Israel deepens apartheid with proposed new measures

October 14, 2017
Jerusalem police.

A member of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) for the ruling Likud party, Anat Berko has presented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with plans to change the status of 300,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem.

If implemented, Jerusalem would be formally divided and a group, similar in number to that of Wollongong would suddenly find itself stripped of permanent residency within Israel’s formal borders, as well as associated rights. The 300,000 would instead be considered residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory of the West Bank.

Berko is hoping to use some underhanded cartography and extremely rubbery figures — changing is actually counted as a resident of Jerusalem — to magically increase the Jewish population in the city that Israelis and Palestinians both claim as their capital.

At the same time, Israel would free itself of any responsibilities towards the Palestinians in question.

On October 6, Mondoweiss said the Jewish majority of Jerusalem would leap from about 70% to about 95%. In the first phase, 300,000 people would be given “Area B” status, which places them under the civil authority of the Palestinian Authority, but still subjected to Israeli security control. In a second phase, they would shift to “Area A” status — under full Palestinian control.

No one is under any illusions such a move is motivated by a desire to strengthen Palestinian autonomy. Add this plan to the routine practise of revoking Palestinian residents’ status in Jerusalem on the flimsiest of pretexts, and the result is the ongoing process of demographic transformation of Jerusalem to officially purge it of Palestinians.

Using flimsy pretexts to get rid of entire families and the rigged building permits system to demolish Palestinian homes is less about responding to criminal or “terrorist” acts than it is about undermining Palestinian communities while strengthening the ever-growing Israeli settlements.

An example of the daily apartheid conditions imposed on Palestinians came with the recently concluded Sukkot holiday in Israel, which ran for a record 11 days instead of the normal seven. Towns across the occupied West Bank were under virtual lockdown as Jewish settlers were allowed to travel and conduct festivities without restriction. The closures and associated “security” operations were particularly severe in Hebron (or Al Khalil, to give it its Palestinian name).

Youth Against Settlements founder Issa Amro said on Twitter that the Ibrahimi mosque at the heart of Al Khalil was closed to worshippers and the call to prayer was not allowed to take place. Denying Muslim Palestinians access to the Ibrahimi mosque whenever there is a Jewish holiday has been standard practice since 1994, when an extremist Jewish settler carried out a massacre at the site.

The struggling commercial part of the city was shuttered and Palestinian residents were threatened with house arrest if they ventured out. To make sure Palestinian movement was kept to an absolute minimum, all checkpoints around the mosque and shopping district were closed.

In Area C of the occupied West Bank, which is under full Israeli military control, more than 5800 Palestinians have had their homes demolished since 2006, 972 Mag said.

The nomadic Bedouin communities also face a dire situation in the face of Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing. The Bedouin community at Khan Al-Amar in Jerusalem is facing an onslaught of demolitions by Israeli authorities seeking their forced, and illegal, relocation. Khan Al-Amar is slowly being strangled by the notorious E1 Jewish settlement, which is strategically important to Israel.

Bedouin communities elsewhere, such as Umm Al-Hiran in the Negev desert in the south of the Israeli state, are slated for complete destruction. Jewish-only settlements are planned in their place.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is reported as being in favour of the “Greater Jerusalem” bill proposed by his intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, the Times of Israel said on October 5. A “Greater Jerusalem” would give Israeli settlers in areas surrounding Jerusalem proper (such as the notorious Ma’ale Adumim settlement) a vote in municipal elections and clear the way for a huge expansion of the illegal settlements.

It is not clear what form the “separate municipal structure” for adjacent Palestinian villages would take, but it does not include voting rights. The Times of Israel backed away from calling “Greater Jerusalem” an annexation law, but other media reports are less coy. The Guardian headlined an October 4 piece on the proposed law “Netanyahu Backs Annexation of 19 West Bank Settlements”. The article even suggests that such an act could be construed as implying Israel perhaps not being entirely honest or interested in a genuine peace. The shock.

There is every chance the “Greater Jerusalem” bill will succeed in the upcoming Knesset session. Coming on the back of the most restrictive

 Sukkot-related movements in years, this bill — along with Berko’s proposals and moves to demolish Bedouin communities — is a clear example of Israel’s determination to annex even more Palestinian territory.

It makes a mockery of Israel’s continued pretence of being interested in peace and a “negotiated settlement” with Palestinians as it advances plans for ever more Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

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