Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing


June 30, 2010

Even while the world reels over Israel’s aggression against
humanitarian aid convoys to Gaza, in Jerusalem the march to Judaise the
city continues, writes Khaled Amayreh

Forced expulsion, revocation of residency rights, excessive taxation,
mass house demolition, recurrent land seizure and bulldozing Arab
property. These are some of the main components of Israel’s latest
aggressive campaign to rid East Jerusalem of its Arab demographics and

Judaising, by any and all means, the occupied Arab city that Israel
seized from Jordan in 1967 is Israel’s way of undermining any semblance
of efforts towards peace, vanishing the two-state solution.

A few weeks ago, the Israeli Interior Ministry decided to banish four
Jerusalem residents who happened to be members of the Palestinian
Legislative Council: Mohamed Abu Tir, Ahmed Athwan, Mohamed Toutah and
former minister for Jerusalem affairs Khaled Abu Arafeh.

The four received letters stating that their residency rights were being
revoked. Several other local leaders also received warnings that "they
were being closely watched," and that they ought to be concerned about
"the consequences of their activities".

Since 2007, as many as 3,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem
have lost their residency rights by decision of the Israeli government.
Israeli officials claim the decision to expel the four Palestinian
lawmakers stems from their affiliation with Hamas and their refusal to
recognise Israel.

There is suspicion, however, that the Hamas card is being utilised as a
pretext whereas the real aim is to ethnically cleanse East Jerusalem,
starting with leaders who could organise opposition to Israel’s plan.

Mohamed Abu Tir is now fighting the Israeli order. Abu Tir, 59, spent as
many as 30 years of his life behind bars for refusing the Israeli
occupation and for his association with the Islamic resistance movement,

In 2006, shortly after he was set free from an Israeli jail, he ran for
the Palestinian legislative elections in East Jerusalem, winning more
votes than any other candidate. This didn’t bode well with the Israelis
who seized the first opportunity to get him back in jail. That
opportunity came when Hamas fighters in Gaza captured an Israeli soldier
in June 2006. Some 45 Islamist MPs were rounded up, including Abu Tir,
to be used as hostages or bargaining chips to force Hamas to release the
imprisoned soldier.

Most of the abducted MPs have been freed by now, but Hamas is refusing
to release the Israeli soldier, insisting that Israel release a number
of Palestinian political prisoners languishing in Israeli jails and
detention camps. Over 7,000 Palestinian detainees are incarcerated in
Israel, mostly on charges pertaining to opposing the Israeli occupation
of Palestinian land.

Abu Tir says the Israeli decision to banish him and his three other
colleagues is an expression of "nervousness, arrogance and moral
bankruptcy". "Israel has been making tremendous efforts to consolidate
its authority in Jerusalem since 1967. They have committed every
conceivable crime to obliterate the Arab-Islamic identity of Jerusalem."

"This is ethnic cleansing in broad daylight. The decision is a brash
message to the native inhabitants of Jerusalem that non-Jews have no
place in the city and that if they want to stay, they will have either
to settle for a slave-like status, or convert to Talmudic Judaism."

The red-bearded Abu Tir described world reactions, especially
Arab-Islamic reactions, as "disgraceful and cowardly". "The Zionist Jews
are expelling us from our city, our land, and the world is watching as
if this crime were taking place on another planet."

He added that as far as Israel was concerned, the decision to banish the
Islamist MPs from Jerusalem was only the beginning. "Israel is watching
Arab, Islamic and international reactions. If this decision passes
quietly, then more and more Jerusalemites will be expelled. Hence, the
gravity and dangerous nature of the decision."

Mohamed Toutah, another targeted MP, concurs. "I have no doubt that the
decision to expel us from our hometown is a test case which if
successful would be followed by more massive expulsions of Arabs from
the city."

Fatah official in East Jerusalem Ziad Al-Hammouri, director of the
Jerusalem Centre for Legal Rights, calls the Israeli decision a
"dangerous precedent". "We are being uprooted from our homes, from our
city, and any person trying to protest this oppression is hounded and
his residency rights revoked. We haven’t faced this level of repression
since 1967."

This week, the Israeli occupation authorities decided to demolish 22
Arab homes at the Silwan neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. Another 66
homes are reportedly slated for demolition. The planned demolitions are
intended to allow for the creation of a so-called "Talmudic park" in the
Arab locality.

Palestinian sources as well as human rights groups argue forcefully that
the real goal behind the demolitions is to consolidate Jewish settlers’
hold over the neighbourhood.

The US has asked Israel for "clarifications" about the new demolitions.
Palestinians have heard this before.


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