The pace of Judaisation in occupied Jerusalem has increased since the US Embassy was moved from Tel Aviv to the city in May. This was accompanied by an increase in Israeli efforts to seize control of Palestinian-owned homes there. The most dangerous aspect of this is that it is happening through Arab and Palestinians brokers buying such homes that ultimately fall into the hands of illegal settlers’ organisations.
Over the past few years, a number of these organisations have been set up, and each one is responsible for an area in or around Jerusalem. Their plans to Judaise the city include the use of racist Israeli laws, as well as the so-called absentee and third generation laws. A lot of this is taking place under the radar.
Palestinian-owned properties in Jerusalem are also acquired by Israelis through their confiscation for what is known as public interest purposes, as well as the confiscation of property which Jews claim to have owned or rented prior to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. The settlers’ organisations in Jerusalem also try to take advantage of the conflict between Orthodox Christians and the leadership of the Greek Orthodox Church over control of church properties, dozens of which have been sold to the settlers out of the public eye.
Alongside Israel’s declared policy to Judaise Palestinian property in Jerusalem, the demolition of homes and buildings has proven to be a devastatingly effective way of eliminating the Arab-Palestinian presence in the city and forcibly dictating its demography. This will make the Jews the overwhelming majority over the next few years, even in East Jerusalem. The Israeli army demolished at least 1,900 Palestinian homes in Jerusalem between 1967 and 2017, displacing in the process almost 9,500 Jerusalemites. While the Israeli army issues demolition orders, and makes building permits almost impossible for Palestinians in Jerusalem to obtain — despite their growing and urgent need for larger homes— Israel has approved building permits for thousands of housing units in illegal settlements in the occupied city.The Israelis are also excavating around the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa as well as in the Silwan neighbourhood, violating international laws and conventions in the process. It seems that the government is intent on implementing the Judaisation project in its entirety by expelling as many Palestinians as possible from the city under the pretext of development. In the meantime, it is attracting Jewish immigrants in order to impose a Jewish majority and destroy the city’s centuries-old Arab civilisation and culture.
Any Palestinian born and bred in Jerusalem will have his or her identity card and right of residence revoked if they happen to leave the city for more than year, even for employment or study purposes. The same happens to those Palestinian Jerusalemites who obtain another nationality. At the moment, there are 50,000 Jerusalemites at risk of having their residence permits revoked, being expelled from the city and having their property, land and shops confiscated.
Israel is taking advantage of the Arab world’s preoccupation with the developments in the region in order to impose a Judaised reality on the ground. Jewish migrants are being offered attractive terms to leave their home countries and relocate to Jerusalem. Financial inducements have been announced to try to increase the birth rate of the Jewish population in the rush to change the city’s demography.
Challenging all of these Judaisation efforts needs to begin with confronting the brokers who acquire then sell Palestinian-owned property to settlers’ groups; they must face prosecution. Palestinian Jerusalemites themselves need to be made more aware of the dangers facing their presence in the city.
International resolutions concerning Jerusalem must be enforced by the UN if they are to mean anything at all. The UN Partition Plan of 1947, for example, stipulated that the city should be an international zone, neither Jewish-controlled nor Arab. That has been ignored for more than 70 years.
More recent UN Resolutions reject the Israeli annexation of Jerusalem and prohibit Israel’s changes in its demography. If this is done alongside the dismantling of illegal Israeli settlements in the city and the return of Palestinians expelled from their homes during the decades of Israel’s occupation, then the Judaisation process can be halted and reversed. It is a tall order.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.