By Trisha Roy
The tiff between Israel-Palestine has worsened over the decades, leaving the international community baffled about the possible solution. Since the occupation by Israel in 1967, the fate of the Palestinians has ceased to prosper and has contributed to a large percentage of migration, internal displacement, and ethnic conflict. Last year in December, Israel got a boost to go ahead with the extensive settlement plan in East Jerusalem after Trump came to power. The settlement plan for 600 plus houses has been another add-on to the conflict.
A dismal situation for Palestine
On 1 February 2018, a leaked report was acquired by The Guardian, that cited projects in parts of East Jerusalem that are being used as political tools to modify the historical narrative and to support, legitimise and expand settlements. The European Union diplomats in the city have warned about Israel’s attempts to legitimise illegal settlements in Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem by developing archaeological and tourism sites. As per the report, the heart of majority-Arab districts is having settler-run excavation sites, a proposed cable-car project with stops on confiscated land and the designation of built-up urban areas as national parks.
The document is part of an annual report published by the European Union Heads of Mission in Jerusalem. They have presented a bleak picture of the overall situation in the city and the steadily diminishing prospects of peace. “East Jerusalem is the only place where Israeli national parks are declared on populated neighbourhoods”, the report stated. Such acts further aggravate the tiff between the two communities fighting for the so-called acclaimed portions of land.
Lack of a tangible Palestinian claim
Palestinians comprise about 37% of the city’s residents, thus, Israel’s expansionist policy is leading to the marginalisation of the Palestinian community, and remain to be unabated, with more than 130 demolitions of buildings and the displacement of 228 people from the city. The number is not very large in the international community, but one cannot ignore the plight of the people who are losing what they have called ‘home’ for decades.
The city has largely ceased to be the Palestinian economic, urban and commercial center it used to be. Archaeology and tourism development by government institutions as well as private settler organisations established what they call to be a “narrative based on historical continuity of the Jewish presence in the area at the expense of other religions and cultures.” At the focal point is the City of David, a government-funded archaeological park in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan which provides tours in the ruins of ancient Jerusalem. Attempts are made by a settler organisation operating the site, to detach the site from its Palestinian surroundings and to promote an exclusive Jewish narrative. The 450 settlers in Silwan live under heavy protection alongside almost 10,000 Palestinians. With continued evictions of the Palestinian families and the increased Israeli security have created a significant tension between the two in the area.
Commercialising Jerusalem without Palestinians
More recently, a cable-car project, approved by the Israeli cabinet in May, plans to connect West Jerusalem with the Old City. It is expected to be operational by 2020 with an aim to transport more than 3,000 people per hour. The report has warned about the consolidation of ‘touristic settlements’ due to this ‘highly controversial’ plan. The second phase of this project, which has not yet been approved, aims to connect to East Jerusalem. “Critics have described the project as turning the World Heritage site of Jerusalem into a commercial theme park while local Palestinian residents are absent from the narrative being promoted to the visitors,” the report said. In addition, the diplomats have warned that the cable car could lead to a deterioration of the security situation, as it would be located about 130 meters from the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif complex, revered as a holy site by both Muslims and Jews.
With the inauguration of Donald Trump as the President of the United States of America (USA), Israel now has the extra push to carry out its suppressive acts on Palestinians. Trump’s policies towards Israel have been freer than the restrictive policies during the Obama regime. The USA had always been against Israel’s plans as they saw them as obstacles to peace and the two-state solution. Israeli hardliners have been emboldened by Trump’s election to further their expansionist policy, thus, aggravating the status of the Palestinian settlers.
Featured Image Source: Flickr