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Peace Not Walls

New Report by OCHA on Conditions for Palestinians in Jerusalem

A UN report by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was released in December that focuses on key humanitarian issues in Jerusalem, including:

– Around 293,000 Palestinians currently reside in East Jerusalem, in addition to 200,000 Israeli settlers who reside in the settlements which have been constructed and expanded since 1967, contrary to international law (end of 2011, ICBS).

Approximately 4 million Palestinians from the remainder of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) are prohibited from entering East Jerusalem without Israeli-issued permits, which are difficult to obtain.

– Access to East Jerusalem is controlled by a combination of physical and administrative obstacles. Palestinians who are able to obtain permits can only use four of the 16 checkpoints along the Barrier.

Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem lack a secure legal residency status. Between 1967 and mid-2010, around 14,000 Palestinians had their Jerusalem residency revoked by the Israeli authorities.

Approximately 55,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are physically separated from the urban centre by the Barrier; they must cross crowded checkpoints to access health, education and other services to which they are entitled as residents of Jerusalem.

– 35% of land in East Jerusalem has been confiscated for Israeli settlement use; only 13% of East Jerusalem is zoned for Palestinian construction, much of which is already built-up.

At least 33% of all Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem lack Israeli-issued building permits, which are difficult to obtain, potentially placing at least 93,100 residents at risk of displacement, which has a psychological impact. Since 1967, the Israeli authorities have demolished some 2,000 houses in East Jerusalem.

– There is a chronic shortage of classrooms in East Jerusalem: 1,100 additional classrooms are required to accommodate Palestinian children and many existing facilities are substandard or unsuitable.

Press conference on new UN report: Palestinian presence threatened in East Jerusalem

Ray Dolphin of UN OCHA

Ray Dolphin, Barrier Specialist at the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for the occupied Palestinian territory  and author of a new report called East Jerusalem: Key Humanitarian Concerns, held a press conference Monday, May 9, highlighting findings of the report that there are many humanitarian factors pushing Palestinians out of Jerusalem.

Click here to see press conference.

Key factors threatening the Palestinian presence include:

  • the revocation of residency rights
  • home demolitions
  • the increase in settlement building
  • zoning and planning practices
  • the separation barrier
  • restrictions on access to education and health care

For each issue raised, there are recommendations, such as: stop settlement building in East Jerusalem; stop home demolitions; stop the revocation of residency rights; increase the number, quality of and access to classrooms.  The 116-page report details the background and current status of each issue as well as provides case studies and stories.

Among these stories:

For more information on the background and issues about Jerusalem, see the Peace not Walls Jerusalem page.

“The Bookseller of Jerusalem” Fighting for Right to Live in Home Town

Munther Fahmi at the American Colony Bookstore in Jerusalem

Israel is in the process of expelling Munther Fahmi, "the bookseller of Jerusalem." Photo from The National website.

Imagine that you were told you were not allowed to live in the city in which you were born or grew up.  That is what has happened to 14,000 East Jerusalem Palestinians since the Israeli occupation began in 1967, and the pace has been accelerating.  In 2008 alone, the last year records are complete, 4,500 residency permits were rescinded.

When Israel began the occupation in 1967, most Palestinians were not made citizens but residents, which came with restrictions.  If you leave Jerusalem for an extended period of time to live elsewhere (including other parts of the West Bank), your residency rights can be rescinded.

Munther Fahmi is known as “the bookseller of Jerusalem” because he runs the bookstore at the exclusive American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem which serves such guests as Tony Blair, Kofi Annan and Jimmy Carter, to name a few.  This bookstore is known as an “oasis of dialogue” in a country riddled by conflict, says writer Jonathan Cook, because there are many dialogue events featuring writers on all sides of the conflict.

But despite Munther’s many famous friends who have written letters and the good work his bookstore does, Israeli officials have told him that they will no longer automatically issue him the tourist visas he needs to live there year-round.  His residency rights were already rescinded because he has a US passport and lived away for a number of years before returning in the early 90s after the Oslo Agreement.  Now, he may well have to leave Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory altogether, and possibly be re-admitted for only 3 months a year, if that.

Read more about it in Jonathan Cook’s article, The Jerusalem Expulsions.

Read more about this and other issues related to Jerusalem in the March UN report East Jerusalem:  Key Humanitarian Concerns.