US President Donald Trump ‘s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city is yet another way to attempt to legitimise Israel’s ongoing human rights abuses against Palestinians.
Israel unlawfully annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 and since then, its Palestinian residents have been subjected to 50 years of human rights abuses, from home demolitions to forced transfers, movement restrictions and arbitrary arrests.
Since its annexation, Palestinians in Jerusalem have been forced to live under Israeli law as foreign nationals, or ‘permanent residents’ with limited rights, despite having lived in their homes for generations. More than 14,000 Palestinians have had their residency revoked since 1967 resulting in forced displacement in breach of international law.
Settlement building and demolitions
Israel has built dozens of illegal settlements in East Jerusalem since it was occupied in 1967, with more than 200,000 Israelis occupying the area. While Israel invests in developing their settlements, Palestinians neighbourhoods are left underdeveloped and deprived. Palestinian residents must pay taxes, but are less likely to see any improvement of their areas. As their population grows, Palestinians are forced to build without Israeli approved permits, leading to more than 700 demolition orders since 2004. The demolitions devastate lives, they destroy livelihoods and plunge Palestinians into poverty.
Check points and the separation wall
Palestinians in the West Bank are prevented from entering Jerusalem without special permits, and with numerous check points within the city, residents are prohibited from moving around freely, allowing Israel to monitor and control travel as much as possible. Checkpoints are not only time consuming, they are also humiliating and affect people’s life choices and opportunities.
Israel started building its separation wall in 2002, closing East Jerusalem from the West Bank, separating families and leaving thousands of Palestinians impoverished. In July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declared the wall illegal under international law.
Excavations and displacement
Israel has used archaeological searches for the ancient ‘City of David’ to evict Palestinians in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan. Silwan has been subject to an intense campaign to ensure it becomes majority Israeli owned. Settlers have been encouraged to move in, facilitated by the discriminatory ‘Absentee Property Law’ that has been used to take Palestinian property after 1948. The majority of homes in the neighbourhood have been served with demolition orders. Children in Silwan are also under threat due to arbitrary arrests and assault by soldiers, as a way to pressure families to leave.
Every year, hundreds of children in East Jerusalem aged 12 to 17 are arrested, interrogated and detained by Israeli army, police and security agents.
Children are arrested at checkpoints, off the streets, or from their homes in the middle of the night and often subjected to physical or verbal abuse, painful restraints, lack of water, food or toilet facilities. The arrests of Palestinian children are in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
A daily struggle
Life in Jerusalem for Palestinians is a daily struggle to survive and live in their ancestral city. In the face of soldiers, settlers and the legal machine of the Israeli state, Palestinians must also cope with inadequate public services, restrictions on their movement and the constant worry of violence breaking out.
For Jerusalem to be declared the capital of Israel, whilst Israel is involved in evicting and harassing Palestinian residents is damaging and unhelpful. The Palestinians of Jerusalem cannot be made invisible and they are not side notes or inconveniences. The rights of Palestinians to live without oppression in their city is enshrined in international law. A change to the status quo will always be detrimental to them, unless that change has considered them and centred them.
Donald Trump has likely never asked a mother in Silwan how she feels about her son being arrested multiple times, or how a father feels having to watch his home get demolished and then be forced to pay Israel for the privilege.
The viciously discriminatory system facing Palestinians in East Jerusalem is an affront to their human rights, and it is the responsibility of the international community to ensure they hold Israel accountable.