Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Ethnic Cleansing in Jerusalem, Israeli Style

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Ethnic Cleansing in Jerusalem, Israeli Style

Article excerpt

Ethnic Cleansing in Jerusalem, Israeli Style

Israeli authorities are carrying out a process in East Jerusalem that can accurately be described as ethnic cleansing. It is plainly geared to uproot Palestinians from an area that historically has been known as Arab East Jerusalem and convert it into an integral, permanent part of the capital of the Jewish state.

The scandalous process is recognized and deplored by the major news media in Britain and elsewhere and even by some newspapers in Israel, but it is predictably ignored in the United States. Still worse, Washington provides the financial, political and military support without which the cleansing could not go forward.

B'Tselem, a private organization of Israelis concerned about human rights, calls it "a policy of quiet deportation." In its report, subtitled Revocation of Residency of East Jerusalem Palestinians, the group notes that "perhaps thousands of people have been forced to leave" and warns that the worst is still to come.

The squeeze is not new; it has been underway for years, first under Labor Party leadership, intensified by the Likud Party when Menachem Begin became prime minister, and hardened recently in two major steps, first by the government of Labor's Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, then by their Likud successor, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu,

The first stage was a slow, little-noticed process of attrition, during which Jewish settlements that now ring East Jerusalem were built. The next was tightening the noose against Palestinians through two measures: control of entry into the city and restriction of construction permits.

For years, Israel has virtually prohibited Palestinians from remodeling old housing or constructing new. Only a handful of building permits -- about 150 a year -- are divided among the 155,000 Palestinians who until recently constituted the majority population. More than 20,000 families are virtually homeless.

At the same time, Palestinians who leave East Jerusalem for any reason can expect harassment when they attempt to return. Some of them, even those who have lived in Jerusalem all their lives, are denied re-entry.

Those who left for holidays sometimes find it impossible to return. Families are divided, some members are able to stay in East Jerusalem and others kept out.

Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem are exempt from municipal taxes for five years and then benefit from a reduced rate. Because of this bias, Palestinians living there pay taxes that are five times higher than many settlers.

The effect of these demographic pincers is rising anger, despair, and violence -- or, as Israeli officials always characterize it, "terrorism."

The real terrorism is inflicted on the Palestinians, who live in constant fear of bulldozers leveling their homes without anything remotely resembling due process, eviction on the pretext that home repairs were made without proper permits, or confiscation for road construction or other public purposes.

The latest form of terrorism is the voiding of Palestinian identity cards.

The latest form of terrorism is the voiding of Palestinian identity cards.

And the latest form of terrorism is the voiding of Palestinian identity cards.

Before Shimon Peres left the office of prime minister, he had already begun the use of identity cards -- or lack thereof -- as the main instrument of deportation from East Jerusalem. Under Netanyahu, the instrument has become razor sharp. It now threatens to sever much of the remaining population of Palestinians from their homesteads. …

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