by Khalil Marwan (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 28, No. 3, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1419)
The Zionists’ altercation with the European Union (EU) over Al-Quds [Jerusalem] which hit newspaper headlines on March 11 was not merely about semantics. While the affair has domestic implications for the Zionists’ forthcoming polls on May 17, the issue is of far wider significance. The EU’s letter pointedly referred to Jerusalem as corpus separatum, (‘a separate body’, a term used in UN general assembly resolution 181 of November 29, 1947), indicating that it does not recognize Israel’s occupation of the city. The letter was sent in response to the Israeli foreign ministry demand that European diplomats stop visiting Orient House in East Jerusalem, where Faisal al-Husseini, the Palestinian Authority’s Minister for Jerusalem, has his offices.
The Zionists claim Jerusalem as their ‘eternal capital.’ This is dismissed even by their most ardent supporters, including the US, which otherwise bankrolls every Israeli crime.
The rebuff, however, cannot obscure the aggressive tactics used by the Zionists in changing the demographic composition of the city, the third holiest site in Islam and the first qibla of Muslims. The Israeli Hebrew paper, Ha’aretz, reported on March 2, that ‘the Interior Ministry stripped 788 Palestinian Jerusalemites of their residency in 1998, with more than half the cases - 441 - coming in the last five months of the year.’
Palestinians and their supporters refer to the theft of their land as ‘silent transfer.’ Ethnic cleansing would be a more appropriate expression. Israeli officials say they are ‘only abiding by the law,’ - their own, of course, crafted to camouflage the theft - and say that of the 788 Palestinians who lost their residency, 618 moved abroad and only 170 moved to the West Bank or Ghazzah. (These figures, of course, are also suspect.)
The Israeli law runs contrary to every international convention as well as the UN charter pertaining to territories occupied by force. Despite the ubiquitous Zionist influence, the world has refused to accept their occupation of the holy city. The Zionists have arrogated to themselves the right to determine how the Palestinians’ residency is to be determined. There is no such restriction for Zionist settlers, mostly from North America or Europe, who forcibly occupy properties belonging to the Palestinians. Israeli foreign minister Ariel Sharon, popularly known as the ‘Butcher of Beirut,’ has also moved his ponderous bulk into the overcrowded Muslim Quarter of the city. Many Palestinian women who reside in East Jerusalem but marry men from the West Bank are forced to give up their residency by Israel’s refusal to grant their husbands or children identity cards. Others are deprived of residency if they cannot produce the numerous documents demanded by the Zionist occupiers. A spokeswoman for the Israeli interior ministry, Tova Ellinson, told Ha’aretz that the phrase ‘cancellation of the residency of Palestinian Jerusalemites’ is not the proper terminology. ‘The Interior Ministry checks on residents of East Jerusalem who have made the center of their lives outside the country, and as such their residency in Jerusalem has lapsed.’ Such perverse logic is found only in the Zionist utopia.
In a September 1998 report titled ‘The Quiet Transfer Continues,’ the human rights groups B’Tselem and HaMoked, the Center for the Defense of the Individual, said the Israeli policy was aimed at reducing the number of Palestinians in the city through land expropriations, demolitions and discriminatory investment in urban infrastructure in Palestinian neighbourhoods. By refusing or restricting the issue of building permits to Palestinians, the Zionist occupiers have created a huge housing shortage in the city. Palestinians are forced either to build ‘illegal’ extensions or move outside Jerusalem to areas Israel has not yet annexed.
Since 1967, Israel has built 40,000 public housing units and settled some 170,000 Jews in Jerusalem. Major new Jewish quarters are planned in the city. During the same period, only 600 housing units were built for Palestinians. ‘Illegal’ houses constructed by Palestinians are demolished using bulldozers, as happened on March 9 when six houses were demolished in Jerusalem and Ramallah. The demolitions were carried out without warning, and in one instance, in violation of a court order. In the village of al-Jeep in north Jerusalem, Issa Assaf’s 150 square metres house was demolished in the early hours of the morning by Israeli bulldozers supported by around 50 soldiers. In the village of Jaba’ in Ramallah district, Maher Siweiti’s 150-square-metre livestock shed was bulldozed while in the Um Adalil area near al-Jiftlick, another Israeli military force was demolishing seven structures. The two homes and five livestock sheds belonged to Abdil Mahdi Assalamine and his sons. Family member, Fatima Assalamine, said that Israeli forces refused to allow the family to remove their possessions and these were destroyed with their homes. The family had lived there for nearly 15 years.
This is the second time the barracks have been torn down in the past three months. A water tank, the main source of drinking water for the family, was also damaged during the demolition. In Um Assafa village on the outskirts of Ramallah, two houses belonging to the brothers Ussama and Ghassan Hamad were torn down. The demolition took place during the funeral of one of the residents of the village. As the news spread, clashes broke out between villagers and Israeli troops. Many villagers were injured from chemical gas and rubber-coated metal bullets.
The loss of residency policy began in the days of the Labour government, following the Oslo-2 Accords, when natives of Jerusalem who had spent some years out of the country were stripped of their residency. Since the end of 1995, Jerusalemites who moved out of the city for lack of housing were defined as people ‘whose center of life moved beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem,’ so their ‘right’ to residency in the city lapsed.
Palestinians who spent time abroad for work or study were also stripped of their right to residency in the city, while those with a second citizenship were forced to choose between the foreign passport and the right to live in Jerusalem. No such rules apply to the Jews.
Muslimedia: April 1-15, 1999