Jerusalem Day: Where's the Unity?

Today Israel is celebrating the 45th anniversary of the "unification" of Jerusalem and I felt that the blatant lies that are the basis for today's celebrations must be countered. For Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, today is the anniversary of life under occupation. It's also a day when Palestinian families and shopkeepers worry about racist attacks against themselves and their property. Adam Keller of Gush Shalom writes “‘Jerusalem Day’ is not a holiday to Israel’s citizens or to residents of Jerusalem. It is a holiday only for the young settlers, who are given by the Jerusalem Police a free hand to hold a provocative ‘Flag Dance’ throughout East Jerusalem – even though in previous years this ‘dance’ developed into an ongoing chain of racist harassment and violence against Palestinian inhabitants.” 

Last year on this occasion, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu made a speech to the Israeli Knesset (parliament). According to a Haaretz news article: "The prime minister went on to praise Jerusalem's development, both in its culture and structure, and stressed that ongoing construction in the city's residential areas were not only for Jews, but also for Arabs, who he said 'deserve it.'"

Given this very misleading notion of a unified city and a government that helps Palestinians living in East Jerusalem (an area considered under Israeli military occupation by international law), I wanted to share a few facts.

  1. A new report released today by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel shows that 84% of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem are living under the poverty line
  2. 402 homes were demolished in East Jerusalem between 2004 and 2011 leaving 1589 homeless including 861 children (B'Tselem). Israeli authorities don't just demolish homes though. In February 2012, a cultural cafe and sports field that MECA supported was demolished without warning in the neighborhood of Silwan.
  3. The wall runs for 112 miles in Jerusalem cutting off families from schools, medical care, and places of worship. This despite the 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice that the wall is illegal and should be dismantled. 
  4. In a one year period (Nov 2009-Oct 2010), Israeli police opened 1267 files against Palestinian children in East Jerusalem for stone throwing. In interviews with some of these, 80% reported being subjected to physical violence during their arrest, transfer, or subsequent questioning.
  5. Between January 2010 and the end of May 2011, the UN recorded 24 cases in which Palestinian children were injured by settlers in East Jerusalem, and one fatality. According to the UN, these figures are ‘comprehensive but not exhaustive.’ This also doesn't include cases of harassment or intimidation which did not result in physical injury.