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Settlement expansion and house demolitions in Jerusalem are ethnically cleansing Palestinians

The year 2020 is set to break all previous years, on record, for the number of Home Demolitions ordered in East Jerusalem. The move constituted an illegal push to ethnically cleanse the native population of Jerusalem and replace them with Jewish Israeli settlers.

Palestinian home demolitions in East Jerusalem are hitting record numbers since the illegal occupation of the territory in 1967. Whilst the destruction of property is ongoing, simultaneously, plans for illegal settlements to be expanded are being announced almost daily, following the announcement that Joe Biden will likely replace Donald Trump as US President, come January 2021.

The latest settlement expansion project, announced this Thursday by Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality, promises to install 108 new settler units inside of the illegal Ramat Shalom settlement in East Jerusalem. This week tens of Palestinian homes and structures were also destroyed in East Jerusalem Neighbourhoods such as Sur Baher, Wadi Al-Homus and Al-Tur.

According to the latest statistics, updated on November 3, released by Israeli Human Rights Organisation B’Tselem on East Jerusalem home demolitions for 2020, there have been over 140 buildings destroyed leaving at least 340 homeless, including 176 children. These statistics are projected to dramatically increase in the coming months.

East Jerusalem was illegally annexed in 1980 and since then Israel has subjected Palestinians under its jurisdiction to a different set of rules and standards to those living in the West Bank. However, East Jerusalem, like the West Bank is still considered internationally as an occupied territory and the laws of occupation therefore apply. According to Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”, this meaning that the settlements are a clear violation of International Law.

But ‘Israel’ is however going a step further than this, by implementing legislated on the ground strategies to Judaize East Jerusalem by pushing the native population out. According to the Norwegian Refugee Council: “The Israeli Planning and Building Law 1965 prohibits the authorisation of building permits for areas that are not zoned for construction, or that lack an approved local planning scheme.” When the 1965 Law, and its amendments, are coupled with the fact that Jerusalem’s population is made of 40% Palestinians, yet they only get less than 7% of the building permits approved, we can see that clearly Palestinian areas are specifically not zoned for construction. This policy of what is known as Judaization is put in place to make Palestinians lives tough in Jerusalem, even on the Israeli side of the separation wall (Apartheid Wall) which cuts through East Jerusalem. On top of this, Israeli illegal settlers live in ever expanding settlements which are built with modern infrastructure and equipped with what would generally be available in the rich suburbs of LA.

The issue of settlements however, extends far beyond the scope of the Jerusalem Municipality, with this year alone upwards of 12,150 settler units having been announced by the Israeli occupation authorities. The day after Joe Biden was projected as the winner of the US election in fact, Israeli Premier, Benjamin Netanyahu announced the establishment of a new settlement block adjacent to the Gaza Strip. Recently Israeli Minister of War, Benny Gantz, announced plans to build another 1,700 settler units in the illegally occupied West Bank.

The settler units announced will expand the 132 illegal settlements, in the West Bank, recognised and supported by the Israeli government, as additional settlers create new settler outposts, which number above 110 (settler outpost often refers to an Israeli settlement on top of Palestinian land, not yet recognised by the Israeli government).

Ultimately, throughout Palestinian occupied lands this year, we have witnessed the expulsion of close to 1,000 Palestinians from their homes. This occurring as settlement expansion has risen exponentially throughout the Trump era, especially during this year.

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Robert Inlakesh

Robert Inlakesh is a journalist, writer and political analyst, who has lived in and reported from the occupied Palestinian West Bank. He has written for publications such as Mint Press, Mondoweiss, MEMO and various other outlets. He specialises in analysis of the Middle-East, in particular Palestine-Israel.

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