Authorities collude to "Judaise" East Jerusalem

September 6, 2010
Richard Kuper

acriUnsafe Space: The Israeli Authorities’ Failure to Protect Human Rights amid Settlements in East Jerusalem

A new report by The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI)

The report’s findings include:

• Security guards employed by the Housing Ministry, serving as a private police force for Jewish settlers and costing tax-payers 54 million shekel in 2010 alone, are increasingly using force and violence against Palestinians

• Palestinians who file complaints against Jewish settlers find themselves treated as suspects and arrested

• Cases where the perpetrators of violence were Jews are closed for lack of evidence or public interest, even when live ammunition was fired and Palestinians suffered severe injuries

• Teenagers and children as young as 12 are taken in the middle of the night to the Police Station and interrogated by officers who are not qualified to investigate minors, in violation of Police procedures

• Palestinians suffer from surveillance cameras directed into their private homes

• Restrictions on freedom of movement are selectively applied on Palestinian residents in their own neighborhoods

• Despite the dire shortage in Palestinian neighborhoods of schools, playgrounds, and medical centers, the Jerusalem Municipality and Nature and Parks Authority have given over the control of the few vacant lots remaining to political settler groups, thus barring Palestinians from accessing and using them

Attorney Nisreen Alyan: “Human rights in Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah and other neighborhoods of East Jerusalem are at an all-time low as a result of the authorities’ policy to side with settler groups. The level of tension and violence is on the rise, but the police are not providing Palestinians with the protection they need and deserve. Law enforcement is selective and the interests of settlers are routinely given priority. We call on the authorities to urgently act and bring about a much-needed policy change, which would safeguard the lives and rights of all Jerusalem residents”.

Introduction to the Report

Anyone who has toured East Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighborhoods over the past few years, especially those neighborhoods closest to the Old City, cannot help but notice the increasing number of guarded compounds, surrounded by fences with armed sentries protecting them. These compounds, situated in the midst of densely populated Palestinian neighborhoods, house today some 2,000 Jewish residents and dozens of public institutions that serve their needs. Jewish settlement in these neighborhoods did not develop in a spontaneous manner, but is rather the intended outcome of a number of well-organized political NGOs whose common stated goal is to “Judaize” East Jerusalem.

The new neighbors’ presence carries dire implications for the fabric of neighborhood life. There is much friction between the settlers and local residents, friction that has ended more than once in violent confrontations, arrests and legal proceedings, most of them initiated against Palestinians. Angry encounters have become almost routine, sometimes escalating into violent clashes with weapons and live ammunition.

From the testimonies of Palestinian residents, a troubling portrait emerges of life in the neighborhood. These residents complain of physical and verbal violence directed against them by settlers and their security guards; the intimidation of their children; various forms of harassment (including the videotaping of residents within their private homes); the barricading and closing- off of streets and public areas; and more.

Jewish settlers also complain of acts of violence perpetrated by Palestinians, such as stone throwing, vandalism, racial slurs, and more. But perhaps the most troubling phenomenon that arises from the state of mutual complaints is the biased behavior of the Israeli authorities, who practice selective law enforcement and fail to provide even the most minimal protection to Palestinian locals.

Considering the difficult circumstances in these neighborhoods, Israel’s authorities should be working hard to vigorously protect the human rights of all residents, including the right to bodily integrity, personal security, freedom of movement, and privacy. Unfortunately, the testimonies of the local residents point to the opposite. Law enforcement authorities have become complicit in violating Palestinian rights; in many cases, they do not enforce the law or do so only in a discriminatory manner. At times, their proxies – the security guards employed by the state to protect Jewish residents and the police forces stationed in these areas – employ physical and verbal violence and abuse Palestinian residents. When residents decide to file official complaints they are treated too often with disregard and indifferent. Sometimes the complaints are not even investigated into.

Another area of contention that has angered Palestinians concerns the preferential treatment afforded to the needs and interests of Jewish settlers in the neighborhood, at the expense of the basic needs of Palestinian residents. This discriminatory behavior on the part of the authorities is pervasive in planning and zoning, construction and development, and in the control of the area’s scarce resources.

Much has been written about the political effects caused by the entry of Jewish NGOs and settlers into Palestinian neighborhoods. According to international law, all Israeli settlement beyond the pre-1967 borders is illegal and forbidden, whereas according to Israeli law, the annexation of East Jerusalem has brought the area under full Israeli jurisdiction. This report does not seek to analyze the political and legal ramifications of the situation in East Jerusalem, but rather to point out the violations of human rights resulting from that situation.

The state of human rights in East Jerusalem is decidedly poor, especially as it relates to home demolitions, lack of infrastructure, the severe shortage of schools, and inferior health and social services. These have been well documented (see also ACRI’s report “Human Rights in East Jerusalem: Facts and Figures.1) The current report shifts the focus to examine the direct impact of Jewish settlement in Palestinian neighborhoods on the human rights of the original local residents. Detailed within are the failings of the Israeli authorities – including the police, the Housing Ministry, and the Jerusalem Municipality – that have contributed to the violation of these basic human rights, and to the disruption of their way of life. As such, it represents the first report of its kind.

This report seeks to bring to light the stories of the Palestinian residents, to reveal the experience of life in the neighborhood as others attempt to “Judaize” it. We have chosen to focus specifically on the complaints of the Palestinian residents because of the extent of the phenomenon and its                           1  “Human Rights in East Jerusalem: Facts and Figures”, by Att. Tali Nir, Anne Sucio, Ronit Sela, Att. Nisreen Alyan, Att. Oded Feller, and Mahmoud Qara’en (ACRI, May 2010)

impact on their day-to-day lives, and also to allow this community, whose voice is seldom heard in the Israeli public discourse, to sound its complaint. It should be emphasized that the evidence and testimonies presented in the report2 are merely examples of recurring phenomena, and that the report does not purport to offer a comprehensive survey of all East Jerusalem neighborhoods or of all the cases of human rights abuses. Rather it presents these examples to highlight the primary manifestations of human rights violations for which the Israeli authorities are accountable.

The report concludes with policy recommendations for the Israeli authorities. We believe that their implementation would enable residents to live their lives free of violence, abuse and harassment of various kinds.

To present a broader portrait of the subject, we have included a number of appendices at the end of the report, including a survey of the growth of Jewish settlement in Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighborhoods, a table and a map detailing the Jewish compounds in these neighborhoods, and three complete testimonies of Palestinian residents, which vividly portray the reality of life alongside the new neighbors.

It is our hope that greater public awareness of the situation will help place the matter firmly upon the public agenda and will persuade the Israeli authorities to take the appropriate measures to correct their current failings. Ultimately, it is our wish to minimize the violation of human rights of all residents of East Jerusalem.

Download full report

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