Ya’ think? – El Duende
Via IPS News
By Mel Frykberg
RAMALLAH, Mar 23, 2011 (IPS) – “If the regime that encourages incitement, racism and anti-democracy is not toppled soon, we will find that the future is already here,” says Israeli columnist Sefi Rachlevsky in the Israeli daily ‘Haaretz’.
He adds: “If there is one country in the world that should have heeded the commandment ‘Thou shall not fall into the chasm of anti-democratic racism,’ it is Israel. But the regime threatens to turn Israel into a rising anti-democratic power after all.”
Rachlevsky’s remarks come in the wake of an accusation by Richard Falk — an investigator with the U.N. Human Rights Council and an American professor emeritus of international law’ — that Israel is carrying out a form of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
Falk was addressing the council on Monday as it prepared to pass a resolution condemning settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“The continued pattern of settlement expansion in East Jerusalem combined with the forcible eviction of long-residing Palestinians is creating an intolerable situation in the part of the city previously controlled by Jordan,” Falk said.
“This situation can only be described in its cumulative impact as a form of ethnic cleansing,” he added.
Falk has requested that the council ask the International Court of Justice in The Hague to investigate Israel’s actions in the occupied Palestinian Territories.
Israel has refused to deal with him and refused him entry to the country on several occasions despite him being Jewish.
Falk’s remarks in fact confirmed what human rights organisations have long accused Israel of: ‘Judaising’ East Jerusalem by making it almost impossible for Palestinians to get building permits despite a chronic housing shortage.
Simultaneously, the Jerusalem municipality has actively encouraged the illegal settlement of Israeli settlers in the area while carrying out a wave of home demolitions which have left hundreds of Palestinians homeless.
Figures released by the United Nations show a two-fold increase in the number of Palestinian homes and agricultural buildings destroyed by Israel during this year, causing concern among officials.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) recorded 70 demolitions since the start of 2011, displacing 105 Palestinians, of whom 43 were under the age of 18. The demolitions were carried out across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and ordered by Israeli police, municipal officials and Israel’s Civil Administration.
While Jerusalem municipality has been adamant about destroying Palestinian homes and evicting Palestinians, illegal Jewish construction has largely been ignored.
In 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered a group of settlers to vacate the apartment building Beit Yonatan, named after convicted American spy Jonathan Pollard who was jailed in 1987 for passing classified information on the U.S. to Israel. The building is located in East Jerusalem. But Jerusalem municipal authorities have so far refused to enforce the court order.
Towards the end of last year 25 European consuls based in Jerusalem and Ramallah called for strong action against Israeli policy in the eastern sector of Jerusalem.
Israel has extended its discriminatory policy to the Palestinian West Bank where almost 60 percent of the occupied Palestinian territory falls under complete control of the Israeli civil administration.
“Parallels between Israeli and Palestinian construction in the West Bank can’t be drawn. All Israeli settlement in the West Bank is illegal under international law. Settlers are positively discriminated against when it comes to illegal construction. Palestinians should have the right to build and grow but Israel is using its illegal construction policy as a political tool to restrict the Palestinians,” Sarit Michaeli from Israeli rights group Btselem told IPS.
Palestinians also face discrimination in almost every other aspect of life in East Jerusalem with one of the most important sectors being education.
More than five thousand Palestinian children in East Jerusalem do not attend school at all. The drop-out rate for Palestinian school students in East Jerusalem is 50 percent, compared with under 12 percent for Jewish students.
“The rate of school drop-outs and the level of poverty in East Jerusalem, amongst Palestinians is frightening,” Orly Noy from Israeli rights group Ir Amim told IPS.
“The severe neglect of the education system in East Jerusalem is brewing a catastrophe,” added Tali Nir, a lawyer with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).
Israel’s Education Law, requires the state to provide education equally to all residents of the city.
However, the Israeli government spent an average of 2,300 New Israeli Shekels (NIS), or approximately U.S. 604 dollars, on each Jewish child in elementary school during the year 2008-2009. In contrast, no more than 577 shekels (U.S. 151 dollars) were spent on each Palestinian child.
Palestinians who have lived in East Jerusalem for generations can also easily lose their residency.
Israeli Interior Ministry regulations provide for the abrogation of the rights of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem who leave the city for a period of over seven years. Citizens of Israel can leave the country for any length of time, and their citizenship and all their rights are theirs in perpetuity.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) Jamal Zahalka argued with Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu over several new discriminatory laws.
The first law withholds funds from any Arab-Israeli town which honours the Palestinian Nakba, or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were either expelled by Israeli forces or fled during the war which saw the creation of Israel in 1948.
The second bill, alleged to target Israel’s minority Palestinian population, allows admission committees to review potential residents of Negev and Galilee communities that have fewer than 400 families “to maintain their cultural identity”.
Haneen Zoabi, an Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset told IPS, “There were approximately 10 laws passed during 2010 which discriminated against the Arab minority.”