Israeli Policy in Jerusalem: A Chronology of Dispossession
The second Camp David summit in July 2000 brought to the forefront the question of East Jerusalem and the control over the city's Muslim holy sites. Israelis and Palestinians failed to reach an agreement on the future of the Holy City, as the Palestinians rejected the U.S.-backed Israeli request that they agree to Israeli sovereignty over the Dome of the Rock compound, the third-holiest site in Islam.
As a follow-up to the Camp David summit, and to bolster Israel's unreasonable and insensitive demand of sovereignty over the Dome of the Rock compound, the head of the right-wing Likud Party, Ariel Sharon, with the connivance of Prime Minister Ehud Barak, visited the compound under heavy Israeli security. The intention was to impose this Israeli dictate not only on the Palestinians, but also on the Muslim world at large. The Palestinians responded to this provocative visit with the Al-Aqsa Intifada, bringing the current peace process to an abrupt end.
Israel's insistence that the Dome of the Rock come under its control is based on the claim that the compound is built on the ancient site of the Second Temple, a claim that the archaeological digs Israelis have been carrying out over the last 30 years have failed to prove. It is worth noting that the Wailing Wall, or Western Wall as it is also called, has historically been considered part of the western wall of the Dome of the Rock, thus belonging to Muslims. Indeed, it is a well-documented fact that, following the 1929 bloody riots over an incident at the Western Wall, an international commission was appointed by the British Mandate, with the approval of the League of Nations, to inquire into the rights over the Western Wall. The commission found the Wall, as well as the pavement in front of it where Jews perform their devotions, to be Muslim Waqf property.1
Thus the present deadlock in the peace process stems from Israel's desire to hold on to the Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem, as well as to most of the city. Since the June 1967 war that brought the eastern part of Jerusalem, including the walled Old City, under its domination, Israel has embarked on a series of measures intended to maintain permanent Jewish control over the city and its Palestinian population, and has proceeded to change its demographic character.

Israeli Measures - A Summary

What follows is a summary of these Israeli measures and policies. They are a testimony to the failure of Camp David. They also attest to the fact that, since the first day it occupied the Arab part of the city, Israel never intended to relinquish it, or indeed to comply with UN resolutions and the requirements of a lasting peace with the Palestinians.

1. On June 22, 1967, Israel formally annexed occupied East Jerusalem by extending over the city the law, jurisdiction and administration of the State of Israel.
2. The elected Palestinian municipality of East Jerusalem, functioning since 1948, was disbanded and its mayor deported to Jordan.
3. Jewish bulldozers destroyed over 135 homes in the centuries-old Muslim Moghrabi (Moroccan) Quarter to make way for a plaza next to the Western Wall. Subsequently, over 5,000 Palestinians were evicted from the Muslim Quarter of the Old City for the expansion of the Jewish Quarter.
4. The municipal boundaries of East Jerusalem were unilaterally expanded to over ten times their pre-1967 area. Large tracts of the West Bank were annexed to East Jerusalem, extending from the town of Ramallah in the north to the towns of Bethlehem and Beit Sahur in the south.
Israel's objective here was twofold: The first was to maximize the open land area to be annexed from the West Bank, but simultaneously to minimize the number of Palestinians to be included within the boundaries. The lines were thus drawn in such a way as to exclude an important number of Palestinian communities living around the City of Jerusalem, but to include their land property. These villages and neighborhoods comprise Bethany and Abu Dis to the east; Beit Hanina and Beit Iksa to the west; and the neighborhoods of Hizma, A-Ram, Dahiet Al-Barid and Qalandia refugee camp to the northeast. Had these communities been included in the newly drawn boundaries of expanded East Jerusalem, no less than 80,000 Palestinians would have been added to the present population of Jerusalem.
The second objective was to facilitate the confiscation of private Palestinian property that would be carried out in accordance with Israeli laws and under the guise of "public purpose." For Israel, this is a more convenient pretext than "state land" or "security reasons," which have been the standard excuse for its land grab in the occupied Palestinian territories, but more likely to be challenged by Palestinians in the courts of law, while "public purpose" is less amenable to litigation.
5. Within these enlarged boundaries of East Jerusalem, Israel proceeded to confiscate thousands of dunums of private Palestinian property for the construction of Jewish residential colonies that Israelis euphemistically call neighborhoods. Between 1967 and the present, the Jewish state has dispossessed the Palestinians of over 27,000 dunums of the most expensive real estate in the heart and outskirts of East Jerusalem.
As stated above, Palestinian private property was seized invoking its use for "public purpose." The "public" refers only to the Jewish public and excludes the indigenous Christian and Muslim Palestinian citizens of Jerusalem. The "purpose" is the construction for Jews of private residential colonies or settlements to encircle the Palestinian neighborhoods in the city. Thus, under Israeli rule, the Palestinians of Jerusalem were not only dispossessed and supplanted by Jews, but were also impoverished, as the value of the confiscated property exceeds U.S. $2 billion.

A Chronology of Violations

The big bulk of Palestinian property in East Jerusalem was seized in the early 1970s and 1980s, but the land grab has continued through the 1990s and up to the present. A chronology of this violation of Palestinian property rights in occupied East Jerusalem and the confiscation of their lands is summarized below:

* January and April 1968: immediately after the June 1967 war, some 4,800 dunums in the heart of East Jerusalem were confiscated from the Palestinians for the construction of the first Jewish residential colonies in the Holy City. These include French Hill, Ramat Eshkol and their extensions, all located on the property of Palestinian owners from the Sheikh Jarrah quarter and Lifta. In addition, the Atarot industrial zone was established in Qalandia on the property of Palestinian owners from Qalandia and Rafat.
* August 1970: an additional 13,800 dunums of privately owned property were seized for the construction of four large residential settlements. These include Ramot to the west, on the property of Palestinian owners from the villages of Beit Iksa and Beit Hanina; Gilo to the south, on the property of owners from Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Safafa and Sharafat; East Talpiyot to the east, on the property of owners from Sur Baher; and Neve Ya'acov to the northeast, on the property of owners from Beit Hanina.
* March 1980: 4,500 additional dunums were seized for the construction of another large Jewish settlement to the northeast called Pisgat Ze'ev, on the property of owners from Beit Hanina and Hizma. Twenty years on, the construction of apartments in this settlement is still ongoing and more land in this area is being seized quietly, so much so that this fortress settlement is turning into one of the largest encircling the Palestinians from the east.
* April 1991: 1,850 dunums were seized in Jabal Abu Ghneim from their Palestinian owners from Beit Sahur and Bethlehem in the south of Jerusalem for the settlement of what Israelis call Har Homa. The building on this site began in May 1997, on the order of the previous right-wing Likud government, and, at the time, brought the peace process to a halt. The purpose of this settlement is to create a southern wall that will separate the Palestinians of the Bethlehem area from Jerusalem. According to the redrawn boundaries of the Municipality of Jerusalem, Israelis consider this new settlement as part of Jerusalem, while, in fact, Jabal Abu Ghneim is, and has been, part of the Bethlehem area for the past 2,000 years.
* April 1992: 2,400 dunums were seized from the Palestinian owners of Shu'fat for the residential Jewish settlement of Reches Shu'fat. This land had been declared a "green zone" by the (West) Jerusalem Municipality, barring its legitimate Palestinian owners from building on their land; while the former mayor of Jerusalem (Teddy Kollek) quietly authorized the construction of this Jewish settlement on the same land. In an article published in August 1993 in the Palestinian daily al-Quds, a former member of the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem disclosed that large tracts of East Jerusalem land are painted in green, with the sole purpose of preventing the Palestinians from building on their own land. These "green zones" are conveniently changed when Israelis decide to build on the same land.
With the completion of the settlement of Jabal Abu Ghneim/Har Homa in the Bethlehem area, the 200,000 Palestinian population of East Jerusalem will be encircled by Jewish settlements from the north, south, east and west.
It should be noted that despite the peace process, the Israeli authorities continue to create new facts on the ground in Jerusalem in violation of international law and UN resolutions. Since 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, the world community, represented by the UN Security Council, has taken a number of resolutions condemning Israel's expansionist activities in the city:
* Resolution 252 of May 1968 calls upon Israel to rescind all measures that change the status of Jerusalem;
* Resolution 279, September 15, 1969, calls upon Israel "to scrupulously observe the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention to which it is a signatory, and all international law governing military occupation";
* Resolution 446, March 22, 1979, affirms once more the applicability of the Geneva Convention "to the Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem; determines that the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements have no legal validity and to desist, in particular, from transferring parts of its own population into the occupied Arab territories";
* Resolution 468, August 20, 1980, censures in the strongest terms Israel's annexation of occupied Jerusalem and its refusal to comply with relevant Security Council resolutions.

Israeli Denial of International Law

The problem before and after the second Camp David summit is the fact that Israel has never been made to comply with the Security Council resolutions pertaining to Jerusalem or, for that matter, the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories. At the Camp David summit, Prime Minister Ehud Barak is reported to have offered to annex a mere 10 percent of the West Bank and to have considered giving the Palestinian Authority limited administrative rule over some of the Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem, but retaining Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish settlements and the Muslim holy sites in the city. For the U.S.A., and even for some on the Israeli left, this is regarded as a generous concession against the background of established Israeli "red lines."
To the Palestinians and the Arab world, this offer is considered an unacceptable dictate that condones and rewards Israel for all the destruction and havoc it has wreaked upon the Palestinian people over the past 33 years of occupation, in defiance of the international community and international law. Had Israel complied with Security Council resolutions and the terms of reference for the peace negotiations, based on the equation of total withdrawal in return for total peace, the final-status negotiations would have been successfully completed, and Israel and Palestine would have been living in peace and security since September 1999.

1. Report of the International Commission of Inquiry, December 1930, Section A.