There is one city in the world the indigenous people, who make up a third of the population, are officially classified by the authorities as having permanent residency, a legal status normally granted to migrants.
As non-citizens, Palestinians legal status in East Jerusalem is legally inferior to that of Jewish residents.
East Jerusalem, which was occupied by the Israeli army in the 1967 war and still contains refugee camps of survivors of the 1948 ethnic cleansing of large parts of Palestine, known as Al Nakba, bears the marks of an apartheid regime.
The regime is maintained by force and is characterised by the open hostility of authorities to the indigenous population — as shown by ongoing discrimination and under-development.
East Jerusalem is a city under occupation. Yet the word occupation fails to convey even a hint of the ongoing nightmare for people who are living in their own land under a regime that legally defines them as a foreigner and actively treats them as an unwanted nuisance.
The statistics about East Jerusalem tell the story of this ongoing mass abuse. A report by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, released last year, says 79.5% of East Jerusalem residents live under the poverty line.
It also found East Jerusalem Palestinians are subject to frequent house demolitions, even though their houses cover only 14% of East Jerusalem.
Then there’s the apartheid wall. The 142 kilometre concrete wall and numerous checkpoints make life for East Jerusalem Palestinians almost unbearable, severely restricting their freedom of movement.
Because they are classed as residents rather than citizens East Jerusalem Palestinians do not even have the right to vote in the elections of the ruling regime. However, compared to the rest of the Palestinian West Bank residents, East Jerusalem Palestinians are relatively privileged — the other Palestinian residents of the West Bank (as well as Gaza) do not even have a status of “residents” on their own lands.
The Australian government has until recently described East Jerusalem as “occupied” but will now drop the term and use the word “disputed” instead.
Attorney-General George Brandis, who earlier this year declared that “people have the right to be bigots”, now wants to help paint the brutal Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem in rosy colours from the other side of the world.
Australia, like Israel, is a settler state, established through dispossession and murder of its native peoples. In Australia, discrimination and oppression of Aboriginal culture is still very much alive. As in Palesine/Israel, in Australia Aboriginal people are still often treated as strangers on their own land.
However, in Australia, formal legal equality was reached after long, sustained political campaigns by the civil rights and land rights movements. In Palestine/Israel, most of the native Palestinians — who make up about half of the population in the entire area under Israeli control — do not even have formal equality, such as equal legal status and a right to vote in the elections.
Trying to ignore the existence of the occupation of East Jerusalem or the rest of Palestine will not end it. However, the lessons of South Africa show us how a global movement can change the political reality and even bring down a brutal apartheid regime.
"The Socialist Alliance adopted the following motion at its 10th national conference. “The Socialist Alliance will continue to support the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination and their right to a homeland. The Socialist Alliances recognises that there can be no peace in the Middle East unless the question of Palestinian sovereignty is resolved.
“The Socialist Alliance rejects the Abbott Australian Government’s position that East Jerusalem is not occupied. All Jewish settlements on the West Bank are illegal under international law and should be removed and the land returned to the original owners.
“The Socialist Alliance rejects the ongoing blockade of the Gaza strip as a gross collective punishment of Palestinian people.”
If you want to join the movement to bring true justice and equality to Palestinians, you can do so by joining the ever-growing global movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions of Israeli institutions and companies that support and maintain the apartheid regime.
A protest will be held to mark the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Australia in July.
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