- Founded in 1972, the Association for Civil Rights in
Israel (ACRI) is the country's leading human and civil rights organization
through litigation, legal advocacy, education, and public outreach. In
May 2009, it published "The State of Human Rights in East Jerusalem:
Fact and Figures," then a follow-up June report titled, "Life
in the Garbage: A Status Report of Sanitation Services in East Jerusalem."
Both reports are reviewed below.
- East Jerusalem by the Numbers
- -- based on 2007 data, the Palestinian population numbered
- -- 66.8% of families are impoverished, including 74%
of children; over 94,000 "live in a perpetual state of poverty;"
- -- since occupying the city, Israel expropriated over
one-third of its Arab-owned land;
- -- by yearend 2007, over 50,000 exclusively Jewish housing
units were built on expropriated land, none for Palestinians;
- -- during the first half of 2009, the Jerusalem Municipality
demolished 21 Palestinian homes, a process that continues relentlessly;
- -- in Arab areas, the city lacks 70 km of sewage lines;
- -- about 160,000 Palestinians lack water system connections;
- -- Palestinian areas lack 1,500 classrooms; the shortage
shows up in the 50% dropout rate; and
- -- about 9,000 Palestinians are deprived of school.
- Illegally annexed in June 1967, Jerusalem is Israel's
largest city. Today, the Separation Wall completely severs the Arab East
from the surrounding area, severely impacting its residents' economy, culture
political viability, and future.
- As an occupier, Israel is responsible for the population's
welfare and basic rights under international humanitarian law - an obligation
it's defiled for 43 years by failing to budget minimal resources needed
to fulfill it.
- Instead, it's practiced willful neglect by discriminating
in planning, construction, land expropriation, and investment in physical
infrastructure, government, and municipal services. As a result, East Jerusalem
residents suffer worsening conditions of distress under Israel's plan to
dispossess Palestinian residents to make the entire city exclusively Jewish.
- "Life in East Jerusalem can be described as a continuing
cycle of neglect, discrimination, poverty, and shortages," compounded
by military occupation, the encircling Separation Wall, and worsening daily
hardships. As a result, most Palestinians don't receive, and can't afford
basic necessities most people take for granted.
- Most harmed are the elderly, disabled, and children,
chronic poverty also taking its toll on stable family relationships, leading
to an increase in violence and crime, an unconducive environment for child
development, plus causing serious health and nutritional problems. It reflects
a deliberate Israeli effort to dispossess Arabs to create more space for
Jews - ethnic cleansing, Israeli-style.
- Civil Status Obstructions and Denials
- After the 1967 Six Day War, East Jerusalem residents
became permanent Israeli residents, affording them the right to live and
work in Israel without special permits. Under the National Insurance Law,
they're also entitled to health insurance and the right to vote in municipal,
not national elections.
- In addition, permanent residency, unlike citizenship,
passes on conditionally to children. For example, marrying someone without
permanent residency or citizenship status requires applying for family
unification to live together. In fact, however, Israel treats East Jerusalem
Arabs as foreigners whose rights can be summarily revoked, denied, or severely
- As a result, residents endure repeated investigations
and inquiries to keep proving their legitimacy - so Israel may deny it,
an arbitrary, common practice. In addition, time and expense are involved,
including for services applications that can take months or years to be
- Many Palestinians live outside Jerusalem's municipal
boundaries with no Israeli residency status. Severed from the West Bank
by the Separation Wall, they're trapped in East Jerusalem with no recognized
status. In October 2007, Israel denied them permanent residency, issuing
only temporary permits under military authority. Even getting them involves
cost and bureaucratic red tape, and those with them may live in their homes,
but not work or drive in Jerusalem. Nor can they get education, health,
or other services. As a result, they've been ghettoized under severe, unrelenting
duress as foreigners in their own homes on their own land.
- Obstructing New Palestinian Construction
- For decades in East Jerusalem, it's been virtually impossible
for Palestinians to get new construction permits, because Israel authorizes
all development for Jews, much of it on increasing amounts of expropriated
land. Palestinians even trying to get permits face exhausting bureaucratic
procedures and costly fees, beyond what most of them can afford.
- Israel's 2006 Outline Plan, "Jerusalem 2000,"
perpetuates extreme discrimination, favoring Jews alone. As a result, Palestinian
construction without permits risks eventual demotions and fines, much of
it indiscriminate to harass. Yet "unauthorized building is a testament
not to an unwillingness to comply with the law....but (to) prov(ing) that
the current planning system fails to address....the real needs of"
East Jerusalem's Palestinians.
- In 2008, the Jerusalem Municipality demolished 85 East
Jerusalem structures, a third more than in 2007. Then since January 2009,
1,052 additional demolition orders were issued in the first six months,
part of Israel's relentless drive to Judaize the entire city, aided by
Attorney General Menahem Mazus' permission to confiscate heavy machinery
used for "illegal construction."
- Blatant Neglect of Services and Vital Infrastructure
- Chronic sanitation facility shortages threaten health
and life, partly the result of garbage left on streets and in illegal dumps
throughout East Jerusalem. More on this below.
- In addition, vital infrastructure is neglected and inadequate.
As a result, roads are studded with potholes. The few existing sidewalks
are in serious disrepair, causing damage to people and property. Public
parks and recreational facilities are a rarity. Few municipal forms are
in Arabic. The postal service barely functions. A mere seven facilities
serve over 260,000 residents compared to 50 in West Jerusalem.
- Sewage and drainage infrastructure is dilapidated, the
result of years of neglect. Some neighborhoods have no connection to the
system, relying instead on cesspits. In other areas, facilities are antiquated
and poorly maintained.
- Lacking over 70 km of sewage lines, liquid waste at times
flows close to homes and children's play areas, severe weather exacerbating
the problem. Despite repeated complaints, this and other problems aren't
addressed, nor is there any intent to institute improvements. Even when
residents are willing to subsidize the cost, bureaucratic delays obstruct
commencement of needed work.
- The Separation Wall exacerbated the problem, destroying
several kilometers of sewer lines during construction. Only those affecting
the Shuafat-Ras Hamis refugee camp were repaired after repeated requests.
- Lack of Fresh Water
- About 160,000 East Jerusalem residents aren't connected
to the municipal water system, well over half the population. As a result,
their choices are to rig makeshift connections to water mains, to legally
connected homes, rely on stored containers, or buy privately-supplied water
at unaffordable prices.
- The situation creates risks. Water pressure is weak and
unreliable. Stored amounts can be contaminated, and lacking a clean, fresh
supply makes residents vulnerable to infectious diseases and prevents them
from maintaining proper hygiene levels.
- A Critical Classroom Shortage
- East Jerusalem's education system hasn't kept pace with
its population growth, four times its 1967 size. As a result, around 1,500
new classrooms are needed, and 400 more by yearend 2010. Because of a lack
of facilities, only half of all school-age children are enrolled in municipal
schools, mostly in overcrowded, unsafe facilities, some of them makeshift.
- The alternative is to rely on private Jerusalem or West
Bank schools, what most families can't afford or reach. Pre-schools are
also affected. As a result, 90% of 15,000 three and four year olds have
no facility whatever. East Jerusalem has only two municipal pre-schools,
with a combined 55-children enrollment. Another 1,900 attend a few dozen
private facilities, charging high tuitions, unaffordable for most parents.
- Deficient Welfare Services
- Despite East Jerusalem's high poverty level, affecting
over two-thirds of its residents, only 22% receive social services, because
of under-funding and discriminatory neglect, threatening the system with
- Police Brutality and Human Rights Violations
- Human rights organizations, like ACRI, get regular complaints
about police and Border Patrol brutality and harassment. Investigations
are seldom conducted, nearly always ending in whitewash, absolving the
- ACRI represented one resident attacked by police, despite
displaying no hostility or violence. They dragged, tear-gassed, and handcuffed
him, broke his arm, then kicked and beat him. During Cast Lead, over 200
protesters were beaten and arrested, many of them children, and some detainees
were assaulted in their homes in the middle of the night, then forcibly
- In addition, various Palestinian civil society and human
rights organizations were targeted and shut down, allegedly for unsubstantiated
security reasons, in fact, to prevent them from operating.
- Free Movement Restrictions and Checkpoint Harassment
- Over 100,000 East Jerusalem residents on the Separation
Wall's east side have been disconnected from the city. In February 2009,
A-Ram checkpoint was closed, leaving Atarot (Kalandia) only, linking northern
neighborhoods to the city's center. Atarot also provides residents on the
Wall's other side with municipal and urban postal, national insurance,
and employment services.
- Yet congestion makes crossing "unbearable,"
and despite promises to alleviate it, residents face long waits, from one
- two hours, to get through in either direction. Worse still, the public
transportation lane was cancelled, forcing passengers off buses to proceed
on foot. As a result, students heading for school are affected. So are
car owners allowed passage only through private lanes, but not their passengers
(including the sick, elderly and pregnant), forced to get out and walk.
- Checkpoint harassment exacerbates the problem, including
verbal and physical abuse by soldiers and private security employees. "In
East Jerusalem, far from the eye of the public and the media, the authorities
(behave) toward residents in a manner that would be inconceivable anywhere
in Israel" toward Jews.
- Appalling East Jerusalem Sanitation Conditions
- East Jerusalem neighborhoods are bleak, the result of
"garbage strewn all over the streets and trash bins (filled) to overflowing,
broken down, and leaking." Sanitation, in fact, is so poor, it got
special mention in the State Comptroller Report stating:
- "Cleanliness in East Jerusalem is much worse than
in other parts of the city. Municipal attention to (basic) cleanliness
and care of East Jerusalem is deficient and reflective of ongoing neglect....There
is a need to clarify the jurisdiction of the State of Israel and the City
of Jerusalem with regard to meeting the needs of this population, and enhancing
coordination between the government ministries and the municipality."
- Progress toward solving this problem is nil, ACRI saying:
- Appalling sanitation services reflect "a continuing
violation of the rights of East Jerusalem residents to health, life, and
a clean environment free of sanitation risks."
- ACRI's study showed:
- -- entire streets without trash collection or cleaning
- -- despite the urgent need, neighborhoods lacking sanitation
- -- sweeping vehicles don't operate in most neighborhoods,
and where they do only serve limited areas;
- -- trash bins throughout the city are dilapidated, burnt
out, or otherwise in disrepair;
- -- public waste receptacles are woefully inadequate in
streets, commercial, cultural and other areas;
- -- vermin and stray dogs pose an environment hazard,
especially to children, the elderly and sick;
- -- residents must cope on their own, at their own expense;
- -- neighborhoods most affected are on the Separation
Wall's other side where sanitation services are privatized, and absent
municipal oversight, don't function properly.
- Sanitation Conditions in Selected Neighborhoods
- About 15,000 residents live in Tsur Baher and Umm Tuba,
most of them getting no trash collections whatever. Only main street bins
are serviced, and they're dilapidated, in disrepair, and lack lids or wheels.
In addition, most streets lack sweeping services, so trash accumulates
in gutters, causing an environmental, sanitation, and health blight for
affected neighborhoods, as well as an esthetic eyesore.
- "Residents report that in the late afternoon and
evening, (stray) dogs regularly prowl the neighborhood, scattering the
garbage and terrorizing the residents."
- Bir Ayyub Silwan gets partial sanitation services since
most streets have no trash bins or waste collections. On the main Wadi
Road, only four lidless bins serve the entire area - a central artery linking
sub-neighborhoods to others in East Jerusalem, including Jabel Mukaber
and Tsur Bahar.
- Other streets have some bins, but most have none. Street
sweeping is also absent. Residents' only choice is to burn trash at roadsides.
On Marajeh Street, people complain about stray cats scattering garbage
by day and mice infesting the area at night - a problem especially bad
- Located on the Separation Wall's other side, Ras Khamis
services were privatized, resulting in appalling sanitation. Only ten trash
bins serve 10,000 residents, all of them rusty, burnt, or damaged. None
have lids, and street sweeping isn't done. Residents are thus left with
their own ingenuity and resources to cope.
- In addition, contract services perform poorly, and nothing
is done about vermin or prowling dogs despite regular appeals for help.
- Legal Status
- Section B of the Municipalities Ordinance's Amended Version
addresses sanitation needs, paragraph 242 covering the responsibility to
install trash bins and assure waste collections in an orderly manner, stating:
- "....the municipality shall undertake the following
- (1) take measures to eliminate or prevent any public
hazard and undertake inspections to identify existing hazards;
- (2) order the collection of rubbish and garbage from
every house and set the fees for said collection;
- (3) order the inspection, regulation, maintenance, cleaning,
and emptying of sewers, drains, lavatories, toilets, septic tanks, passageways,
gutters, watercourses, cesspits, and sanitary fixtures;" as well as
- (4) keep trash bins in good working order and provide
maintenance to prevent health hazards;
- (5) keep other sanitation facilities safe and working
- (6) ensure street sweeping and cleaning;
- (7) prevent waste from accumulating in public;
- (8) prevent streams, ditches, watercourses or wells from
- (9) prevent pipes intended for rainwater runoff from
being used for sewage removal or bathroom waste; and
- (10) assure inspections to maintain cleanliness.
- The Jerusalem Bylaws grant city trash collections solely
to municipal workers by mayoral issued permits.
- "The Jerusalem municipality is therefore obliged
by law to provide sanitation services that include" proper bins and
receptacles, collections, street sweeping and cleaning, and extermination
of vermin, rats, mice, and other health hazards. City authorities are clearly
derelict in their duties, according to law.
- East Jerusalem Palestinians are thus gravely impacted
under truly appalling conditions - the result of "ongoing neglect
and discrimination" by municipal authorities. All city services are
affected, the most visible being sanitation ones.
- Since its 1972 establishment, ACRI's mission has been
to "protect and promote human rights and civil liberties, wherever
they are violated by Israel or on its behalf," an enormous challenge
against authorities committed to violence, discrimination, harassment,
abuse, and the denial of basic freedoms to everyone not Jewish - a testimony
to a rogue state's viciousness.
- Its longstanding neglect and abuse are especially evident
in East Jerusalem and Gaza under siege. But the entire Palestinian population
is affected, including Israeli citizens, enduring relentless persecution,
discrimination and systemic violence to crack their spirit and dispossess
them - something Israel's failed at for over six decades, showing its mindlessness
to the Palestinian spirit to endure, survive, and eventually overcome what
can't be sustained nor will be, no matter how many more decades of struggle
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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