All Of It
Jerusalem, especially the walled Old City, is the epicenter of the Zionist annexation campaign. For Jews it is Yerushalayim, “Abode of Peace,” site of Solomon’s temple, constructed according to the Hebrew Bible – as yet there is no definitive archeological evidence – in 957 B.C. on one of Jerusalem’s seven hills, and the Second Temple completed by Herod the Great in the 1st century B.C., but razed by the Romans in 70 A.D.
After the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem in the 7th century, 1,400 years ago, caliphs of the Umyyard Dynasty constructed on the stony remains of the Second Temple, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as al-Haram esh-Sharif, the “Noble Sanctuary,” both the golden Dome of the Rock – a shrine, not a mosque – the rock, literally, from which Mohammed the Prophet is said to have ascended on his Night Journey to heaven, and the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. The main prayer hall, the Al-Qibli mosque, with its 14 Romanesque arches and room for 5,000 worshipers, dates to 1035 A.D. Muslims call Jerusalem Al-Quds, “the Holy,” their most sacred city after Mecca and Medina.
In truce talks at the end of 1949, Jerusalem was divided and a tenuous status quo, with the IDF holding the west side of the Old City and the Royal Jordanian Army the east, held until the 1967 Six Day War when Israeli forces overran and occupied East Jerusalem. Israel immediately began creating facts on the ground to put its indelible stamp on the Old City, indeed, on all of East Jerusalem.
The first step, three days in, was razing the historic 770 years old Mughrabi – or Moroccan – Quarter fronting the Western Wall at the base of the Temple Mount. With only two hours’ notice, the Israelis evicted more than 600 Arabs from their homes and brought in the bulldozers.
Next the Jewish Quarter. In April 1968, Israeli authorities, invoking a British Mandate-era ordinance permitting confiscation of private property for “public purposes,” expropriated the homes of 5,500 Palestinians and small businesses employing more than 800 workers. Israeli law now prohibits Arabs from owning any property in the Jewish Quarter.
In 1980 Israel formally annexed all of East Jerusalem, which includes neighborhoods to the north, east and south of the Old City, and Israel’s leaders before and since have been adamant that all of Jerusalem, every last square inch, is and always will be Israel’s eternal capital.
Palestinians are determined to hold onto their piece of it at all costs, Al-Aqsa is their spiritual center in the same way St. Peter’s is for Roman Catholics. In talks with Israel, Yasser Arafat, founder of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, maintained that any peace agreement without a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem would be “worthless,” giving it up was a deal breaker, a red line he could not, would not, cross.
U.N. Security Council Resolution 478 declared the annexation “null and void,” and it has never been recognized by the international community. But Israel shrugs, does what it wants.
In 1980, it set as a “policy objective” a ratio of 70% Jews and 30% Arabs in greater Jerusalem. But as of 2020, of the city’s 900,000 residents, Muslim and Christian Palestinians still made up 37%, and Israeli authorities are leaving no stone unturned to whittle down that number.
Under Israel’s 1952 Law of Entry, Palestinians living in East Jerusalem in 1948 and their direct descendants were granted “special permanent resident status.” But in 1995, the Interior Ministry reinterpreted the law to give it discretion to revoke the permanent resident rights of Palestinians who do not actively maintain a “center of life” in Jerusalem, including those who study or work abroad for more than three years.
This “center of life” rule does not apply to Jews. Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch: “Israel claims to treat Jerusalem as a unified city, but the reality is one set of rules for Jews and another for Palestinians. . . . The status of Palestinians only remains secure so long as they do not exercise their right to travel abroad to study or work, move to the different neighborhood or obtain status in another country.”
Because Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem are very crowded and, thanks to purposeful neglect by municipal authorities, trash-ridden and unsanitary, some residents opt to live at least part of the year in the occupied West Bank.
But to keep their residency cards, Palestinians must live in the city, and Israeli authorities regularly conduct surprise house by house inspections to make certain the registered ID holders live there full-time; if not, their residency cards are revoked.
In 2018 the Knesset again amended the Law of Entry, giving the Interior Ministry authority to revoke residency permits for any unspecified “breach of allegiance” to the State of Israel, and nullified the power of Israel’s Supreme Court to overrule revocations on constitutional grounds.
This sword hangs over the head of every Palestinian in East Jerusalem. Israel has revoked the Jerusalem residency of more than 14,300 ordinary Palestinians, not criminals, removing them from the population register and invalidating their residency cards.
They become, in effect, foreigners in their own land, unable to work legally, renew driver licenses, apply for national health insurance, or obtain the birth certificates they need to enroll their children in school.
According to MK (Member of Knesset) Issawi Frej, “[There have been] 30 amendments . . . of the Entry into Israel law, every one aimed at removing more Arabs from East Jerusalem.”
To increase the ratio of Jews to Arabs and buttress its claim to East Jerusalem, Israel routed the Separation Barrier to pull in three large West Bank settlements, Givat Ze’eve north of Jerusalem, Ma’ale Adumim to the east and Gush Etzion to the south, but leaving three crowded Arab neighborhoods and the Shu’fat refugee camp, 120,000 Palestinians in all, outside the Wall.
And Israel has expropriated almost a third of East Jerusalem for new Jewish enclaves, Givat HaMivtar, Maalot Dafna, Ramat Eshkol and French Hill, to encircle and cut East Jerusalem off from the West Bank; today the two are linked only via a narrow strip between Mount Scopus and the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber.
But despite Israel’s assiduous efforts, East Jerusalem is still predominately Palestinian, and if demographic trends persist, Greater Jerusalem itself could become a minority-Jewish city as early as 2035.
As one Israeli minister put it, “East Jerusalem is a bone stuck in our throat, we can’t swallow it and we can’t spit it out.”
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