FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Marching to Jerusalem

46 years ago this month, Israel seized East Jerusalem, the home of many significant holy sites for Muslims, Christians and Jews, as well as the proposed capital for any future Palestinian state. Since then, Israel has increasingly undertaken measures, particularly the placing of restrictions on Palestinian movement, the construction of a separation wall, the confiscation of Palestinian land, and the building of Jewish-only settlements, that are threatening to push out the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem entirely.

Indeed, according to a report issued last December by the International Crisis Group, Jerusalem “no longer is the city it was” even “in 2000, when Israelis and Palestinians first negotiated its fate.” And this was the case despite the fact that many countries and international institutions have frequently criticized the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, and the UN has deemed some of the above measures against international law.

In the absence of any international effort to actually stop Israel’s attempt to “change facts on the ground” in the holy city, and during a time when Palestinians are once again increasingly mobilizing through nonviolent political actions, such as the recent mass prisoner hunger strikes, weekly demonstrations against the separation wall, and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, many thousands of Palestinians are mobilizing today in a Global March to Jerusalem to draw attention to the continued violations against East Jerusalem and its people. Palestinians will assemble in Beit Hanoun, the nearest point possible to Jerusalem in Gaza, to hold a peaceful rally, and nonviolent demonstrations will also take place in Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank, as well as in Cairo, the Jordan Valley, and many major cities around the world.

Unfortunately many Americans will not learn about these peaceful protests today unless they turn violent, even though some solidarity demonstrations are also happening here in the US. And even if Americans do learn about the protests, it may take a documentary film (and possibly even an academy award nomination) to really communicate to them the context for why these protests are happening at all – about what the Israeli occupation really means for Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Back in 2011, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) at the UN issued a worrying report that Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem were becoming increasingly vulnerable.[1] And two years later, the situation has deteriorated even more.

Palestinians cannot move freely in Jerusalem, or between the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Numerous checkpoints either deny them entry or delay their passage from one place to another, limiting their access to health and educational services, separating their families, and threatening their livelihoods. Indeed Palestinians from the West Bank, both Christian and Muslim alike,  must have permits to even access places of worship. And Israel grants few permits, often completely denying them to men under the age of 40, as was the case during Ramadan last year, preventing many Palestinian males the freedom to pray at one of Islam’s holiest sites, the Al-Aqsa Mosque. And earlier this year the PLO accused Israel of only issuing 30 to 40 per cent of the permits requested by West Bank-based Palestinian Christians hoping to spend Easter in Jerusalem.

Israel’s continued construction of the separation wall further limits Palestinian mobility, as well as isolates the East Jerusalem economy. A recent report by the UN blamed Israeli “segregation policies” for causing deep economic isolation leaving more than 80 percent of Palestinian children living in poverty. According to the human rights organization B’Tselem, 8.5% of the West Bank area (including Jerusalem) was seized during the construction of the separation wall, which began in 2002. Although the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the UN, declared in 2004 that construction of the wall must cease, and demanded that those sections located in the occupied territories be dismantled, construction of the wall continues to this day.

The Israeli authorities also regularly demolish Palestinian homes and businesses on the pretext of rules and regulations, but in reality it is extremely difficult for Palestinians to get permission to build or register anything, even when existing homes have been lived in for many years. Despite the massive need to build new homes for Palestinians, only 13 percent of East Jerusalem is zoned for Palestinian construction, and much of this area is already built-up. Furthermore, the number of permits that Israel grants each year is well below Palestinians’ extraordinarily high demand for housing.

These kinds of bureaucratic measures often reify the physical structures of occupation that isolate East Jerusalem, making life for Palestinians in the city unbearable. For example, Palestinians in East Jerusalem are defined as permanent residents, but only if they can prove that their “center of life” lies within either West Jerusalem or Israel. And according to the OCHA report, the application process for those Palestinians who seek to unify their families is now almost impossible to successfully complete.

And then, of course, there are the illegal settlements. Over one third of the area within the extended boundary of East Jerusalem has been appropriated for settlements (remember this is in comparison to the 13 per cent approved for Palestinians). Approximately 180,000 Jewish settlers are living in settlements today, and Israel has plans to continue building settlements in East Jerusalem, despite international condemnation.

On top of all this oppression, extremist settlers regularly carry out “price tag” attacks against Palestinians, including their Christian and Islamic holy sites, supposedly in retaliation for Israeli government policies that are unpopular with the settler population. Only last Friday, settlers attacked the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem by spraying graffiti on its walls with anti-Christian slogans like “Christians are monkeys” and “Christians are slaves.” Israeli police forces also continue arresting politically active Palestinians in East Jerusalem, including women and children, many of who are being held in indefinite detention without charge. Dozens have been arrested in the last month alone.

These are just some of the characteristics of occupation that Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have to endure, and help to explain why so many Palestinians are symbolically marching to Jerusalem today. Similar to the recent wave of Arab Uprisings, this is as much about politics as about human dignity. But only in this case if change is ever to be realized, then the world has to do more than issue statements and reports about ending the occupation of a city that is so important to our shared history that it should be for us all.

Sarah Marusek earned her PhD in social science from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University and is currently a traveling faculty member with SIT Study Abroad. She is also a member of International Executive Committee of the Global March to Jerusalem

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 20, 2020
Katie Fite
How the Military is Raiding Public Lands and Civilian Spaces Across the Western Front
Nicholas Levis
Bloomberg is the Equal Evil
David Swanson
Shut Down Canada Until It Solves Its War, Oil, and Genocide Problem
Thomas Knapp
Freedom for $5.30…and This Time Mexico Really is Paying for It
Nick Pemberton
Mr. Sanders: Would You like Your Coffee Without Cream, or Without Milk?
Rachel M. Fazio
A Trillion Trees in Rep. Westerman’s Hands Means a Trillion Stumps
Jeff Mackler
Break With Two-Party Capitalist Duopoly!
Rebecca Gordon
Impunity Guaranteed for Torturers (and Presidents)
Jacob Hornberger
The CIA’s Role in Operation Condor
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Let Rome Burn
Jen Pelz
Reforming Expectations to Save Western Rivers
Maria Paez Victor
Canada Trapped By Its Own Folly
Binoy Kampmark
Pardoning Julian Assange: Trump, WikiLeaks and the DNC
Mel Gurtov
Poor Bill Barr
February 19, 2020
Ishmael Reed
Social Media: The New Grapevine Telegraph
David Schultz
Bernie Sanders and the Revenge of the Superdelegates
Kenneth Surin
Modi’s India
Chris Floyd
Which Side Are You On?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Hysteria Isn’t Killing Nuclear Power
Dave Lindorff
Truly Remaking Social Security is the Key to Having a Livable Society in the US
ANIS SHIVANI
Bloomberg on Bloomberg: The Selected Sayings of the Much-Awaited Establishment Messiah
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Occupations: The UN Business “Black List” and Israel’s Settlements
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s Extradition Case: Critical Moment for the Anti-war Movement
Howard Lisnoff
The Wealth That’s Killing Us Will Save Us: Politics Through the Looking-Glass
Yves Engler
Canada, Get Out of the Lima Group, Core Group and OAS
Nick Licata
The Rule of Law Under Trump
Sam Gordon
A Treatise on Trinities
Nino Pagliccia
Open Letter to Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Lima Group Meeting
John Kendall Hawkins
Just Two Kings Talking
February 18, 2020
John Pilger
Julian Assange Must be Freed, Not Betrayed
Peter Harrison
Religion is a Repeating Chapter in the History of Politics
Norman Solomon
The Escalating Class War Against Bernie Sanders
Conn Hallinan
Irish Elections and Unification
Dean Baker
We Shouldn’t Have to Beg Mark Zuckerberg to Respect Democracy
Sam Pizzigati
A Silicon Valley Life Lesson: Money That ‘Clumps’ Crushes
Arshad Khan
Minority Abuse: A Slice of Life in Modi’s India
Walden Bello
China’s Economy: Powerful But Vulernable
Nicolas J S Davies
Afghan Troops say Taliban are Brothers and War is “Not Really Our Fight.”
Nyla Ali Khan
The BJP is Not India, and Every Indian is Not a Modi-Devotee
Binoy Kampmark
Buying Elections: The Bloomberg Meme Campaign
Jonah Raskin
Purgatory Under the Patriarchy
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Herakles in the Age of Climate Chaos
Bob Topper
The Conscience of a Conservative
John W. Whitehead
We’re All in This Together
Gala Pin
Bodies in Freedom: a Barcelona Story
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail