Dubai: US President Donald Trump’s decision in December to recognise occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — a move that is still causing rage among Palestinians and Arabs — did not come out of nowhere.
It followed nearly five decades of Israeli measures to transform the identity of the city, to change the ‘facts on the ground’, and to erase any Palestinian plan to regain the eastern part of the city and proclaim it the capital of the yet-to-be-born Palestinian state, analysts said.
Israel, which occupied East Jerusalem during the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war, carried out its ‘first ethnic cleansing’ in the city.
Since 1967, Israel has been confiscating Palestinian land in and around occupied East Jerusalem to build illegal colonies.
It also seized personal identities of the Palestinian residents of the city, encouraged Jewish expansion in the city, surrounded the city with a wall, and rendered the Palestinian West Bank more like Swiss cheese, whose parts are difficult to connect, researchers and experts said.
“On June 10, 1967, Israel razed the entire Moroccan Quarter, and the operation ended on June 16,” said Khalil Toufakji, head of the maps department at the Orient House in occupied East Jerusalem.
The Moroccan Quarter, located in the old part of the occupied city, dates back to the 12th century.
It was erased to make way for the Al Buraq Wall, which Israel calls the ‘Wailing wall’ or the ‘Western wall’. It was one of the several quarters in the occupied city, alongside the Muslim, Christian and the Armenian quarters.
A year later, Israeli occupation authorities “confiscated 116 donums of land (116,000 square metres) in the old city of Jerusalem to establish in 1968 the Jewish quarter”, Toufakji told Gulf News.
Confiscating Palestinian land is one of the measures taken by Israel to Judaise occupied Jerusalem, a city holy for the three monotheistic religions — Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Several sites sacred to the three religions are located in the city.
Among the laws drawn with the same target in mind was a law for organising buildings.
According to that law, considerable green land was off-limits to Palestinians, and used as “strategic reserve”. However, very soon, the land began to be used for colony construction.
“From zero in 1967, Israel today has 87% (of the land) in East Jerusalem, which it occupied in 1967,”, said Toufakji, a member of the peace negotiations team between 1991 and 2001.
Before the 1967 war, Jews were concentrated in the western part of the city, which the British mandate incorporated under the municipality of Jerusalem and later expanded the area to absorb the increasing number of Jewish immigrants.
In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 that called for the partition of Palestine into two states: Arab and Jewish.
As for occupied Jerusalem, the resolution called it corpus separatum — Latin for ‘separate entity’ — to be governed by a special international regime.
The resolution laid the legal foundations for the establishment of Israel.
However, the Palestinians and the Arabs rejected it, and violence followed.
After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the city was divided into two parts, the western part under Israeli control and the Eastern part, under Jordanian rule.
In December 1949, the first Knesset voted to relocate the seat of government from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem.
Following the 1967 war, Israel confiscated all the property of Palestinian refugees who were displaced in other cities or countries, claiming they were “absentee properties”.
In 1980, the Knesset passed a law declaring the “complete and united” city of occupied Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. No country in the world has ever acknowledged the Israeli move.
Even the US recognition on December 6 does not specify the ‘united’ Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The move was a sharp shift away from nearly 70 years of US policy. By doing so, Trump has jeopardised the already stalled peace talks and eliminated any possibility of resumption of any discussions.
The move raised anger and frustration among Palestinians and Arabs. However, some Palestinians said the US had already moved its consulate from occupied East Jerusalem to the western part of the city.
The fate of the city is considered one of the thorniest issues in the peace talks launched in Madrid in 1991. The Palestinians insist occupied East Jerusalem is the capital of their future state.
Meanwhile, Israel has continued with its policies of Judaising the city for decades.
At the beginning of the year, the Knesset passed a law blocking the ceding of any part of occupied Jerusalem to a “foreign power” without the consent of at least 81 members of the 120-member Knesset.
Already, there are Israeli laws and measures in place that are changing the demographic status of the city.
Tax exemption for Jews
The regime built the wall that cuts the city from the rest of the West Bank, and it was built on confiscated Palestinian land. The wall, according to researchers, has left 150,000 Palestinians outside occupied East Jerusalem.
At the same time, “In order to encourage Jews to live in [occupied] Jerusalem, it (Israel) exempted them from paying taxes for five years,” according to an academic paper written by Ahmad Ghodieh in Al Najah University in the West Bank city of Nablus.
From 1992 to 1998, the Israeli government issued 9,000 construction licences to Jews, compared to 1,000 for Palestinians, the paper said. As the Israeli colonial activities continue in and around occupied Jerusalem, hundreds of Palestinians homes were demolished under the pretext of having been built illegally.
Apart from the obstacles and difficulties the Palestinians face in building in occupied East Jerusalem, the Israeli authorities impose restrictions on the arrival of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to Jerusalem, impacting the Palestinian economy.
Israel also cancelled identity cards of many Palestinian residents of occupied Jerusalem, outlawing their presence in their native city. It also passed a law called “the third generation”.
Under this law, and after the death of the third generation of a Palestinian family that is renting a house in occupied East Jerusalem, the family can lose the right to live in the place and the authorities can confiscate the house.
“Israel wants to make Palestinians a minority ... of 12 per cent, and a Jewish majority of 88 per cent,” said Toufakji.