Click here to enlarge © Arwa Aburawa
Walking around the ancient streets and spice markets of Jerusalem, it is easy to forget that this city is under Israeli occupation. Daily life flows smoothly between shopping mothers, kids at schools and old men sitting outside shops drinking coffee. Nothing really seems out of place, until you look a little closer. Firstly, there are Israeli soldiers walking through the market and streets, on buses, queuing at the post office and eating falafel- they are everywhere. Another thing that makes you realize that something is very wrong is the Wall.
Building a ‘Greater Jewish Jerusalem’
Known as the Separation or Apartheid Wall, it is a menacing symbol of hatred and fear. How could anyone think it is okay to build an 8-meter high concrete Wall running over 723kms long around an entire community? A Wall that is trapping them into what is effectively an open-air prison? According to the International Court of Justice the Wall is illegal and in violation of the Right to self-determination, the Fourth Geneva Convention, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as well as various human rights and humanitarian laws.
Defenders of the Wall reply that Israeli is simply exercising its right to protect itself from Palestinian suicide bombers. Maybe. But why is Israel building the Wall deep within the West Bank annexing nearly 50% of Palestinian land in the region, pushing Palestinians out of Jerusalem as well as incorporating illegal Israeli settlements into a ‘Greater Jewish Jerusalem’?
Daoud Hamoudi of Stop the Wall, the anti-apartheid organization based in the West Bank, explains that as Jerusalem is the political, economic and spiritual center of the country, Israel realized that it would need to have control over it. “Because Jerusalem is such an important center, Israel began to isolate it from the beginning and annex it.”
“More recently in 2002,” he adds, “scientists reported to the Zionist movement that by 2025 the Palestinian population will become 60% in historical Palestine and the Jews will become a minority at 40%. So they took a decision that they needed to reduce the Palestinian population to 30%.”
Pushing Palestinians Out
Within Jerusalem specifically, the Palestinian population currently stands at around 33% and the Zionist movement decided that this would need to be reduced to 8% in the coming 25 years. The plan for a ‘Greater Jewish Jerusalem’ details the methods and policies that would bring such a reduction in the Palestinian population.
“The first policy they implemented is the Wall which annexes the settlement blocs into Jerusalem and isolates the Palestinian neighborhoods and you are taking about almost half of the population of Jerusalem, around 120,000” says Hamoudi. “They also manipulated natural growth of the cities so that Arab cities grow outside the center whilst Jewish neighborhoods grow towards Jerusalem.”
This means that Palestinian neighborhoods surrounding Jerusalem now have to cross the Wall to enter Jerusalem and so they begin to rely on major cities further out in the West Bank, totally severing their connection with Jerusalem. “The farmers would normally depend on Jerusalem to sell their produce but they now have to depend on places like Ramallah in the West Bank. They are isolating them into ghettos.”
Bringing Israeli Settlements In
The second implication of the Wall and securing a ‘Greater Jewish Jerusalem’ is that it is absorbs major illegal settlement blocs which sit around Jerusalem. This includes the largest Jewish Settlement, Ma’ale Adumim which has a population of around 35,000 and plans to grow to 50,000. In fact Hamoudi reported that the Zionist movement wants to bring another 1 million Jewish immigrants to live in these blocs, in an attempt to resolve the ‘demographic issue’ and secure Jewish dominance across Jerusalem.
Settler roads have also played a part in this demographic ‘re-balance.’ “Maybe in the States or Europe roads and highway networks are something normal but here it is not,” states Hamdoudi. “These roads are not only confiscating lands they are also isolating people from their lands. For example in Silwan [a Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem] they will destroy around 92 homes under the name of ‘development’ to build a park for settlers and a highway to make it easier for settlers from Bethlehem to reach the Wailing Wall.”
This re-drawing of Jerusalem is a political effort to dominate the Holy City with a Jewish majority at the expense of the Christian and Muslim Palestinians. “What was East Jerusalem will become 31% of the Greater Jewish Jerusalem” Hamoudi elaborates. “Also within this area, they have confiscated around 45-65% as Green land which cannot be built on and State lands for settlements. So that leaves them with only 10% of the Greater Jewish Jerusalem.” At only 10%, the Palestinians would become a very small minority at the mercy of the Israeli state which threatens the very future existence of this historic community in Jerusalem.