden bezette, werd de Israëlische wet in 1970 uitgebreid met een amendement dat (uitsluitend) Joden het recht geeft om in bezet Oost-Jeruzalem land en onroerend goed op te eisen dat voor 1948 Joods bezit was. De wet wordt vervolgens afgedwongen door het Israëlische juridische systeem van toepassing te verklaren op bezet gebied, wat de Palestijnen kansloos maakt, zelfs al kunnen die hun eigendomsrecht aantonen.

Kapot geprocedeerd

Met toepassing van het amendement kende Israël het eigendom van het land waarop de bedreigde families in Sheikh Jarrah wonen in 1972 toe aan twee Joodse organisaties, die het in de jaren negentig doorverkochten aan de private kolonistenorganisatie Nahalat Shimon International, een in de VS geregistreerd bedrijf met onbekende geldschieters. Het bedrijf diende al in 2009 een plan in bij het Israëlische gemeentebestuur van Jeruzalem voor de vestiging van een nieuwe Joodse kolonie van tweehonderd woningen in Sheikh Jarrah, waarvoor tenminste vijfhonderd Palestijnen het veld dienen te ruimen.

De door de kolonisten van Nahalat Shimon gevolgde strategie loopt via de Israëlische rechter. De Palestijnse eigenaren worden jaren achtereen letterlijk kapot geprocedeerd, tot aan het Israëlische Hooggerechtshof toe. Dat gaf de vier bedreigde Palestijnse families op 2 mei jl. vier dagen de tijd om met de kolonisten tot een vergelijk te komen, wat door de Palestijnen rigoreus werd afgewezen. Daarop wees het hof vandaag aan voor een besluit, waarop het echter zondag terugkwam: de zaak is voorlopig uitgesteld.

Wereldwijde protesten

Reden voor het uitstel is dat de woede en frustratie onder de Palestijnen zich heeft verspreid over de Westoever, Gaza en steden binnen Israël zelf. In Haifa werd zondagavond massaal gedemonstreerd, waarbij door de politie geweld werd gebruikt en 18 arrestaties werden verricht. Ook in onder meer Nazareth en Ramallah werd gedemonstreerd.

Maar ook internationaal is de maat vol. Wereldwijd werden zondag protestacties gehouden, waaronder in Amsterdam, Londen, Berlijn en Chicago. Talloze landen, waaronder de VS en Israëls nieuwe Arabische vrienden Bahrein en de VAE, hebben Israël aangesproken op zijn politiek in Oost-Jeruzalem en de dreigende gevolgen. Deze maandag komt de VN-Veiligheidsraad bijeen op verzoek van onder meer Frankrijk, Ierland en Noorwegen.

Grote risico’s

Intussen neemt het risico op complete ontsporing toe. Juist deze maandag viert Israël ‘Jeruzalemdag’, ter ere van de ‘hereniging’ van West- en Oost-Jeruzalem in 1967. Het is gebruikelijk dat ‘s avonds een vlaggenparade plaatsvindt, waarbij duizenden nationalistische Israëli’s provocatief door het bezette Oost-Jeruzalem marcheren. Gezien de explosieve situatie, die bovendien samenvalt met het einde van de vastenmaand Ramadan, ligt een verbod van de parade voor de hand.

Van Israëlische politici en bestuurders valt zo’n verbod echter niet te verwachten, vervlochten als de meesten zijn met de kolonistenbeweging. Symbool van die cultuur is locoburgemeester Aryeh King van Jerusalem, die vrijdag aan de New York Times in alle openheid uitlegde dat de huisuitzettingen deel uitmaken van de strategie om ‘de vijand’ (de Palestijnen en andere niet-Joden) te vervangen door ‘Joden’.

De Israëlische regering heeft elke verantwoordelijkheid voor de huidige escalatie van de hand gewezen met de bizarre redenering dat rond de huisuitzettingen sprake is van een ‘privaat geschil’, dat door de Palestijnen wordt gebruikt om herrie te schoppen. Zondag paaide premier Netanyahu zijn rechtse bondgenoten met de belofte dat Israël zal doorgaan met het koloniseren van Oost-Jeruzalem.

‘Pogrom’ als voorproefje

Diezelfde houding leidde minder dan drie weken geleden tot een voorproefje van wat de Palestijnen vanavond mogelijk te wachten staat, toen de ultra rechts-nationalistische organisatie Lehava toestemming kreeg voor een massale demonstratie in Oost-Jeruzalem onder het motto ‘herstel van Joodse waardigheid’. Locoburgemeester King zette de toon met de oproep aan de politie om Palestijnse demonstranten die ‘s nachts op straat waren dood te schieten.

Aldus zette zich op 22 april een horde aan extremistische Israëli’s in beweging onder uitroepen als ‘Dood aan de Arabieren’ en ‘We branden je dorp af’. Ondanks pogingen van de Israëlische politie om hen tegen te houden, werden op talloze plaatsen Palestijnen aangevallen, huizen binnengedrongen, en keerde ook de politie zich met grof geweld tegen de Palestijnen. Gevolg: 105 gewonde Palestijnen, van wie er 22 moesten worden opgenomen, en twee gewonde Israëli’s. Vijftig personen werden gearresteerd, de meesten Palestijn. Diverse media berichtten over de Lehava-actie als een ‘pogrom’.

In de avonden daaraan voorafgaand liepen groepen Israëlische Joden ook al door het stadscentrum, ‘Dood aan de Arabieren’ scanderend, en Palestijnse voorbijgangers bekogelend met stenen en traangas. Een getuige zag een groep van zestig Joden die ‘op zoek waren naar Arabieren’ en willekeurige Palestijnen aanvielen. Binnen de groep werd met trots verteld dat ‘ze acht Arabieren hebben gegrepen’ en er ‘één bijna hebben vermoord’.

In deze traditie zal deze maandag dus een Israëlische vlaggenparade plaatsvinden door de Oude Stad, waarbij ook een bezoek aan de Al-Haram al-Sharif (Tempelberg) op het programma staat – de locatie van de Al-Aqsa-moskee, waar tienduizenden Palestijnen deze week de rituelen rond het einde van de Ramadan volbrengen. Vijf dagen later gedenken de Palestijnen de Nakba, de ‘Catastrofe’ waarbij in 1947-48 circa 750 duizend Palestijnen werden verdreven. Voor veel Palestijnen in Oost-Jeruzalem, waaronder in Sheikh Jarrah, gebeurt dat in het vooruitzicht van een nieuwe verdrijving. In alle opzichten reden om het ergste te vrezen.




Israel unlawfully annexed East Jerusalem to its territory. Since then, and despite its incursion upon their home, it has treated the Palestinian residents of the city as unwanted immigrants and worked systematically to drive them out of the area.

In June 1967, immediately upon occupying the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israel annexed some 70,000 dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters] of West Bank land to the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem and applied Israeli law there, in breach of international law. The annexed territory greatly exceeded the size of Jerusalem under Jordanian rule (about 6,000 dunams), encompassing approximately 64,000 more dunams. The additional land belonged, in large part, to 28 Palestinian villages, and some of it lay within the municipal jurisdiction of Bethlehem and Beit Jala. The annexed area is currently home to at least 350,000 Palestinians and some 209,000 Israeli settlers.

The new municipal boundaries of Jerusalem were drawn largely in accordance with demographic concerns, chief among them to leave out densely populated Palestinian areas in order to ensure a Jewish majority in Jerusalem. In keeping with this logic, Israel included some lands belonging to villages near Jerusalem within the city’s municipal jurisdiction, yet left the owners outside it. This occurred, for example, with Beit Iksa and al-Birah to the north, and with sparsely populated areas within the municipal jurisdictions of Bethlehem and Beit Sahour to the south. In doing so, Israel divided Palestinian villages and neighborhoods, annexing only parts of them.

In June 1967, Israel held a census in the annexed area. Palestinians who happened to be absent at the time, lost their right to return to their home. Those who were present were given the status of “permanent resident” in Israel – a legal status accorded to foreign nationals wishing to reside in Israel. Yet unlike immigrants who freely choose to live in Israel and can return to their country of origin, the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have no other home, no legal status in any other country, and did not choose to live in Israel; it is the State of Israel that occupied and annexed the land on which they live.’

Permanent residency confers fewer rights than citizenship. It entitles the holder to live and work in Israel and to receive social benefits under the National Insurance Law, as well as health insurance. But, permanent residents cannot participate in national elections – either as voters or as candidates – and cannot run for the office of mayor, although they are entitled to vote in local elections and to run for city council.

Permanent residents are required to submit requests for ‘family reunification’ for spouses who are not residents themselves. Since 1967, Israel has maintained a strict policy on requests of East Jerusalem Palestinians for ‘reunification’ with spouses from other parts of the West Bank, from Gaza or from other countries. In July 2003, the Knesset passed a law barring these spouses from receiving permanent residency, other than extreme exceptions. The law effectively denies Palestinians from East Jerusalem, who are permanent residents of Israel the possibility of living in East Jerusalem with spouses from Gaza or from other parts of the West Bank, and denies their children permanent residency status.

Israeli policy in East Jerusalem is geared toward pressuring Palestinians to leave, thereby shaping a geographical and demographic reality that would thwart any future attempt to challenge Israeli sovereignty there. Palestinians who do leave East Jerusalem, due to this policy or for other reasons, risk losing their permanent residency and the attendant social benefits. Since 1967, Israel has revoked the permanent residency of some 14,500 Palestinians from East Jerusalem under such circumstances.

Israel’s attempts to shape the demographic reality of East Jerusalem are concentrated in several spheres:

Land expropriation and building restrictions

While the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem and the settlement blocs on its outskirts enjoy massive development and substantial funding, Israel goes to great lengths to prevent development in Palestinian areas. As part of this policy, since 1967 the state has expropriated more than a third of the land annexed to Jerusalem – 24,500 dunams, most of it privately owned by Palestinians – and built 11 neighborhoods on them, earmarked for Jewish inhabitants only. Under international law, the status of these neighborhoods is the same as the Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank.

Immediately after the annexation, Israel cancelled all the Jordanian outline plans for the annexed areas but left those for the rest of the West Bank in place. This created a planning vacuum that took some time to fill. Only in the 1980s did the Jerusalem Municipality draw up outline plans for all Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. The most striking feature of these plans was the designation of huge swathes of land as “open scenic areas” where development is forbidden. In 2014, after several amendments made to the plans over the years, these “scenic areas” made up about 30% of the land in Palestinian neighborhoods. Only some 15% of the land area in East Jerusalem (about 8.5% of Jerusalem’s municipal jurisdiction) is zoned for residential use by Palestinian residents, although Palestinians currently account for 40% of the city’s population.

Another measure Israel has employed to limit the amount of land available to Palestinians is declaring national parks where development is almost entirely forbidden. To date, four national parks have been declared in East Jerusalem, within the city’s municipal boundaries, including on privately owned Palestinian land or on land that lies within or adjacent to the built-up areas of Palestinian neighborhoods and villages. The Jerusalem Municipality is planning more parks in East Jerusalem.

The unusually high number of national parks in East Jerusalem, some of which contain nothing of archaeological or natural importance, indicates that – unlike other parks declared by Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority – the purpose of these parks is not conservation. Instead, they are an instrument for sealing off large expanses of land in East Jerusalem in order to further political goals such as ensuring Jewish-only contiguity from the Old City to the planned settlement area of E1, while increasing Jewish presence in East Jerusalem.

In any case, the municipality consistently avoids drawing up detailed urban building plans (UBPs) – a prerequisite for receiving building permits – for Palestinian neighborhoods. As a result, Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem suffer an extreme shortage of housing, public buildings (such as schools and medical clinics), infrastructure (including roads, pavements, and water and sewage systems), trade services and recreational facilities.

With no land reserves for development, the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem – which has grown more than fivefold since 1967 – remains confined within increasingly crowded neighborhoods. According to statistics gathered by the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, in 2015 population density in Palestinian neighborhoods within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries was almost double that of Jewish neighborhoods: an average of 1.9 persons per room and 1 person per room, respectively.

Given this reality, Palestinians have no choice but to build without permits. The Jerusalem Municipality estimates that between 15,000 and 20,000 housing units were built without permits in Palestinian neighborhoods until 2004. An unknown number have been built since, including densely packed multi-story buildings east of the Separation Barrier. These structures are then issued demolition orders by the Israeli authorities, which wilfully ignore their role in forcing residents into this impossible bind. Thousands of Palestinians in East Jerusalem live under constant threat to their homes and businesses; in many cases, the authorities follow through on this threat or force residents to demolish the structures themselves. From 2004 to the end of December 2018, Israeli authorities demolished 803 housing units in East Jerusalem.

At the same time, various authorities encourage hundreds of settlers to take up residence in the midst of Palestinian neighborhoods, driving Palestinians out of their homes. Settlement pockets in East Jerusalem encircle the Holy Basin to the south (in Silwan and Ras al-‘Amud), east (in a-Tur and Abu Dis) and north (in Sheikh Jarrah), and some are strategically located along main routes leading to the Old City. Other pockets have been established within the Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City. According to Israeli NGO Ir Amim, a total of approximately 2,800 settlers live within Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. These settler enclaves have altered the neighborhoods in which they were established, making the lives of the Palestinian residents unbearable, the latter having to contend with legal proceedings aimed at driving them from their homes, invasion of their privacy, financial pressure and daily harassment by settlers. All these lead to violent confrontations between Palestinians and settlers. The incursion of settlers has also brought increased presence of police, Border Police and state-paid private security personnel who use violence against the Palestinian residents, threaten them and arrest teens, thus exacerbating the disruption of life in the neighborhood.

Cutting off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank

Until 1967, Jerusalem under Jordanian rule was an economic, medical, cultural and religious hub for many residents of the West Bank, who continued to work, study and shop in the city after the Israeli annexation. However, in the early 1990s, during the first Intifada, Israel put up checkpoints deep within the West Bank, and since then has forbidden Palestinians from other parts of the West Bank to enter Jerusalem without a special permit. In addition, the Israel Police erected checkpoints at the entrances to several Palestinian neighborhoods in the city, curtailing residents’ movement. These restrictions weakened East Jerusalem’s position as a regional center.

In 2002, during the second Intifada, Israel began constructing the Separation Barrier in the area of Jerusalem, most of it in the form of a high concrete wall that in some parts passes right by Palestinian homes. The barrier was completed in 2016. Unlike the checkpoints that the military erected some ten years earlier deep within the West Bank, the barrier completely sealed East Jerusalem off from the rest of the West Bank, heightening its separation. This was the intentional result of building as much of the barrier as possible along the municipal boundaries that Israel declared around Jerusalem in 1967, in order to ensure control over the annexed land. However, until the barrier was built, these municipal boundaries were largely theoretical and had almost no effect on life in Jerusalem and its environs.

The barrier cut through a vibrant fabric of Palestinian communities with ties that cut across municipal lines, including trade, culture, education and health services. Tens of thousands of Palestinians with permanent resident status who had moved to East Jerusalem suburbs were left on the other side of the wall, cut off from the rest of the city. The construction of the barrier abruptly overturned their lives, forcing them to cross checkpoints every time they wish to enter the city, usually on a daily basis. As a result, many permanent residents moved back within city limits, driving up real estate prices and causing massive crowding. This severed East Jerusalem almost completely from the rest of the West Bank, and it lost its status as a regional hub for good.

The route of the Separation Barrier deviates from the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem in five locations, in keeping with the goal that governed the drawing of these boundaries in 1967 – to annex as much land and as few Palestinians as possible. This resulted in a winding route that adds up to some 202 kilometers in the area of Jerusalem.

Two areas were cut off from the city although they lie within the municipal boundaries: Kafr ‘Aqab to the north and Shu’fat Refugee Camp to the northeast, which are home to some 140,000 Palestinians, including an unknown number of West Bank residents. Residents of the neighborhoods in these areas pay municipal and other taxes, but both the Jerusalem Municipality and the various government ministries avoid entering them and ignore their needs. Consequently, these areas have become a no man’s land: The authorities do not provide basic municipal services such as waste removal, road maintenance and education, and there is a severe shortage of classrooms and day care facilities. The water and sewage systems fail to meet the population’s needs, yet the authorities do nothing to repair them. In addition, the residents suffer extreme restrictions on their movement due to the checkpoints separating them from the rest of the city.

In three other areas, the route of the barrier – including the existing sections, those under construction and those awaiting construction – effectively expands the city without formally changing its municipal boundaries. This choice of route has added open areas, as well as settlements and land adjacent to them, to the city. The added land mass amounts to about 65,000 dunams in the area of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, to the south; some 60,000 dunams in the area of Ma’ale Adumim and nearby settlements to the east; and about 25,000 dunams in the area of Givat Ze’ev and nearby settlements to the north. The northern section has been completed. In the Gush Etzion area, only some 21% of the route (about 11 kilometers) have been built and another 14% (about 7 kilometers) are under construction. In the Ma’ale Adumim area, about 28% of the route (some 14 kilometers) are in various stages of construction.

Discrimination in budget allocation and municipal services

Palestinians in East Jerusalem are required to pay taxes like any other inhabitant of the city, but do not receive the same services that others do. The Jerusalem Municipality deliberately avoids significantly investing in infrastructure and services in the Palestinian neighborhoods – including roads, pavements, water and sewage systems, schools and cultural institutions. This policy affects almost every aspect of Palestinians’ lives in East Jerusalem. For example, Ir Amim estimates that as of 2017, there is a shortage of 2,557 classrooms in Palestinian neighborhoods, and about a third of the children do not complete twelve years of schooling. Only some 52% of the population in these neighborhoods has legal access to the water grid.

In addition, while Palestinians make up 40% of the Jerusalem population, the municipality runs only six family health centers in the Palestinian neighborhoods, as opposed to 27 centers in Jewish neighborhoods. The municipality also has only four social services offices in the Palestinian neighborhoods, as opposed to 19 in Jewish neighborhoods – although in the former, 76% of all residents and 83.4% of the children live below the poverty line.


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