Another Israeli-only highway set to cut through East Jerusalem neighborhood brings protest

Israel/Palestine
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Residents of Beit Safara march with torches to protest the highway that will divide their village in East Jerusalem Mar 7, 2013 (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Residents of occupied East Jerusalem’s Beit Safafa neighborhood are marching again tonight, protesting the confiscation of privately owned Palestinian land from a densely populated area for the construction of yet another settler highway carving up their land.

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(Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

The road will divide the heart of the neighborhood, separating residents from their mosque, bakery and primary school– and all to shorten the commute to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for Jewish settlers on the West Bank.

Mairav Zonszein  has a comprehensive report at +972, “A divided Palestinian neighborhood, torn in two by an Israeli highway“:

Beit Safafa, which has a population of just under 10,000, is now facing it’s third major bisection, this time by a highway being constructed by Israel that will literally cut through the neighborhood. Highway 4, or the Begin Highway, is a Jerusalem ring road intended to create one continuous stretch of highway from the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of the city to the Givat Ze’ev settlement bloc in the north.

It would ultimately link the West Bank’s two most controversial highways: the Tunnel Road connecting Gush Etzion to Jerusalem in the south and Road 443, a.k.a. the Apartheid Highway, which routes settler traffic north of the city to Tel Aviv while denying access to Palestinians. The width of the road planned to cut through the neighborhood ranges from 33 to 78 meters. Part of it will exist as a six-lane highway and other parts could have as many as 10-11 lanes.

According to Ir Amim, which has published an excellent fact sheet on the issue, the municipality has found a way to bypass the necessary procedures that require public inclusion, making it impossible for Beit Safafa residents to formally object to the plans. As Nir Hasson recently reported for Haaretz:

The road is based on a general plan dating from 23 years ago, that the courts decided was detailed enough to enable construction to start. Under Israeli law, you can get compensation only if you prove that a specifically approved plan caused you damage. In this case, the villagers would have to have appealed against the plan back in 1990.

The highway will completely alter the character of this community.

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Residents of Beit Safara march with torches to protest the highway that will divide their village in East Jerusalem Mar 7, 2013 (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Prayers and protests have been ongoing

06 8456392162 1a11bb493a c(Residents of Beit Safafa pray on their lands in protest of the construction of a highway being built through their village, February 8, 2013. (Photo by: Oren Ziv/ Actiuvestills.org)

The construction of a highway that threatens to cut apart Beit Safafa is just one part of an acceleration of demolition orders, home demolitions and land confiscations sweeping East Jerusalem and other areas of the West Bank (as I reported last month).

Friday’s protest boiled over. Zonszein:  “activists reported that police exerted excessive force, using stun grenades gas, tasers and pepper spray, violently arresting eight people and injuring 10″

For more information and videos see her report  at +972.

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