Saturday, August 18, 2007

A threat that would be a reality

Aug.18, 2007

A threat that will soon be a reality

AMONG the many silent and not-so-silent drives undertaken by Israel to consolidate its grip on Palestinian land is a campaign to evict as many Arab residents from East Jerusalem in order to dilute the non-Jewish presence in the Holy City and strengthen the number of Jews there. It is indeed an integral part of Israel's quest to "legitimise" its occupation of Arab East Jerusalem and its claim that the eastern half of the city is an "indivisible" part of the "eternal capital" of the Jewish state.
According to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, the number of Palestinian residents of Arab East Jerusalem who had their permanent residency status revoked in 2006 increased dramatically — more than six fold. While the number stood at 272 in 2003 and was 222 in 2005, last year 1,363 residents of Arab East Jerusalem had their residency status revoked, according to the group, which quoted the figures from statistics available with the Israeli occupation authorities.
Israel applies a special formula while dealing with the Palestinian residents of Arab East Jerusalem, which it occupied in the 1967 war. Immediately after seizing the eastern part of the city from Jordan, Israel said it was granting the area's Arab residents full Israeli citizenship provided that they swear allegiance to the Jewish state and renounce any other citizenships they may have. It effectively meant that the city's Arab residents had to give up their Palestinian identity once and for all. Not many accepted the offer, and then came an offer of permanent residency status, which meant the Arab residents cannot vote in parliamentary elections, but they can vote in municipal elections and can work in Israel.
In 1996, as it became clear that Israel would have to negotiate peace with the Palestinians sooner or later, the Jewish state launched a quite drive to revoke the residency status in Arab East Jerusalem, starting with Arab residents who had moved outside of the city's municipal boundaries. It also applied an across-the-board policy of refusing Arabs to build new homes or expand existing buidlings. Parallel to that, it also encouraged Jews to buy Palestinian-owned property in Arab East Jerusalem.
Israel has always taken note of the fact that the growth of Arab population is far higher than that of Jews and it became Israel's need to keep the number of Arabs living in East Jerusalem as low as possible and hence the mass revocation of permanent residency status in what B'Tselem describes as a a policy of "quiet transfer."
The complex laws and regulations applied by Israel make it impossible for anyone to fight the revocation of permanent residency status in Arab East Jerusalem. In fact, the same situation applies to any fight against any aspect of Israel's occupation of Palestinian land.
In the case of Arab East Jerusalem in particular, any delay in working out an Israeli-Palestinian agreement works in Israel's favour. The disarray in Palestinian ranks makes it all the more easy for Israel to carry out its plans.
No doubt, the Palestinian leaders, whether Fatah, Hamas, centre, left or right, are aware of the danger, but they are too busy fighting among themselves that they could not focus their efforts to deal with the real enemy, Israel. And the losers in the bid to regain Arab East Jersualem, which houses the third holiest shrine in Islam, would not be the Palestinians alone but the entire Muslim World.