Update from Jerusalem: Palestinians continue to resist concerted Israeli effort to erase them from the city

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The following was written by Samia Khoury. Khoury was born in Jaffa, Palestine on November 24, 1933. She has had a lifetime of of involvement in Palestinian civil society through Birzeit University, the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center and the YWCA of Palestine among other institutions. She sent out the following by email:

July 13, 2009

Dear Friends:

    I write to you with a heavy heart as two more houses were demolished today in Beit Hanina and Silwan. Eviction orders, confiscation of land and demolishing of homes have become a daily activity of the Israeli occupying forces in East Jerusalem, while the world is watching. Renewal of Permits for couples who are seeking family reunification are being delayed endlessly without any explanation. This is a process required when one of the spouses is from outside the Jerusalem area. And when a new baby is born in Jerusalem, parents need to prove that they are actually living in Jerusalem by presenting a whole set of documents including municipal taxes, electricity, telephone, and sewage bills, etc. etc. in order to be able to register the child. As if their Identity Cards were not proof enough. Restrictions are being imposed on organizations and schools as well, so as to tighten the pressure on them and make their presence in Jerusalem irrelevant, or force them out of the city. Even cultural activities and festivals have become a great challenge for organizations and their sponsors as they continue to face obstacles imposed by military orders.

    When Israel, which claims to be a leading country in the world of arts, would deprive a small community from the pleasure of enjoying music and literature festivals, then there is something very wrong in the psyche of those occupying forces. They probably would rather see us throw stones and bombs so that they will have a good reason to lock us up or expel us out of the country. But we shall not give them that pleasure.  We shall defend our freedom and rights by music, art, drama and literature, and any other non-violent resistance. In fact if any of you saw this month’s  publication “This Week in Palestine,” you would be astonished at the number of activities going on not only in Jerusalem, but in Ramallah, Birzeit, and other parts of the country. While we are being creative in cultural activities to help us overcome the pressures of the occupation, Israel continues to come up with the most innovative measures of oppression to subdue us and make life absolutely unbearable. If I were a cartoonist, I would sketch a demonic brain that creates this continuous onslaught.

    It is becoming very obvious that there is a concerted effort to implement the policy of limiting the number of Palestinians in Jerusalem to a minimum percentage of the population of Jerusalem, which rises all the time through the annexation of Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land. The Arabic name of the city as well as the names of other towns and streets are not being spared this onslaught by the enforcement of Hebrew names, so as to obliterate not only our existence but our history and heritage.

    We urge you dear friends to help us put an end to this onslaught that is affecting every aspect of our lives. We appreciate all the statements, solidarity groups, church initiatives, conferences, and all the advocacy.  But rhetoric is not enough any more at this stage. There should be a serious consideration for a change in policy so that Israel, the spoilt and pampered child, will not be allowed to continue to get away with all the violations that have devastated not only the land but the human dignity of the Palestinians. We have seen how affective the policy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) was in bringing an end to the Apartheid regime in South Africa. We are not being innovative in this policy, we are simply learning from history. So I hope the international community, and basically the US administration will deal with Israel by the same standards it deals with other countries which violate UN resolutions and international law.

    It will be very interesting to see if Mr. Obama can bring about that change he spoke about when he was elected, and actually be able to take action if Israel refuses to freeze the settlement building, which is illegal in the first place.  No peace or security, let alone reconciliation, can prevail without justice, and a serious resolve to end this brutal occupation.  

Samia Khoury

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