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Musa Keilani: Perpetuating occupation
April 18, 2011
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As the direct and indirect players involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continue to argue back and forth, the Jewish state has been pressing ahead with its campaign to get rid of Palestinians from occupied Arab Jerusalem and change the geographic features of the city to suit its interests.

We in the Jordanian media have been continuing to raise the issue and call for international action to prevent Israel from the systematic violations of international law. Of course the issue remains under international attention, but no one seems to be willing to take concrete action to challenge and foil the Israeli moves.

If only for technical purposes, the question has to be raised why Israel granted only “residence” permit to the Palestinians of Arab East Jerusalem although it declared that it was “annexing” the eastern half of the holy city after occupying it through the use of military force in 1967.

Well, not that Israel could be expected to respect international law or the Geneva Conventions that prohibit the occupying power from changing the geographical or demographic features or the cultural balance of the land under occupation. If anything, the Jewish state has been engaged in a well-orchestrated effort to alter both features of the occupied territories since 1967.

The situation is even more ironic when we note that a United Nations committee has observed that “The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 may be considered as the expression of the international community’s sense of revulsion at the treatment accorded to Jews who came under the Nazi regime during time of war and occupation and who were subjected to indignities, abuses and deprivations in gross denial of human rights.”

While Israel took advantage of this “positive” aspect of the international approach to Jews, it is not only denying the same benefits to the Palestinians under its occupation but is also engaged in subjecting them to “indignities, abuses and deprivations in gross denial of human rights.”

The Israeli measures in Arab East Jerusalem clearly show that the Jewish state is determined not to give up the eastern part of the holy city, which it claims to be part of its “eternal and indivisible capital.” Israel has clearly declared it would not entertain any compromise over Arab East Jerusalem and it could be expected to maintain this position until one or another dramatic element is induced into the equation.

Latest figures indicate that Israel has expelled nearly 15,000 Palestinians from Arab East Jerusalem and is tightening the eviction drive that is aimed at reducing the Arab population of the city while increasing the number of Jews by building more settlements there.

It is an established fact that Arabs have a far higher growth in population than Jews and Israel fears that the demographic features would act against its interests in a decade. And hence its campaign to reduce the Arab population in areas that it is determined to keep in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians (Not that there is any prospect for such an accord in the near future).

There are many laws and measures that Israel has devised for itself to arbitrarily expel Arab Jerusalamites and to prevent the return of others who live abroad. These include the “absentee law,” which it uses not only to deny Arabs to live in Jerusalem but also to seize properties of Arabs in the occupied territories.

The law “permits” Israel to Israeli strip Jerusalem Palestinians of their right to enter and live in the holy city if they spent at least seven years abroad or acquired a foreign passport.

Israel would love it to use such moves against its own Arab citizens, but is holding itself back because of fears of the political backlash the step would bring about. We can easily imagine people like Avigdor Lieberman and others sigh in desperation because they are unable to realise their goal of an Arab-less Israel. Short of that, they have opted to step up the campaign to evict as many Palestinians from Arab East Jerusalem as possible.

Another measure Israel has adopted in the demolition of Palestinian-owned buildings in Arab East Jerusalem on the ground that they were constructed without permits supposedly issued by the occupation authorities. Again, it is a measure that blatantly violates the Geneva Conventions which say that an occupying power should not build or demolish structures in the occupied land.

The increasing number of Palestinians being denied their right to enter and live in Arab East Jerusalem, the seizure and demolition of Palestinian property in the holy city and the stepped up building of Jewish settlements there add a greater urgency to the need to arrive at a fair and just solution to the Palestinian problem.

It would be a gross understatement that it is next to impossible under the givens in the situation. The US, the key player in the so-called peace process, is reported to have thwarted a European initiative to have the UN and the European Union, under the auspices of the Quartet of mediators, to outline the basics of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.  Obviously, the US, nudged from Israel, acted upon the realisation that the European approach would have a far better input of fairness and justice than the Jewish state is willing to accept.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week that President Barack Obama was to outline a new approach to the peace effort soon. We do not know what would be the new infusion in the effort, but let the US remain constantly reminded that the Palestinians have sacrificed too much to accept anything less than full independence and statehood.

In the meantime, the Arabs, preoccupied as they are with the recent wave of unrest, should not let their attention shift away from the need to counter Israeli practices in the occupied territories. It might not have an immediate effect on the facts on the ground, but the world should be kept closely reminded of how Israel is trying to perpetuate its occupation of Palestinian, Arab and Muslim lands.

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