[News] Israel's Open Jerusalem?

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Thu Jul 23 12:44:22 EDT 2009



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Israel's Open Jerusalem?

July 23, 2009 By Jonathan Cook
http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/22105

Jerusalem. No one would have been more surprised than Fawziya Khurd 
by the recent pronouncement of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime 
minister, that Israel operates an "open city" policy in Jerusalem.

Mr Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that Israel's annexation of 
East Jerusalem following the 1967 war -- what he called the city's 
"unification" -- meant that all residents, Jews and Palestinians 
alike, could buy property wherever they chose.

"Our policy is that Jerusalem residents can purchase apartments 
anywhere in the city," he said. "There is no ban on Arabs buying 
apartments in the west of the city, and there is no ban on Jews 
building or buying in the city's east."

Mr Netanyahu was trying to justify recent construction in East 
Jerusalem by settler organisations in defiance of demands from the US 
that Israel halt all such work. In particular, US officials are 
objecting to the recent takeover of property by settlers in the 
Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, where Mrs Khurd used to live, as well as 
the Old City, Silwan and Ras al-Amud.

According to experts, however, the reality is that in both a 
practical and legal sense Mr Netanyahu's "open city" is a fiction, 
extended only to the settlers and not to Mrs Khurd or to the 250,000 
other Palestinians of East Jerusalem.

Mrs Khurd, for example, has been forced to live in a tent after 
settlers ousted her from her East Jerusalem home of five decades in 
November. She also has no hope of moving back to the house taken from 
her family in Talbiyeh, now in West Jerusalem, during the 1948 war 
that established Israel.

In addition, movement restrictions mean that almost all of the nearly 
four million Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza are banned from 
entering the city or visiting its holy sites.

Inside Jerusalem, as in the West Bank, Israel enforces a strict 
programme of segregation to disadvantage the Palestinians, said Jeff 
Halper, of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

Israeli Jews have the freedom to live in both parts of the city, with 
270,000 in West Jerusalem and a further 200,000 living in East 
Jerusalem in rapidly expanding settlements heavily subsidised by the state.

Palestinians, meanwhile, are denied the right to live both in West 
Jerusalem and in many residential areas of East Jerusalem. Even in 
their tightly controlled neighbourhoods in the city's east, at least 
20,000 of their homes are subject to demolition orders, said Mr Halper.

Daniel Seidemann, a Jerualem lawyer, said that in his 20 years of 
handling residency rights cases for Palestinians he had never heard 
of a Palestinian with a Jerusalem ID living in West Jerusalem.

The reason, he pointed out, was that almost all land inside Israel's 
1948 borders, including West Jerusalem, has been registered as "state 
land" managed by a body known as the Israel Lands Authority.

The authority allows neither Palestinians nor Israelis to buy 
property on state land. Instead long-term renewable leases are 
available to Israeli citizens and anyone eligible to immigrate to 
Israel under the country's Law of Return -- meaning Jews.

The settlements in East Jerusalem -- now covering 35 per cent of the 
eastern city, according to Mr Seidemann -- are also built on land 
declared as "state land", in violation of international law. Again 
this means that only Israelis and Jewish foreign nationals are 
entitled to lease land there.

Because they do not hold Israeli citizenship, the Palestinians of 
East Jerusalem are disqualified from acquiring property either in 
West Jerusalem or in the settlements of East Jerusalem.

"The extraordinary situation is that a Palestinian who had his land 
expropriated to build the settlement of Har Homa [on the outskirts of 
East Jerusalem] cannot lease land there, whereas a Jew from Paris or 
London who is not even an Israeli citizen can."

Mr Seidemann also pointed out that the country's Supreme Court ruled 
in 1978 that a Palestinian family forced out of what became the 
Jewish quarter of the Old City in 1967 had no right to return to 
their property.

The court justified its decision on the grounds that each religious 
community should have its own quarter. "However, that ruling has not 
stopped the Israeli government from helping Jewish settlers to 
encroach on the Muslim and Christian quarters."

This week, the Israeli media reported, several families from a 
settler organisation, Ateret Cohanim, had moved into a building in 
the heart of the Muslim quarter. The property was bought by Ariel 
Sharon in the 1980s to assert Jewish sovereignty over all of the Old 
City, although he never moved in.

Mr Halper said that, in addition, Jerusalem's Palestinians, unlike 
its Jews, faced municipal policies designed to make life as 
unbearable as possible. Demolitions of Palestinian property are 
widespread. Police, for example, have torn down Mrs Khurd's tent on 
six occasions since November and she faces a series of fines.

"Even according to Israeli figures, East Jerusalem lacks 25,000 
housing units to cope with the Palestinians' minimal needs," said Mr 
Halper. "The land is available, it's just that Israel wants to induce 
a severe housing shortage for Palestinians."

The hope is that they would move to the West Bank, he said.

Mr Seidemann said a handful of Palestinian families -- faced with 
this housing shortage -- had managed to rent homes short term from 
Israeli owners in East Jerusalem's larger settlements, such as French 
Hill and Pisgat Zeev. This marginal phenomenon, he said, had been 
misleadingly trumpeted as proof of the "egalitarian nature" of 
Israel's property laws.

According to the Israeli media, Mr Netanyahu's remark may have been 
intended to throw mud in the eyes of the US Administration as it 
steps up pressure on Israel to halt settlement building in East Jerusalem.

Mr Seidemann said: "The [US] State Department understands these 
issues better than Mr Netanyahu. There is zero possibility that his 
comments will be treated as credible by any of their negotiators."

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. 
His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, 
Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and 
"Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair" (Zed 
Books). His website is www.jkcook.net <http://www.jkcook.net> .

A version of this article originally appeared in The National 
(www.thenational.ae <http://www.thenational.ae> ), published in Abu Dhabi.
*******************************************************

Arabic names of Palestinian cities inside Israeli borders and 
Jerusalem changed to Hebrew

author

  Wednesday July 22, 2009 13:30
author
 by IMEMC News -
http://www.imemc.org/article/61172


In a recent and bold move by the Netanyahu government, the Arabic 
names of cities within Israeli borders and Jerusalem are being 
changed to Hebrew.

The Israeli Minister of Transport has been charged with the task of 
erasing the Arabic names in Israel, in what has been condemned as a 
bigoted attempt to deconstruct the Palestinian legacy, especially in 
Jerusalem. The Arabic name of Al Quds is also set to be changed, as 
is Nazareth, and other cities within Israel.Palestinian Chief of 
Justice has responded by declaring this as a means of erasing the 
Arab idenity in Jerusalem and greater Israel. The Chief Justice and 
Chairman of the Comission in Support of Islamic and Christian 
Sanctities in Jerusalem has made similar statements, and calling it 
an act of racism. In addition to these implications, it is against 
international law to make such changes to a city that is still 
constested territory.From the creation of the Israeli state, 
Jerusalem has been a heavily contested area, subjected to many 
changes, land confisaction, home demolitions, evacuations, and 
settlements to cut the city off from its Palestinian heritage.





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