Palestinian Autonomy A Palestinian State in the Making
…the Israeli leader has ridden the storm with his coalition intact and his popularity, if anything, enhanced. Arafat, meanwhile, has seen his diplomatic coalition fracture, his domestic standing plummet and the political control he can exert over his forces and his people fray
Middle East International 13 June 1977
By the end of April Netanyahu, had outlived the accusations of corruption and was still entrenched in the seat of power in Israel. His reputation as media manipulator was further enhanced when he invited both channels of Israeli television to install their cameras in his office. The reporters were denied access and the Israeli nation was then treated to a Netanyahu version of events of alleged corruption without the distraction of questioning and sceptic journalists.
While he was sweating or brazening out events, America was working hard on his behalf and that of its strong pro-Zionist lobby. On 4 occasions she supported Israel against the rest of the world – twice in the Security Council and a further twice in the General Assembly. The resolutions were moderate by any yardstick – simply calling upon Israel to abandon settlement building, as international law demands. The lack of resolve on Clinton’s part to uphold even a modicum of international law on behalf of the Palestinian people was attributed by the Jewish magazine, Forward,to Clinton’s hope that the American Jewish community would pay off huge election campaign debts.
An informal meeting was held on 14th May between a PNA delegation and the US Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk – a well known Zionist. No progress was made with Israel still refusing to halt settlement construction on Abu Ghneim. So much so that by mid-May the Americans, instead of trying to address the real stumbling blocks to peace, decided to downgrade the Middle East peace talks in its list of priorities. At the same time American reports indicated that many Israeli settlement housing units in the occupied territories were vacant – giving rise to the question “Why more settlements?”The reports, compiled from satellite observations, indicated a vacancy rate of 26% in the West Bank, 56% in the Gaza Strip and 28% in the Golan Heights.
Arafat, meanwhile, had other statistics with which to contend. Polls indicated a drop in support of the peace process from 73% to 60% and a rise in support for armed resistance from 21% to 40%. This was spread over all sectors of Palestinian society, not just the Islamists.
Efforts continued in an attempt to give what was left of the peace process the kiss-of-life. This time it was Egypt’s turn when, in the last week of May and on behalf of the absent Palestinian negotiating team, she failed to bring about any change in Israel’s position. Settlement construction was not going to be halted, not even temporarily. In fact, the day after returning from Cairo, Netanyahu visited Ariel settlement to lay the cornerstone of the”Judea and Samaria College”.
On June 8th “talks about talks about talks” took place in Cairo between Palestinian and Israeli teams. However the only noteworthy event at this point was the election of Ehud Barak as leader of the Israeli Labour Party. Reported to be the most highly decorated member of the IDF, Barak follows in the mould of Yitzhak Rabin. He is a military man so he can be trusted. He was responsible for leading assassination squads into the Lebanon, disguised as Arabs, to kill Palestinian resistance leaders . The introduction of undercover death squads into occupied Palestinian territory is also attributable to Barak.
During July the circus, which Netanyahu’s government had come to resemble, continued to entertain the public at large. Of more interest to the Palestinians was the outcome of the 15th July UN Special General Assembly which met to consider Israel’s settlement policy. With Russia abstaining and Micronesia being the only country to support the US and Israel, 131 nations voted for – condemnation of Israel for refusing the UN’s special envoy access to prepare the report, a call for Israel to reverse its illegal actions against East Jerusalem residents, companies and individuals to stop supporting Israeli settlements, a ban on importing goods produced in settlements (including Jerusalem), convene a conference to examine how to enforce the Geneva Conventions.. The resolution demands that Israel provide detail of goods produced in settlements.
On 30th July two suicide bombers attacked Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market killing 13 Israelis. Despite many warnings during the weeks prior to the attack, from Israel’s intelligence agencies, that the actions and provocations of Netanyahu’s government were undermining Palestinian support for the Oslo Accords and hence giving support to those groups that tend to violence, the immediate Israeli reaction was to blame Arafat and his Palestinian Authority.
Initial comment linked the bombing to Israel’s decision to commence settlement building in the middle of the Palestinian neighbourhood of Ras al-Amud in East Jerusalem with the order for the attack originating from the Hamas leadership in Jordan. However Israel’s reaction was to impose a draconian siege on the 7 West Bank towns under Palestinian control. No one was allowed to travel between the towns. I50 Palestinians were arrested in Israeli controlled areas. Threats were made to send in death squads to the autonomous areas if Arafat did not take action deemed by Israel to be appropriate.
Over a million people were affected, putting, not for the first time, the Palestinian economy into free-fall.In gross violation of the Oslo Accords, transfer of Palestinian tax receipts, collected by Israel was halted. While Israel was berating the failure of Arafat and his security agencies for their alleged failure to protect Israel, she was effectively witholding the wages of those who were supposed to be doing her bidding.
By mid-August the siege had claimed 6 lives. Five died trying to reach hospitals in Jerusalem, Israel Cairo and Amman. The sixth was a child from the Hebron area. Eighty people requiring medical treatment had not been allowed out. A child vaccination campaign was suspended. Special food to treat a childrens’ disease was not delivered. Yet US Special Envoy to the Middle East, Dennis Ross, with Israel’s perceived security needs his only concern, was able to report on ‘progress’ with his mediation efforts.
Business as usual
The village of Surif, in the Hebron area, continued to be the focus of Israeli attention following an alleged suicide bomb attack on a Tel Aviv cafe. A fourth home was demolished on April 23rd. Under curfew since March 21st, the village of 13 000 people had its water network destroyed, roads closed of by Israeli bulldozer activity including the destruction of a newly surfaced street. Revenge was very much on the Israeli agenda.
At least 30 people were injured in clashes with Israeli troops. In one week five people died, including a young baby, when the curfew denied them access to urgent medical treatment. The siege was eventually lifted after 43 days.
21st Israel started to withdraw work permits recently issued to Gazan workers , citing “security reasons”.New Israeli procedures at Karameh (formerly Allenby) crossing from Palestine into Jordan considerably lengthened the time taken to cross the border. A 15km bus journey taking 5 hours, and 1 hour to go from an Israeli checkpoint to the reception lounge 200m away.
Gazan trucks containing citrus produce for Jordan were held up for ten days, with only ten trucks being eventually allowed into Israel at any one time. The pretext of Jewish holidays was used, despite prior agreement that border crossings would remain open at all times, including holidays.
Two Israeli women hikers were killed in the Wadi Qelt area. Palestinian assailants were presumed to be responsible.
28th A Palestinian youth was shot dead by Israeli troops in the village of Kharas near Hebron.
30th The Israeli closure imposed on the West bank and Gaza strip since March 21st was lifted. Israel promised that some 55 000 labourers would be allowed into the Israel from the occupied territories. A Palestinian youth was shot dead by a border guard patrol near the village of Hizma. It was alleged that the car in which he was a passenger failed to stop.
Israel was accused of masterminding an arson attack on the PNA Ministry of Interior office in A-Ram Birth certificates, passport applications and land title deeds were amongst the documents destroyed.
5th 28 year old Islam Ghayth from Hebron was shot dead by a member of one of Arafat’s many security agencies. Protests against the PNA followed with accusations of nepotism and a regime intent on suppressing and humiliating the people it is supposed to support and protect.
2nd Four youths were wounded by rubber bullets during clashes with Israeli troops guarding the settler enclave in Hebron.Three days later five Palestinian homes were demolished in the city.
22nd Gazan labourer, Fawzi Abu Bakra, was killed by an Israeli while at work within Israel. Settlers from Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip stepped up their harassment of the local people. Their waste water was poured on to the local beach. Israeli soldiers continued to threaten local school pupils. With the help of the settlers the children were shot at, attempts were made to run them down, searches were conducted lasting hours.
“This is the worst case of torture in the history of the prisoners’ movement”
Issa Qaraqe’ Head of the Palestine Prisoners’ Society
On May 16th, father of five, Khaled Abu Dayyeh was detained by Israeli security personnel while at prayer at al Aqsa Mosque for allegedly not carrying his ID card. He was taken to the Russian Compound interrogation centre. Three days later Khaled phoned from Sha’are Tzedek Hospital and informed his wife that he had sustained neck injuries as a result of severe beatings. The police refused any visits and on May 21st the police informed his wife that he was dead, having committed suicide. Israeli reports that Khaled had psychological problems were denied by those who knew him and, when he entered detention, he was in good health
According to an eyewitness report from a Reuters photographer present when the body was handed over to the family, the skull had been crushed, the rib cage appeared to have caved in, his hands and feet looked broken. The autopsy confirmed death as a result of “savage torture”.
29th Israel prevented the opening of a post office in Hebron, declaring the location as a“closed military area”
Hebron was a focus of settler violence when they stepped up their assaults on Palestinian families and property in the vicinity of the settler enclave in the heart of the city. Families were terrorised, cars and windows smashed. As usual no respect was given to the young or the old in the constant harrassment and attempts to try and force families close to the settlement to leave their homes.
12th Clashes with the army in the Gaza Strip left one Palestinian dead from tear gas inhalation and 2 injured from bullet wounds. At the same time 3 tanks and snipers were introduced into the Gush Qatif area.
14th Clashes continued in Hebron with the announcement that the US Congress had agreed to transfer its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Over 6 days 150 mostly teenage protestors were injured by rubber bullets. The random shooting at short distances resulted in a13 year old boy shot in the head and a 7 year old girl hospitalised following injury to her abdomen.
15th Settlers fenced of about 18 acres of Palestinian land in the middle of the Gaza Strip. One Palestinian was wounded by settler gun fire.A week later a 14 year old deaf mute Palestinian boy suffered serious injury after being shot by an Israeli soldier. It was alleged that he tried to climb a settlement fence.(He died at the beginning of July. The single gunshot wound to the head suggested sniper tactics.)
20th Tanks and armoured vehicles were deployed on hilltops overlooking the towns of Hebron and Nablus.
28th A woman settler (eventually judged to be “deranged”) pasted posters in Hebron depicting the Prophet Mohammed as a pig writing the Koran. It led to mass demonstrations with vows of vengeance.
A draft bill was passed in the Knesset which denies compensation to those Palestinians injured by Israeli forces during the Intifada.Some 5 000 claims are outstanding. Meanwhile the settler who beat 10 year old Hilmi Shusheh to death last October was released without trial.
6th Israeli soldiers forced their way into Ya’qubiya primary school in Hebron and destroyed copies of the Koran. It coincided with further protests in Hebron with stone throwing met by stun grenades, live and rubber bullets. It resulted in injury to scores of youths. Two Israeli soldiers were seriously injured by an explosive device near the Green Line and, in clear breach of the Oslo Accords, IDF undercover squads entered the autonomous zones and dragged off alleged stone-throwers.
14th Four Palestinian policemen were charged by the Israelis of intending to attack Israeli targets. This was denied by the PNA with observers concluding that it could be a case of Israeli disinformation – to distract attention from broader issues. On the same day Arafat acceded to Israeli pressure and moved in his police as a buffer between the settler enclave in Hebron and the city’s protesting youth. Apparently the Israelis agreed to unblock a main road, lift a 5 week siege on the city centre and release detained youths. It brought an end to 10 weeks of violence resulting in over 500 wounded and two dead. Many spoke of “betrayal” with regard to the PNA’s action. In total contravention of the Oslo Accords four members of the PLC were detained by Israel for a number of hours and released without being questioned.
25th 13 year old Nibras Ghazi died two weeks after receiving a gunshot wound to the head during the Hebron demonstrations. Israeli forces held up the funeral cortege of the young girl. A military order was issued by the Israeli Commander of the West Bank for the seizure of the land and family home of Abdel Majid Al-Khatib situated close to the settlement of Tel Rumaidah, in the heart of Hebron.
29th 18year old Palestinian youth,Meadi lawneh was shot dead by an Israeli patrol at the entrance to his village. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights described the killing as ‘a lawless, arbitrary execution committed against an innocent and helpless civilian’
30th An Israeli undercover unit entered the autonomous town of Tulkarem and kidnapped Islamic Jihad activist, Ghassan Mihdawi. Two Hamas suicide bombers attacked a Jerusalem market, killing themselves and 13 Israelis, wounding about 150.
August 3rd A 50 year old shepherd, Issa Makhamrah, was shot dead in cold blood by a settler passing in his car near the village of Yatta, Hebron
Palestinian National Authority
Some of the actions of the PNA continued to provoke domestic and international concern.
On April 21st 25 Palestinian teachers (and trade unionists who had formed an alternative union to the official
one) were arrested by Palestinian security forces following the time- honoured technique of the knock at the door in the middle of the night. The stated aim was to put an end to a strike by 15 000 government school teachers ( into its 4th month – with poor wages the main concern). The teachers were eventually released, the strike suspended but with over 80% of all the PNA employed teachers wanting to continue the strike.
Palestinian security forces arrested a member of Islamic Jihad on charges of working for the Israeli secret service, Shin Bet since 1988. In particular, Gazan Ibrahim Halabi, is suspected of being behind the alleged suicide bomb attempts close to Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip on 1st April where the only victims were Palestinians. Two weeks later a further 11 Palestinians were arrested by the PNA security forces on charges of working for Israeli intelligence since the Intifada.
May 5th saw the release from Palestinian custody of attorney Jamil Salameh. During his 10 days detention he was questioned on the possession of “politically sensitive” material related to national security. Salameh, currently employed by the PNA, had written an article critical of the PNA judicial system which he compared unfavourably with the Israeli system.
In a similar move, well known Palestinian journalist and TV producer Daoud Kuttab was detained in Ramallah prison, on the instructions of President Arafat, to “discuss”the live coverage of the Palestinian Legislative Council. The TV pilot broadcasts, made at the request of the PLC itself, and funded by a US aid agency was for a period of 8 weeks. For 3 weeks prior to his detention the broadcasts had been jammed.Similarly a Palestinian journalist was arrested by Palestinian police while guiding a CBS news team to Ramallah Prison. He was released hours later.
After a 5 day hunger strike Kuttab was released on May 27th. He confirmed that no arrest order had been made, no interrogation took place, no one told him why he was detained.
At the end of May an audit commission established by Yasser Arafat reported that the self governing authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip had “squandered” $326million in public funds for the year ending 1996. The report coincided with increasing complaints from the PLC concerning corruption by cabinet officials and government employees. Accusations were levelled of tax-payers’ money spent on cars and villas,diverting customs fees, contracts being directed to particular companies and others being allowed to evade tax.
Arafat’s eventual response was to order an investigation. Since the investigation team will be composed of members of the same establishment accused of the corruption its conclusions will be suspect. One high-ranking finance ministry official called the scandal “the norm rather than the exception” He accused Arafat of knowledge of the corruption.
“I can even say that the chairman himself turned a blind eye to at least some of the embezzled money”
(Middle East International 13 June 1997)
Under pressure to do something Arafat sacked his unpopular attorney-general,Khaled al-Kidra. It had become quite clear that he had been involved in the corruption, including the pocketing of a fee charged to prisoners for their release. On July 21st Arafat’s commission on corruption reported corruption at all levels within the PNA and a general lack of financial accountability.
On July3rd, 3 members of Arafat’s Presidential guard, Force 17, were given the death sentence following the severe beating and death of a Palestinian, following his arrest. Apparently a personal dispute precipitated the incident. Amnesty has expressed concern over a number of issues arising from the trial.
Some 18 Palestinian prisoners in Nafha prison were attacked by an Israeli special unit following a provocative inspection of the prison. Fifty masked Israeli soldiers, on May 14th, tied and beat the prisoners with truncheons before hosing them down with ice-cold water. During July prisoners were hospitalised after consuming spoiled food at the prison.
During the first week of July the Knesset confirmed that permits were issued each year to try out new drugs with Palestinian prisoners (including Israeli Arabs) as guinea pigs.
according to Islamic law it is not forbidden to sell land to “the people of the book” in normal circumstances. However, when and if such a sale harms the collective interest of Muslims, it becomes unlawful
The issue of Palestinian collaborators facilitating the transfer of land and property to Israeli buyers came to the fore during the month of May. It was verified that an Armenian cleric had sold a villa and its acre of land in A-Tur to settlers for $10million. While the cleric, Shahe Ajamian, had been ostracised over the past 15 years for corruption and gold smuggling, it seemed that the property and land was his for disposal. The acquisition of the property dove-tails with the
Israeli settlement plans for the area. This, together with the murder of an alleged collaborators and land brokers, Farid Bashiti and Hari Abu Sarah, followed an earlier edict from the PNA that Palestinians found guilty of selling or facilitating the sale of Palestinian land to Israelis would be condemned to death. This edict was based on Jordanian law since the PNA does not have a legal code.
The Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine followed this up by invoking a 70 year old fatwa issued against those who sell land to Jews and Israelis. Muslims who are found guilty of this treasonable act are to be expelled from the community. Upon death their bodies are not to be washed, prayed over or buried in a Muslim cemetry. The fatwa does not necessarily call for the killing of an alleged collaborator.
Conveniently ignoring the toll of Palestinian deaths at the hands of successive Israeli governments intent on stealing Palestinian land and property over the decades, the Israeli media and politicians were quick to condemn. Cries of anti-Semitism ignored the simple fact that land is the basis of the question and future of Palestine. It is the seed of past and future conflict. It is also so important to Israel and her ideology that land acquired by the Jewish people cannot, according to Israeli law, be sold or leased to non-Jews. It has to remain, in perpetuity, in Jewish hands.
The U.S. was quick to join the bandwagon of criticism of the deaths of the alleged land brokers.This provoked a quick reaction from Hanan Ashrawi, now the PNA Minister of Higher Education. She expressed her surprise that the US had turned a criminal issue under investigation into one of international focus. She asked where US concern had been while Israel was busy confiscating or demolishing Palestinian homes. Why did the US never comment on Israeli laws which justify Israel stealing Palestinian land ? She was particularly critical over the US attempt to portray the land deal issue as a problem involving business practices, not one bound up with political sovereignty.
With the death of a third land broker, Ali Jumhur, Israel issued a warrant for the arrest of the head of the PNA’s Intelligence Service in Ramallah but pointing the finger at the West Bank’s head of intelligence, Tawfic Tirawi. Some Palestinians, following confessions to an Israeli news- paper by a collaborator, pointed the finger at Israel – hoping that the blame will fall on the PNA.
It was reported that the PNA had started to investigate illegal land deals over the past two decades. Case brought to light included cases of Palestinian landowners being abducted, tortured and murdered, particularly during the mid 80s. Many were illiterate and used fingerprints as a seal of authenticity, so it was not not unknown for the victims to have ink on their fingers or, in some cases, fingers cut off. The land was later acquired with forged documents.
“Pay them no visits; speak not to them; do not give them your sons and daughters in marriage”
Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories
This new fatwa was issue in June against collaborators and land brokers who sell to the occupiers. It was emphasised that families should not be affected unless they support and stand by the brokers and collaborators.
However the issue of land sales produced a degree of openness in Israeli controlled media. Readers were informed of inducements to Palestinian collaborators – high fees in hard currency, relocated to new homes in Central and South America, well-lined bank accounts with new identities and documents provided by influential local Jews. They were reminded of the 1948 “Fallow Lands law” where land untilled for one year can be taken over by the agriculture minister. If military edicts denied owners access to their land, the “fallow” land was acquired, “legally” with ease.
Likewise refugees deemed”absentee” and those deemed “present absentees”had land confiscated by the state. The agrarian racism is all but complete when it is realised that the National Land Authority, which owns 92% of the land in Israel is prohibited from selling or leasing land to non-Jews. Israel’s Peace Now reported that some 7 500 acres of land in the West Bank is in various stages of confiscation by the Israeli Authorities
Settlers, settlements and land confiscation
Israeli design was evident in a variety of actions towards the end of April. 122 bedouin families were handed evacuation notices in the Jordan Valley and on the outskirts of eastern Jerusalem. The Sawahrah Arabs were ordered to leave the grazing lands, adjacent to the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, on the Jerusalem-Jericho road. Moves were also made to evict bedouin families to the southeast of Bethlehem. Itinerant shepherds in the Jordan Valley were told to clear the area, their encampments were destroyed and they were ordered to hand in their ID cards. The settlement of Efrat, in the Jerusalem area was given the green light for expansion – at the expense of the land of the villages of Al-Khadr and Artas.
During May, bedouin from the town of Faroush Beit Dajan in the Jordan valley succeeded in delaying the destruction of their homes by lying down in front of the bulldozers.In a rare decision an Israeli court ruled as illegal and fraudulent the sale of land in the emerging “Jewish quarter”of Silwan to the settler group, Ela’d. Whether the land eventually returns to its rightful owner, as the court,decreed, is another matter. The village of Silwan, reputed to be the site of the ancient city of David, was the focus of settler activity aided and abetted by the municipality of Jerusalem under right wing mayor Ehud Olmert. On May 27th Olmert ordered the demolition of the family home of the al-Bana family in Silwan – the day before an Israeli court was scheduled to issue a staying order, pending a review.
At the beginning of June violent protests erupted over the confiscation of 750 acres of land in the Thahriyat area, Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Settlers fenced off access to the farm land with barbed wire while the Israeli army assaulted protesters and journalists alike with truncheons and rifle butts. The clahes continued well into June with protestors being attacked with teargas, rubber bullets and live ammunition at the hands of settlers. The fear is that the process of joining up settlements, thereby constricting Palestinian areas, had started.
On July 24th Jerusalem’s mayor, Ehud Olmert announced the intention to build a Jewish ‘neighbourhood’ in the heart of the East Jerusalem area of Ras al-Amud. A permit was issued to Jewish millionaire, Irwin Moskovitch (who features prominently in land and property acquisition throughout Jerusalem) to construct 132 housing units for the right wing settlement body, Ateret Cohanim.
At the end of July Israel stepped up its campaign to ‘cleanse’ the plain of Beqea of some 50 farmers. Sheep pens, water tanks, animal feedstuffs had all been destroyed prior to the demolition of 17 makeshift homes (leaving 200 homeless) and the announcement that the land was a closed military area. The area in question is nearly 25 000 acres of very fertile land capable of producing crops all the year round which stretches down to the Jordan River.
The settlement of Yatir was inaugurated on 30th July. It was the first such event since Netanyahu came to power. It was also the first settlement to the south of Hebron for 12 years. The aim of this first of a series of settlements was openly stated to be the need to prevent the Palestinians from building along the road which is to serve as a safe corridor linking the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
At the end of April expansion of the Adam settlement, on the north east outskirts of Jerusalem, commenced. Part of the Eastern Gate project, this is just one of the settlements which will lock in the Arab suburbs of East Jerusalem. During May it was reported that Israel’s Minister of Religious Affairs intended to create a”mini Wailing Wall”in the Al Wad Quarter. The intended site is a 500 year old Mamluk building, sited in an area 100% owned by the Islamic Waqf, inhabited by some of the oldest Muslim families in the city.
This was followed by settler and military provocations in the area. Jewish extremist attempted to gain access to the Holy Compound in order to hold prayers. Israeli soldiers then forced their way into the minarets of the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound for the stated purpose of guarding the revellers during Israel’s “Independence Day” celebrations. The usual attempts were made to force shut the gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque. In general May and June saw increased settler activity aimed at breaching the Mosque and its compound, with children being attacked, cars damaged. It followed a call by 60 rabbis urging the settlers to invade Al-Aqsa.
The construction work on Jabel Abu Ghneim damaged the archaeological remains of a 5th century Byzantine Church.
In a new development it was reported that the Israeli Ministry of the Interior decided to grant Israeli citizenship to 2 000 Jerusalem Palestinians, with applications being awaited form those interested. The reaction was largely one of cynicism with the move being regarded as an effort to take the pressure off Israel for her withdrawal of ID cards. It was also regarded as a violation of Oslo II agreement whereby Jerusalem’s Palestinians have the right to run and vote for their representative on the PLC. Any change of citizenship would void this right. The move also revealed a split between Netanyahu and his Interior minister, Eli Sweesa. The former apparently had wanted confiscated ID cards returned to counter international pressure. The latter wanted the confiscation policy to continue – with some 60 000 Palestinians resident on the outskirts of the city under threat and a further 2 800 with US passports who could be forced to choose between their passport or Israeli ID cards together with their right to reside in the city.
The Israeli policy of confiscating Palestinian ID cards revealed the tensions it is creating in Palestinian society. On May 31st, a number of Palestinian employees at Israel’s interior ministry in East Jerusalem refused to go to their work for fear of their lives. A Palestinian daily had accused them of accepting payment from Israel in return for providing information on the residency staus of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. This accusation,in current circumstances, was tantamount to being accused of treason.
At the start of June it was announced that Israel’s Ministerial Committee on Jerusalem Affairs had decided to impose its own curriculum on East Jerusalem schools. Some 34 schools will be forced to drop their Jordanian curriculum and follow one in line with that followed by Arab schools within Israel. The move was regarded as an attempt to undermine the PNA influence in East Jerusalem’s education sector.
During June municipal inspectors raided numerous business premises confiscating goods as ‘payment in kind’ for alleged non-payment of taxes. It resulted in a one day commercial strike on the 29th.
During the first week of August the Jerusalem Municipality, under the guiding hand of its mayor Ehud Olmert, demolished 7 houses. The worst house demolition campaign since the occupation of the city in 1967 was one description given. The homes were destroyed in various parts throughout the city on the pretext that no building license had been given. Another 45 homes are in the pipeline according to Olmert.
The following week a further nine homes were demolished. Five in the village of Shuafat and four on the outskirts of Bethlehem. In Shuafat, the demolition took place before the time given for appealing expired. It was uncertain whether the Bethlehem residents had any warning.
Although the town is an autonomous zone, that part containing Rachel’s Tomb or Bilal Mosque is under total Israeli control. Situated at the entrance to Bethlehem, it is surrounded by an Israeli built wall which blocks half the street. Fears were expressed that Israel is now converting the mosque into a synagogue, removing stones to help the ‘blending’ process so that the alterations will not be obvious. This piece of forgery extended into Jerusalem. It was confirmed that stones from the mosque had been used to expand the Wailing or Western Wall.View all →