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Analysis: Which Jerusalem? Israel’s little-known master plans (Part III)

June 10, 2016 5:09 P.M. (Updated: June 15, 2016 4:55 P.M.)
A Palestinian family waits behind an Israeli police barrier in the Old City of Jerusalem, waiting to move forward as Jewish paraders pass by on June 5, 2016. (MaanImages/Yumna Patel, File)
Al-Shabaka is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and foster public debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the framework of international law.

This policy brief is authored by policy advisor Al-Shabaka Policy Fellow Nur Arafeh, in which she analyzes all three Israeli master plans for Jerusalem, explaining how they aim to shape the city into a tourism and high-tech center, and the ways in which they use urban planning to reshape the city’s demography. She spotlights the dangerous new laws Israel has reactivated or passed to advance its colonization of the city - the Absentee Property Law and the "third generation law". She also addresses the role of the PA and the international community as well as of civil society organizations, and identifies achievable measures that can be implemented by those concerned with Jerusalem’s fate. The first and second parts of this brief were published on Ma’an on Wednesday and Thursday.

Saving Jerusalem

Since 2001, Israel has closed at least 31 Palestinian institutions, including the Orient House, the former headquarters of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Governorate of Jerusalem and the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs are also prohibited from working in Jerusalem, and are forced to operate out of a building in Al-Ram, which lies to the northeast of Jerusalem and is outside the Israeli-imposed municipal boundaries of the city.

Given the leadership and institutional vacuum Israel has created in East Jerusalem, it is especially challenging to find ways to rebut its colonization of the city and dispossession of its Palestinian population. In the course of the research for this policy brief, I had the opportunity to speak to representatives of several organizations, official bodies, and community groups. There was broad agreement that one of the most urgent steps that should be taken is to establish popular committees in each East Jerusalem neighborhood. Such committees could raise East Jerusalem residents’ awareness about their rights as residents and about Israel’s plans for the future; encourage voluntary work; monitor and prevent Palestinians from selling their land to Israeli Jews; represent the neighborhood at national forums; and cooperate with each other to reinforce their efforts to defend Palestinian land.

Indeed, once these committees have been established in all neighborhoods, they could form what Jerusalemite organizations believe is also urgently needed: A representative body for Jerusalem at the national level, an inclusive body that would include the Jerusalem Governorate, representatives of civil society organizations and the private sector as well as independents. This body would work as a channel between Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the PA as well as with the rest of the world. Such a representative body could work on three main fronts:

The Palestinian Authority (PA)/Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO): A representative body for Jerusalem could lobby the PA/PLO to propel Jerusalem to the forefront of the Palestinian government’s commitments and ensure that it receives the budget and other support it needs in order to counter Israeli Judaization policies.

2. The Arab and international community: In this sphere, a representative body for Jerusalem should take the lead in advocacy, lobbying and campaigning at the regional and international level, in coordination with the Palestinian diaspora. For example, Jordan should be lobbied as Custodian of Holy places in Jerusalem to help maintain a secure environment for Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Other Arab countries, in particular Morocco and Saudi Arabia given their special relationships with Jerusalem, should also be mobilized.

More efforts should be made to reach out to countries that have already shown solidarity with Palestinians, such as Sweden, Latin American countries, and the BRICS among others, so that they might use their good offices directly and in collaboration with other countries to hold Israel accountable for its illegal annexation and colonization of East Jerusalem. The fact that East Jerusalem is part of the occupied West Bank is a point that is often neglected in the official discourse and that should be emphasized.

These countries should also use their good offices, working with the PLO/State of Palestine, at the UN at all levels, including the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, and the UN’s programs and specialized agencies to expose Israeli policies in East Jerusalem, and call on member states to fulfill their legal obligations. In particular, member states should activate Security Council Resolution 478 of 1980, which declared “all legislative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, which purport to alter the character and statues of the holy city of Jerusalem … are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.”

The European Union (EU) also has an obligation to ensure full compliance with the principle of non-recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over East Jerusalem. The EU should translate its rhetoric into effective measures by halting all direct and indirect economic, financial, banking, investment, academic, and business activities in Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and throughout the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT).

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) could play a major role in safeguarding Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem, providing direct support as well as in lobbying the EU and the UN to provide support and to take measures to stop and reverse Israel’s violations. Such measures could include the establishment by the UN and/or the EU of a register of Israeli violations of human rights and the damage incurred by Palestinians as a result of Israeli Judaization policies and settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and in the rest of the OPT.

It is also vital to create a funding body or a development bank to overcome the lack of funding, which is one of the major issues faced by Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem. Such a development bank could have several functions, including: providing credit facilities since most loans are only available at very high interest rates; helping to finance the development of the housing sector; and providing incentives to encourage investment and assist in the revival of the trade sector. The Palestinian private sector and Palestinian banks within and outside Palestine should also embrace their responsibilities and be part of this development bank.

3. Palestinian communities in their homeland as well as in the diaspora: These communities should help to develop and project a clear vision and operational strategy for Jerusalem. Practical measures should be identified to counter Israel’s Judaization policies; enhance the productive capacity of the Palestinian economy in East Jerusalem and strengthen its links with the economy of the West Bank and Arab world; promote the tourism sector to support the limited economic development possible under occupation; revive the cultural and economic status of the Old City; enhance the educational and health sector; and foster the integration of Palestinians in East Jerusalem into the rest of the OPT.

Furthermore, the existing legal bodies that offer legal assistance to Palestinians in East Jerusalem -- e.g. regarding revocation of residency IDs, family unification, land appropriation, house demolitions, and zoning and planning -- should coordinate their efforts.

Palestinian civil society, particularly the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, has a vital role to play in targeting Israeli plans for tourism and high-tech in Jerusalem, through campaigns to boycott Israeli academic and cultural institutions as well as businesses that are involved in the Judaization of Jerusalem.

The development of a coordinated media strategy is urgently needed to raise Palestinian voices in a challenge to Israel’s discursive power and its de-historicized representation of Jerusalem. Academics and policy analysts also have a vital role to play: There is a dearth of research on the socio-economic development of East Jerusalem as well as Israel’s master plans for Jerusalem, with very few think tanks working in East Jerusalem. Future research should also move beyond diagnosis of problems to devise creative solutions, using a proactive approach rather than a reactive one. The gap between academics and policy makers needs to be bridged to ensure that all efforts are united towards the objective of achieving self-determination, dignity, freedom, and justice.

Originally published on Al-Shabaka's website on May 31, 2016.

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect Ma'an News Agency's editorial policy.
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