Israeli ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem is getting increased attention – will the US & EU step up to stop it?

on 25 Comments
Jerusalem image
Israeli home demolitions in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan have finally been getting increased attention in the US press. The map to the right (click to enlarge), from the Foundation for Middle East Peace, shows the strategic importance of the area. Silwan is located between the Old City of Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement Ma'ale Adumim. It is a strategically located Palestinian neighborhood that Israel has been settling as part of their plan to create a line of settlements across the West bank from Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley. This stretch of settlements, which is referred to as the E-1 plan, would isolate Jerusalem and bisect the West Bank. Many people believe this would be the final nail in the two-state solution's coffin.  
Part of the Israeli plan to settle Silwan has been to force the Palestinians living there out of the area. The primary way Israel accomplishes this is through home demolitions. The organization the Israeli Coalition Against House Demolitions has recorded over 23,500 such demolitions throughout the occupied Palestinian territories since 1967. Silwan is just the latest example. 

The Israeli government attempts to give home demolitions the veneer of legality by claiming they're simply carried out against buildings that have been built, or added to, illegally. What is conveniently ignored is Israel's discriminatory practice of not providing services and legal permission for Palestinians to build. This lack of permission often leads Palestinians to "break the law" to perform regular maintenance on their home. 

The map to the left (click to enlarge) from the UN shows a close up of the Silwan area. You can see the areas that have already been taken under Israeli control through settlements and archaeological projects (shaded in red), and the area slated for demolition (outlined in yellow). Nearly 90 houses and 1,500 people are facing demolition in what Palestinian organizations are calling an ethnic cleansing campaign to clear the way for Israeli settlements. 

The US and EU are starting to take notice. The Guardian is reporting that a "confidential EU report accuses the Israeli government of using settlement expansion, house demolitions, discriminatory housing policies and the West Bank barrier as a way of "actively pursuing the illegal annexation" of East Jerusalem." The report recognizes how this effort is part of a plan to finalize Israeli control over the occupied territories. The Guardian continues, "Since the Annapolis peace talks began in late 2007, nearly 5,500 new settlement housing units have been submitted for public review, with 3,000 so far approved, the report says. There are now about 470,000 settlers in the occupied territories, including 190,000 in East Jerusalem. . . The goal, it says, is to "create territorial contiguity" between East Jerusalem settlements and the Old City and to "sever" East Jerusalem and its settlement blocks from the West Bank."

The report also offers an overview of the Israeli policies that are used to colonize the occupied territories:

The EU report goes further, saying that the demolitions are "illegal under international law, serve no obvious purpose, have severe humanitarian effects, and fuel bitterness and extremism." The EU raised its concern in a formal diplomatic representation on December 1, it says.

It notes that although Palestinians in the east represent 34% of the city's residents, only 5%-10% of the municipal budget is spent in their areas, leaving them with poor services and infrastructure.

Israel issues fewer than 200 permits a year for Palestinian homes and leaves only 12% of East Jerusalem available for Palestinian residential use. As a result many homes are built without Israeli permits. About 400 houses have been demolished since 2004 and a further 1,000 demolition orders have yet to be carried out, it said.

The US has engaged Israel on this issue as well. Hillary Clinton raised it on her recent visit when she said that the demolitions violated international agreements and were "unhelpful" in regards to the peace process. Ha'aretz is now reporting that the US has presented four official complaints to Israel since the Obama administration took over:

A senior government official in Jerusalem told Haaretz that the complaints represent a gradual increase in American pressure vis-a-vis settlement activity. "This is going to be one of the main issues that the Obama administration will be dealing with in the coming weeks and months," the official said. "It is not going to be easy to argue with them."

The four separate complaints relate to the demolition of Palestinian-owned homes in East Jerusalem, reports of Israeli plans to construct additional housing in the E1 area, between Maaleh Adumim and Jerusalem, the relocation of the illegal outpost at Migron to a new, as-yet unbuilt neighborhood of the Adam settlement and to plans to build thousands of new residential units in the settlement of Efrat.

The LA Times says, "the dispute is an early test for the Obama administration as it tries to foster peace in the region." It's already a step in the right direction that the Obama administration has raised the issue with Israel after eight years of infrequent criticism from the Bush administration (Rice did mention it at least once). But the question remains – will the US and EU add some bite to their bark? The incoming Likud government has noticed the change in the way the US is talking, but isn't concerned there will be a change in policy. It's up to Obama to prove them wrong. 

25 Responses

  1. Citizen
    March 8, 2009, 4:11 pm

    Jerusalem home demolition fact sheet:

    BTW, the US taxpayer pays for the Jewish homes here.

  2. Citizen
    March 8, 2009, 4:14 pm

    "It was an eye-opener to realize that the principles of urban planning we are taught at the university are being used by the Israelis, but for exactly the opposite purpose from the one usually intended. The planning rules here are designed not to improve the Palestinians' lives but to make them more miserable."
    link to

  3. Citizen
    March 8, 2009, 4:19 pm

    Israel slaps Hillary in the face with this issue:

    link to

    Nice special ally. The storm is a-brewing.

  4. Citizen
    March 8, 2009, 4:26 pm

    Rabbi's letter excerpt to Israeli Minister, August 2003:

    As a long time Zionist, a rabbi and one who cares deeply about the State of Israel and its future, I believe that these home demolition violate the values of our Torah and of Zionism, will provoke hatred, increase the cycle of violence, and endanger the security of the State of Israel.

    know that these families may have built on to their house illegally and are technically in violation of the law, but as you know, it is almost impossible for a Palestinian families to get permission to add on to their homes. Moreover much of the land adjacent to Palestinian areas is designated as green zone so as to prevent expansion of Arab villages. Right alongside these houses are many new homes built for Jews. The policies that allow Jews to build and limit the building of Palestinians violates the State of Israel's commitment in the Declaration of Independence to create a a state "that is based freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex…"
    link to

  5. David Green
    March 8, 2009, 4:29 pm

    Pardon me for placing a response to the Chomsky thread in this thread. I don't know how many people actually get alerted, and that thread has died. According to Wikipedia, Chomsky's father, William, died in 1977. Prior to that, Noam was already embroiled in controversy and vitriol (from Zionists) for his criticism of Israel subsequent to the 1967 war. Chapter 5 of "Peace in the Middle East?" (essays from 1969-1973) describes that manner in which him and I.F. Stone were vilifed by the Old Left (Irving Howe, etc.) In the introduction, p. 10 of the original paper back, Chomsky explains that he wrote these essays "in the belief that Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs were pursuing self-destructive and possibly suicidal policies…" In another essay, p. 97, he writes that the situation of the Palestinians is at the heart of the problem, "that their rights and propsects have not been seriously discussed in the West and are cynically disregarded."

    This perhaps isn't the full-fledged Chomsky that emerged no later than The Fateful Triangle (1983). But he was certainly already a marked man by the liberal-left Zionists. I don't see much point in speculating on his familial politics. I don't see any reason to believe that Chomsky did not say what he thought at the time, in terms of his experience rather than that of his parents.

  6. Eva Smagacz
    March 8, 2009, 4:31 pm

    Khalid's House, East Jerusalem, 2005:

    Asiar's House, Sawahre, 2005

    Sur Bahir, East Jerusalem, 2007

    Waddi Quadum, East Jerusalem, 2007

  7. Citizen
    March 8, 2009, 4:44 pm

    Israel's Identity Crisis–lukewarm, but from the MSM!

    link to

  8. Citizen
    March 8, 2009, 4:51 pm

    Listen up, Obama, Hillary:
    “As long as Israel is a Zionist state, its leaders
    will allow neither one state nor two real states. There can be no
    hope of a solution until the question of how to defeat Zionism is
    addressed.” From a rare actually independent journalist living in Israel. link to

  9. Samuel
    March 8, 2009, 4:54 pm

    If this is not criminal, I don't know what is:

    Facing Israeli demolition, Palestinian razes his home

    JERUSALEM, March 6 (Reuters) – When Palestinian Sharif Attoun asked bulldozer driver Ziad Dabash to flatten his home in Arab East Jerusalem, his friend was heartbroken.

    But for Attoun, watching his 13-year-old house being demolished by a friend was a lesser evil: If Dabash wouldn't do it, Israeli authorities would have, a move that comes with some $20,000 in demolition fees and possible imprisonment.

    Attoun's ordeal is not uncommon among some 260,000 Palestinians living in Arab East Jerusalem who say Israeli municipal authorities in the city often deny them building permits.

    "I never thought of razing my own home and paying rent," said Attoun, a 36-year-old elevator technician, waving a copy of the Israeli demolition order.

    Israel captured and later annexed East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war in a move not recognised internationally.

    The Jewish state considers the whole city as its "eternal capital" and says it is implementing the law by demolishing houses built without permission.

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future independent state and has sharply criticised the demolitions and the expansion of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and across the occupied West Bank.

    Palestinians accuse Israel of mounting a concerted campaign to deny them statehood and to push them out of the Holy City.

    During a visit to Jerusalem and the West Bank this week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticised as "unhelpful" Israeli plans to demolish some 80 homes in East Jerusalem to make way for a municipal park.


    Palestinians in Jerusalem carry Israeli identity cards, giving them access to welfare and health services, and freedom of movement denied to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. But few East Jerusalemites have taken up full Israeli citizenship.

    "It's the most cruel thing I did in my lifetime, but it was the lesser of two evils," said Attoun, a father of six, standing in front of a pile of rubble and twisted steel rods that used to be his house.

    Attoun will pay bulldozer driver Dabash for his work but only a fraction of what Israel would charge him.

    It was the third time in 16 years that Dabash has knocked down a fellow Palestinian's home.

    For many Palestinians, bulldozers are a symbol of the Israeli occupation. They are used by the army to flatten homes in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Israel says it targets militants and lawbreakers.

    For many Israelis, bulldozers are increasingly associated with Palestinian attacks. On Wednesday, a Palestinian man used his bulldozer to crush a police car in Jerusalem, the third such incident in a year.

    Ziyad Hammouri, head of the Jerusalem Centre for Social and Economic Rights, said Israel has demolished some 30 homes in Arab East Jerusalem so far this year.

    He said Attoun's decision to flatten his own home was rare.

    Hatem Abdel Qader, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's representative in the city, said Attoun's actions were counterproductive because it allowed Israel to deflect responsibility for "crimes they are committing in Jerusalem."

    He said Fayyad should mount a campaign to help Palestinian homeowners in East Jerusalem to counter what he termed "Israelisation" of the area by demolishing buildings and seizing land.

    Sarit Michaeli, of Israeli Human Rights group B'Tselem, said the Jewish state's policies in the city since 1967 left Palestinians little choice but to build illegally.

    The issue of Jerusalem is sensitive for both sides, and Israeli prime minister-designate, rightist Benjamin Netanyahu, has all-but ruled out even discussing dividing the city, where some 500,000 Jews live.

    link to

  10. Citizen
    March 8, 2009, 4:56 pm

    Would any jew argue that a young German during the years before WW2 should defer to his or her parental sensitivities over standing with humanity? No. The White Rose was a reality. Where is the jewish version of the White Rose? It's Phil. Deal with it, hasbarabots. Time for a few more American jews to join
    heroine Marlene Dietrich, who did not allow the powers in her homeland to define what it meant to be a German.

  11. Citizen
    March 8, 2009, 5:03 pm
  12. Citizen
    March 8, 2009, 5:05 pm

    The jewish blood diamond connection:

    link to

  13. LD
    March 8, 2009, 5:06 pm

    You guys are so antisemetic! Holocaust! Nazis! Hitler! Bagels!

    Oh and this BBC article is more fuel to the fire:

    link to

  14. Jewish American
    March 8, 2009, 5:14 pm

    OK, let's get more patriotic:

    Here's what's wrong with USA dual citizenship:

    Israel revoked her Jerusalem residency because she obtained a US green card – giving her residence in the United States. link to

    The USA should revoke American citizenship for any
    who file intent to reside in Israel, or do so. What's good for Israel security, is good for USA security, yes?

  15. Moeshe Miller
    March 8, 2009, 5:21 pm

    I am an American and i live in Jerusalem and what is written above about revoking Jerusalem residency cards is true for israeli law forbids a resident to cary an american citizenship alongside its residency card and any proof of us-green card is treated the same way, but there is 2 exception which are if u carry an american passport by birth or if u carry a level 1 israeli residency card or full citizenship!!!

    We dual citizens love the USA law. If Israel had the same law, why, then it wouldn't be Israel. We benefit from the fact the average USA citizen has no clue about this double standard, they just pay for it. That's their job. The creed is in the deed.

  16. Hymie Anderson
    March 8, 2009, 5:24 pm

    The two exceptions basically mean, if you were born of Jewish parents, particularly your mother by blood.

  17. Citizen
    March 8, 2009, 5:45 pm

    How organized jewry has its cake and eats it too at– goyhim expense:

    link to

  18. Alice
    March 8, 2009, 6:09 pm

    Why is Avigdor Lieberman fundamentally any different than the Jewish skinhead kids who came over under the law of return, based on NAZI Nuremberg race law? BTW the NAZI race laws were themselves based on Jewish race laws. The truth there is why Streicher was tortured and hung. So much for free speech. Skinheads to Israel, paid for by goy USA taxpayers? He is not a Hitlerite, that much is true, but he has called for ethnic cleansing, openly espoused this same kind of racism, and has called for the execution of democratically elected Arab MKs. His popularity rests on racist jingoism and race baiting. This is what Obama and Hillary face. They have no clue.Or rather they do, the moneybags that turned Truman untrue. Nothing's changed.

  19. MM
    March 8, 2009, 6:24 pm

    Sometimes you gotta smash a nest to make an omelet. An ethnic "democracy" doesn't just maintain itself.

    But the Zionists don't demolish homes and ethnically cleanse because they want to–heavens no!–they do it because the Gentile world has forced them to become ethno-fascists.

    And the Law of Return isn't prejudiced, it's just that some people are a little more, you know, "level 1" material than are others:

    Palestinian Christians who make today not more than 9,000 will lose 15% of their population as a result of [Israeli Ministry of the Interior] policy. While Jews from all over the world and even converts to Judaism are allowed to immigrate to Israel under the Israeli “Law of Return”, the indigenous Jerusalemites are considered temporary residents. Originally, Seven years of being out of Jerusalem was the deadline for losing one's right to live in his own city. Now, only a proof of residency in another country is enough for Israel to consider Jerusalem as not "the center of life" for this person or family and thus deny them the right of living in their home town once they travel abroad.

    Zionist apologist #7 will be here shortly to tell us why Palestinians living in Jerusalem NATURALLY ought to lose their homes for traveling to another country. What level human rights do they think they're entitled to, as terrorists? Besides, this is considered completely ordinary policy in an ethno-fascist democracy.

  20. Suzanne
    March 8, 2009, 6:25 pm

    lol@ fake Jewish and fake Israeli posts. Things are getting VERY desperate in Jew Hatersville. :-)

  21. LD
    March 8, 2009, 7:07 pm

    lol@ sockpuppet accusing someone of being a sockpuppet

    Poor Jews! Everyone seems to be out to get them!

  22. Half-Irish
    March 8, 2009, 7:24 pm

    I see Suzanne is banking on her half Jewish blood to save her from the goys, who only exist to be a foil to the jews' vision of greater humanity.

  23. Chris Berel
    March 8, 2009, 8:51 pm

    24K homes in 42 years. Less than 600 homes a year. Ethnic cleansing? Hardly. Eminent domain is more like it.

  24. Rowan Berkeley
    March 8, 2009, 11:11 pm

    This post is extremely well assembled, congratulations Adam.

  25. Colin Murray
    March 9, 2009, 3:56 am

    24K homes in 42 years. Less than 600 homes a year. Ethnic cleansing? Hardly. Eminent domain is more like it.

    That's why it is called 'creeping' ethnic cleansing. Slow, steady, and below the radar. If it were genuine eminent domain there would be at least an occasional Jewish house being bulldozed.

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