News analysis by Khalid Amayreh in East Jerusalem
The recent decision by the Israeli government to banish four Palestinian lawmakers from Jerusalem to areas in the West Bank run by the Palestinian Authority (PA) is another repugnant expression of the Israeli policy of ethnic cleansing in the city, holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews.
This undeclared but clear policy aims to minimize as much as possible the city's non-Jewish population so that Israel can realize its routinely-invoked mantra of Jerusalem being "Israel's eternal and undivided capital."
The four Arab lawmakers, Muhammad Abu Tir, Ahmed Atwan, Mohammed Totah and Khalid Abu Arafeh, didn't violate any laws, committed no crimes and certainly did nothing to warrant extirpation from their natural homeland, the city of their birth.
Israel claims the four are affiliated with a political organization deemed "terrorist" by the Jewish state. Israel deems anyone and everyone, including peace activists carrying milk powder and food to blockaded Gazans as "terrorist." Indeed, Israel effectively classifies Palestinians into two categories: Terrorists, who ought to be annihilated, and collaborators or informers. There is nothing in between.
This is why the politically-motivated charge (affiliation with a terrorist organization) is really a mere pretext since Hamas is a legitimate political party with hundreds of thousands of supporters.
Hence, what Israel really wants goes far beyond vilifying and weakening Hamas? Israel simply wants to attain the following goal: Getting as many Palestinians as possible to leave East Jerusalem, by hook or by crook, and seizing as much as possible of Arab land and property, mainly under the rubric of hounding and fighting Hamas.
In fact, one can claim rather candidly that the unmitigated demonization of Hamas by Israel has very little to do with the Islamic movement's involvement in active resistance against the plainly cruel Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
Hamas is an honest organization. Its doesn't accept anything less than a total Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories pursuant to international law, The movement refuses to be cajoled or bullied by Israel to give up inalienable Palestinian rights usurped by Israel. It wouldn't be bribed by carrots or coerced by sticks, which help keep the Palestinian hope for true independence and freedom alive. This, not the issue of terror, is the real reason behind Israel's mad fixation on Hamas, a group molded in reaction to Israeli oppression and savagery against the Palestinian people.
It is for these reasons that the decision to deport these democratically-elected MPs ought to be viewed in the context of larger efforts to ethnically cleanse Jerusalemite Arabs from their city, which is home to al-Masjidul Aqsa, the world's third most important Islamic shrine.
Indeed, the decision to banish the four Jerusalemite leaders is only one expression of the ongoing Israeli drive to make Jerusalem free of Muslims and Christians as much as possible.
In recent days, the Israeli authorities decided to demolish more than 88 Arab homes at the Silwan neighborhood. The declared purpose of this act of war against Arab demography is to build a Talmudic park in the area. However, there are ample signs that the real ultimate goal is to enforce Jewish settler's presence in the area as well as coerce more Arabs to leave.
According to the Israeli human rights organization B'tselem, Israel confiscated the residency rights of more than 6 thousand Palestinian residents in the past three years alone.
Other draconian measures meant to drive Palestinians away include excessive taxation, property seizure, as well as promulgating laws that would lead to shattering Palestinian daily life and force as many Palestinians as possible to leave.
Israel, for example, is never content with demolishing Palestinian homes and confiscating residency rights at the slightest pretext. It is now outlawing protests against these manifestly illegal, indeed criminal, measures. According to reliable sources in Jerusalem, the Israeli occupation authorities have begun to enforce new penalties against Palestinian Jerusalemites, including revocation of residency rights, re-evaluation of taxes owed and reduction in welfare benefits.
According to Ziad al Hammouri, Director of the Jerusalem Center for Legal Rights, he latest racist decision may well be a "test case" that would determine subsequent acts of ethnic cleansing by Israel.
"They are trying to extirpate us from our homes. We are facing the real danger of being uprooted simply because Israel want Jerusalem to be exclusively Jewish and we are not Jews. So it seems that the Israeli message is like this: Either you leave or convert to Judaism."
Like Palestinians everywhere, the Palestinians of Jerusalem are ostensibly successfully protesting the latest measures of ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem. However, Israel can not be trusted to deal justly with Arab grievances. In fact, experience shows that in the absence of massive international pressure, Israel would pay no attention to the most elementary human and civil rights of its victims.
This is why, meaningful international efforts are vital to stop the latest Israeli campaign targeting the very existence of the native Arab community in East Jerusalem.
The American government has half-heartedly protested Israeli plans to demolish numerous homes at Silwan. However, the Israeli authorities don't seem to take the Americans truly seriously.
The Obama administration, which had demanded that Israel freeze Jewish settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, mainly in order to provide an appropriate atmosphere for the resumption of the clearly moribund peace process, has effectively succumbed to Israeli arrogance and insolence.
Hence, it would be naïve and self-defeating for Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims to pin any genuine hopes on the Obama administration to force Israel to reconsider its criminal designs in Jerusalem.
To be sure the American impotence vis-à-vis Israel is not intrinsic in nature. The US, which is Israel's guardian and ally, simply sees no urgent need to get tough with Israel especially as long as its vital interests throughout the Muslim world are not scathed the least as Arab regimes are vying to please and appease Washington.
This is happening while the frustration and indignation of Arab and Muslim masses are rising to new levels, especially in the aftermath of the criminal Israeli assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on 31 May, which killed at least nine Turkish activists and injured dozens others.
In the final analysis, the Arab and Muslim masses, although unable to reverse their tyrannical regimes subservience to Washington, can at least demonstrate to the Americans that hundreds of millions of Muslims throughout the world will never forgive the US government its scandalous embrace of Israeli criminality toward the Palestinian people.
As to the Palestinians themselves, it is time they turn their backs on the so-called two-state solution strategy.
Israel has simply killed the two-state solutions by rendering unrealistic or virtually impossible the creation of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank due to the ubiquitous proliferation of Jewish colonies in occupied Arab land.
Perhaps a sustained popular struggle similar to that which eventually terminated the defunct White minority apartheid regime in South Africa, ought to be tried by the Palestinians.
True, Israel may look somewhat invincible and powerful. However, there are many signs that Israel is also disintegrating from within and losing at many fronts. In the end, Israel is moving on a losing track. I am sure many Jewish intellectuals know this.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.