- Jerusalem is the epicenter of a decades long struggle.
For Jews, it's politically important as their capital, a national and religious
center, as well as symbolic of Judaism's revival and prominence. For Christians,
it's where Jesus lived and died, and for Muslims, it's their third holiest
site (the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque) after
Mecca's Sacred Mosque and the Mosque of the Prophet in Madina.
- In June 1967, Israel occupied the city. On July 30, 1980,
the Knesset introduced the Jerusalem Law, officially annexing it as Israel's
unified capital. However, on March 1, 1980, UN Security Council Resolution
465 declared that:
- "all measures taken by Israel to change the physical
character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of
the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including
Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel's
policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants
in those territories constitute a flagrant (Fourth Geneva) violation....and
also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just
and lasting peace in the Middle East."
- On July 4, 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICC)
ruled that "Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territory, including
East Jerusalem, are illegal and an obstacle to peace and to economic and
social development (and) have been established in breach of international
- However, nothing thereafter changed. Settlements expanded
exponentially, including on stolen East Jerusalem land. Israel plans to
Judaize it by replacing Arabs with Jews, law or no law, because unenforced
ones are meaningless.
- On November 7, Haaretz writer Nir Hasson headlined, "Full
Haaretz expose/How the state helped right-wing groups settle East Jerusalem,"
- Israel "used a controversial law to transfer East
Jerusalem assets to the rightist organizations Elad and Ateret Cohanim
without a tender, and at very low prices."
- To date, Elad settled 500 Jews in 15 Silwan sites. Ateret
Cohanim brought 60 Jewish families and hundreds of yeshiva students to
the Old City's Muslim Quarter, an area they're determined to control.
- In support, Israel transferred hundreds of assets to
them, as well as millions of shekels for security, including surveillance
cameras and fences that separate settlers from Palestinians. Authorities
also licensed Elad to manage the historic City of David tourist site.
- In 1992, the Knesset passed a law requiring all state
agencies to hold public tenders on which any citizen may bid, with certain
defined exemptions, including expanding agricultural areas and promoting
tourism. However, Elad and Ateret Cohahim were "exempted from tender"
for all 11 assets they got, authorities abusing the 1950 Absentee Property
Law to do it.
- It pertains to persons "who, at any time during
the period between (November 29, 1947) and (May 19, 1948) ceased to exist,"
and no longer owned Israeli property legally. However, at least for some
of the 11 seized assets, owners live in the West Bank, "which is not
under the jurisdiction of Israeli law."
- Attorney Shlomo Lecker, involved in one of the cases,
said: "These are not people who moved to an enemy country. Instead,
these are cases in which we've decided to annex property without annexing
the people who left it. Thus, two attorneys general recommended that this
law not be applied to East Jerusalem."
- Haaretz's full expose can be accessed through the following
- Ethnically Cleaning Silwan
- Silwan is an Arab village adjacent to Jerusalem's Old
City, extending along the Kidron Valley alongside the eastern slopes of
Jabal al-Mukaber, another Arab community. Home to about 45,000 people,
it's one of 28 Palestinian villages incorporated into East Jerusalem.
For years, settler encroachment fueled controversy and conflict. So does
the area's historical importance, archeology used for displacement to legitimize
- Excavations have already claimed large tracts of Silwan
land. The militant right-wing settler group Elad, funded largely by US
donors, controls them. Its web site tells its own version of history. It
also conducts tours to convince visitors of its Jewish origin.
- For their part, Palestinians are contesting, explaining
their important history. Different versions fuel conflict, Haaretz writers
Nir Hasson and Jonathan Lis, on October 12 headlining, "Life in Silwan:
Unbearable for Jews and Palestinians alike," saying:
- "The pattern of Jewish settlement (there) is unlike
anywhere else, with some 70 Jewish families (around 500 people) in 15 locations,
islands among tens of thousands of Palestinians. The resulting friction
requires the presence of dozens of security guards and surveillance cameras."
- Palestinians complain about their presence and heavy-handed
police tactics. The Association of Civil Rights in Israel said settlers
carry weapons, Jewish/Arab relations thus tense over shootings, deaths
and arrests. Moreover, Palestinian homes are being demolished for planned
parks, open spaces, restaurants, boutique hotels, and Jewish-only housing.
- Al-Bustan is a Silwan neighborhood, across from the Jerusalem's
Old City. Home to about 1,500 residents, they're threatened with displacement,
the Municipality of Jerusalem claiming no permits were issued to build
in areas designated for open space and a archeological park.
- On February 22, 2009, they were ordered out in 72 hours
to make way for expanding Israel's City of David archeological site, a
Jewish heritage project involving removing Palestinians whose history goes
back centuries. Residents contested their right to stay, the Al Bustan
Popular Committee (BPC) working with lawyers in Israeli courts. Nonetheless,
demolition orders are issued and in other city neighborhoods, part of Israel's
systematic Judaization process.
- In October, police posted notices on five Al-Bustan homes,
calling them illegal and subject to demolition. In addition, BPC's leader,
Fakhri Abu Diab, said "a large force of Israeli border guards ransacked
the area, using homes as vantage points to fire tear gas canisters, stun
grenades, and rubber bullets in all directions" after protests broke
- Many Silwan homes have been demolished, many more threatened.
Moreover, residents are regularly attacked, prompting protests and clashes.
B'Tselem explained that East Jerusalem Palestinians face discriminatory
housing and construction policies, forcing them to build without permits
(on their own land), thereby subjecting them to demolitions. Protests,
violence and arrests follow, children affected like adults.
- On October 25, Palestine Monitor writer Charlotte Silver
headlined, "Children The New Target In Silwan Ethnic Cleansing Campaign,"
- Daily, "Jerusalem police and security forces have
filled the streets of Silwan....patrolling (them) on foot and in cars.
This past week alone," 23 residents were arrested, including at least
six children, aged eight to 12. The charges are always the same - stone
throwing, whether or not true. Yet they're arrested, detained, beaten,
terrorized and tortured like adults. In some cases, serious injuries result,
- Defence for Children International/Palestine (DCI) Section
- In October, DCI issued a Detention Bulletin headlined,
"Mass arrests in Silwan, East Jerusalem," saying:
- Information on the arrest of 17 Silwan children was collected,
"although lawyers and fieldworkers for DCI-Palestine estimate that
the overall number of children arrested....in October is considerably higher."
- In recent weeks, confrontations between Palestinians
and settlers, their private security guards, and police escalated. Further
tensions erupted over plans to displace Al-Bustan residents for a recreation
park. Children are always affected. Hundreds are arrested annually, some
as young as or younger than 12. Nearly always it's for stone throwing,
yet they're detained in violation of Fourth Geneva's Article 76, requiring
minors be given special treatment, besides other provisions to safeguard
- In October, 256 children were arrested, aged 12 - 15.
Prosecutions and detentions usually follow. Bara' R., aged 13, is typical.
On October 13, he was arrested in Silwan for throwing stones.
- "At around 5:00PM, (he) was standing in front of
his sister's house with some friends when they were attacked by 10 men
in plain clothes, who were apparently Israeli security forces. (He) then
reports being dragged into a nearby mosque by the men. (They) started firing
weapons and tear gas at people outside the mosque. Baha's hand were tied
behind his back and his shirt was pulled up over his eyes to prevent him
- "A short time later, (he) was put in an Israeli
military vehicle and kicked and slapped." He was then transferred
to Al Mascobiyya interrogation center in Jerusalem for questioning. Baha
confessed "because I was so terrified because they beat me when they
arrested me and because I was alone in the interrogation room."
- He was luckier than others. At 11:00PM, he was released
and fined 5,000 shekels, about $1,400, a huge sum for poor Palestinians,
perhaps too much to pay, meaning their property or possessions may be taken
- DCI/Palestine covered several other arrests. In all cases,
children were accused of stone throwing. Their hands were painfully shackled
behind their backs. They were dragged, beaten, forced to confess and sign
documents in Hebrew, denied food, water and toilet privileges for long
periods, and overall terrorized during interrogations. Some were fined
and released, others detained.
- On October 15, police and Silwan residents clashed. About
15 Palestinians were injured, including one child. Most were struck by
rubber-coated bullets, able to cause injuries and at times kill.
- "According to local sources, the confrontations
took place after Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters at worshippers"
during prayer time. Residents threw rocks in response. "In a related
incident, Israeli border police officers physically assaulted and injured
a man at a flying checkpoint erected at one of Silwan's entrances."
He was taking his son to the hospital, suffering from pepper gas inhalation.
- On October 23, DCI/Palestine sent a 14 page report to
the EU Subcommittee on Human Rights on how Palestinian children are treated
in detention. It highlighted "the continued use of ill-treatment and
torture during the arrest and interrogation" process.
- Other information included:
- -- international law violations;
- -- evidence that over 42% of children are held with adults;
- -- over half receive inadequate food, water and shelter;
- -- most are denied family visits during the first three
months of detention;
- -- telephone privileges are prohibited; and
- -- most are subjected to torture and other forms of abuse.
- A Final Comment
- Israel's long range Jerusalem plan is total Judaization,
making the city its exclusive capital, denying the Palestinians rightful
claim to its eastern portion for its own. As a result, ethnic cleansing
systematically continues, villages like Silwan targeted by home demolitions,
dispossessions, and assaults against residents defending their land and
- In some ways they do it creatively. In 2008 for example,
when 88 houses were ordered demolished for a City of David archeological
park, residents erected a large tent for prayer, meetings, children's activities,
and community events. In October, Jimmy Carter met with village leaders
in it. Last year, the Wadi Hilwah Information Center was established to
counter settler propaganda with its own historical narrative.
- Determined, sustained, organized resistance is the best
antidote to repression and injustice, what Palestinians have heroically
done for decades, including the men, women, and children of Silwan.
- In her August 18, 2010 Palestine Monitor article, Elena
Hogan's title described it metaphorically headlining, "When David
Becomes Goliath." In fact, long struggles at times end that way. Why
not in Silwan, in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, occupation-free
self-determination an achievable goal.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge
discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour
on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and
Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.