PALESTINE: Israel steps up colonisation in East Jerusalem

September 7, 2005

Kim Bullimore

While the world has been distracted by the Gaza "disengagement", Israel has continued to approve plans for, and to build and expand, illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In July, Israeli planners approved the construction of a new settler-colony to be located in the Arab quarter of East Jerusalem's Old City. The illegal settlement will consist of a synagogue and 30 new apartments for Israeli Jews and will be located near Herod's Gate, only metres away from the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Although illegal Israeli settlers have taken control of individual properties in East Jerusalem and Israel has previously tried to gain control of property in the Old City, this is the first time it has openly initiated the construction of an Israeli settlement project in the Old City, outside the "Jewish quarter".

Since 1967, Israel has utilised an old Ottoman empire law to confiscate 43.4% of Palestinian-owned land in East Jerusalem. The law allows for land not cultivated for three years to be confiscated by the state and declared "state land".

However, since 1967, Palestinian movement and access to land in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, has been systematically restricted by the Israel military. It is now being further restricted by Israel's construction of the illegal apartheid wall, ensuring more Palestinian land will become "uncultivated", so-called "green zones".

The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH) has pointed out that these "green zones" are later redesignated "yellow areas for exclusive Jewish use" and all the illegal Israeli colonies in East Jerusalem — such as Neve Yacub, Pisgat Zeiv, Maal Adumim, Gilo, French Hill, Givaat Shabira and Har Homa — have been built on land previously classified by Israeli authorities as "green zones".

According to Angela Godfrey, an activist with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), the current plan to build the illegal settler-colony in the Old City "is intended unilaterally to create facts on the ground" — to change the demographic characteristics of East Jerusalem and to incorporate it within its borders.

For more information on the campaign to stop the construction of the illegal settlements in East Jerusalem, email ICAHD at <>.

From Green Left Weekly, September 7, 2005.
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