Something is going very wrong in Jerusalem. Israel’s warped sense of immutable ownership and unchallengeable control over Palestinian lives has given way to a rampant series of acts that would cause utter shock and disbelief if carried out anywhere else in the world. To begin with, democratically elected MPs are being faced with forced expulsion not only from their homes but from their home city of Jerusalem itself.Last week, MEMO reported that Mohammed Abu Tir, Ahmed Othwan, Mohammed Tutah, and former Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Khalid Abu Arafa have all been given notice that their Jerusalem residency is being revoked. According to Maan News Agency this morning the “Director of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society in Jerusalem Nasser Qaws and senior Fatah official Hatim Abdul Qader were also put on alert by Israeli forces.” No one, it seems, is safe from Israel’s insistence on gradually emptying the land of Palestinians. In 2008, Israel revoked 466 Jerusalem residency cards, with the number expected to skyrocket in 2010.
This forced expulsion and illegal revocation of residency rights is not only happening to parliamentarians and public figures, although they are certainly being targeted, but it is happening to many ordinary Jerusalemites as well. To have your home utterly demolished in front of your very eyes by American made bulldozers as all your worldly possessions are crushed to smithereens while you watch helplessly from the sidelines is nothing new for many Palestinians. However, it is clearly not enough for Israel to destroy Palestinian homes and shatter Palestinian lives but it is now even outlawing protesting against these illegal house demolitions as well. In the run up to the newest mass wave of illegal house demolitions that is about to uproot and devastate the lives of hundreds more Palestinians in Al-Bustan, the Israeli authorities have begun to enforce new penalties against Jerusalemites. The latest range of punishments being threatened include, “the revocation of Jerusalem residency rights, re-evaluation of taxes owed and reduction in welfare benefits to the tax-paying residents of Palestinian neighbourhoods.”
These are just some of the threats being held over the heads of any parents whose children dare to protest against the illegal house demolitions. Families have already received threats of deportations and protesters have been told that they will be “deported if they continue to “incite” against the state of Israel”! Contrary to all standards of human rights, these penalties are being wielded in order to ensure the Palestinians utter subservience and compliance with Israel’s illegal theft and destruction of their land or else they risk losing everything.
The scope and range of punishments that Israel is constantly developing in order to bolster its illegal expropriation of Palestinian land is reaching new and dangerous levels. The sudden spate of expulsions taking place in the region are being done under the flimsy pretence that those targeted for expulsion are demonstrating “opposition” to Israel. This is simply a guise to force Palestinians, not just out of their homes but out of Jerusalem altogether. Forced deportation in this context is entirely illegal and unjustified.
At a time when Israel is supposed to be negotiating with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, it continues to undermine trust, insisting instead on playing with Palestinian lives as some sick form of entertainment. The FCO was approached by MEMO this morning for a statement on these developments. Their response was noticeably non committal as although they are quite clear that such moves are “unhelpful” they reflect no preparedness to take decisive action to address these issues apart from “lobbying” the Israelis for change. An FCO spokesperson gave MEMO the following statement:
“We are following this matter up as a matter or urgency with the Israelis and our European and international counterparts to discuss exactly what this means in terms of developments on the ground. However, it seems obvious that these measures would be deeply unhelpful when the focus should be on confidence building steps with the aim of giving momentum to negotiations between Israel and Palestine. The UK has a strong record of lobbying hard on issues relating to house demolitions and settlement building. We see the situation in East Jerusalem as extremely sensitive because we view east Jerusalem fundamentally as we see the rest of the Occupied Territories in that it is occupied land and therefore any efforts to change the facts on the ground is contrary to international law and prejudicial to the peace process itself, as well as causing unnecessary suffering to ordinary Palestinians and causing tensions. Our fundamental position on East Jerusalem has not changed.”
When asked specifically how the matter would be followed up the spokesperson said that the British government had been and will continue to work on a number of fronts including lobbying as well as awareness campaigns to inform Palestinians in Jerusalem of their legal rights.
Meanwhile, a veteran Labour parliamentarian Jeremy Corbyn summed up the farcical nature of the unfolding events saying, “Palestinian parliamentarians are in prison and expelled, and now even members of the Knesset are treated in the same way. This is Israeli democracy at work.”
The time for words is over. Israel is forcing a massive change in the facts on the ground in Jerusalem. Its tactic of stripping people of their residency and forcibly expelling them from their land must come to an end and Britain must play their part in ensuring protection for the Palestinian citizens of Jerusalem be they MPs or just regular people trying to live their lives in peace and dignity.