29 March 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank
March 30 is Land Day in Palestine. The events of the day annually commemorate the events of 1976, when Israeli authorities seized massive quantities of land from Palestinian owners, and then killed several and injured dozens to crack down on the general strike called to protest the theft.
This year on Land Day, March 30, people from around Palestine and the world will march towards Al Quds (Jerusalem) to protest the theft in progress today: the isolation and ethnic cleansing taking place in Al Quds, as well as throughout occupied Palestine through illegal settlement activity. Marches are planned towards Al Quds from multiple points in the West Bank, Gaza, inside the Green Line, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria, as well as in Asia, North America, and Europe. The global march aims to highlight the colonization of Al Quds by Zionists and the refusal of access for Palestinians to the holy city.
According to multiple treaties and UN resolutions, Al Quds is recognized as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Israel seized control of the city in 1967. Al Quds has long been the center of religious, cultural, health, and commercial life for Palestinians, and an estimated 270,000 Palestinians reside in the eastern parts of the city (OCHA 2011).
The Palestinian population and presence in Al Quds is currently under extreme pressure from Israeli authorities and illegal settlers as the Zionist state seeks to take complete control of the city, drive out the Palestinian inhabitants, and eliminate any hope of its future as a Palestinian capital. This pressure is manifested in various ways:
Fadwa Khader, an Al Quds resident and organizer of the Global March on Jerusalem remembers a time when Al Quds was “the most important place in Palestine.” Now, the apartheid wall and associated military closures prevent the majority of Palestinians from traveling to Al Quds for any reason. The city’s status as a center of Palestinian life is fading, due to its isolation from the rest of the West Bank. But material realities will not erase Al Quds’s place in the hearts of the Palestinian people. One needs only to view the multitude of images of Al Aqsa mosque in Palestinian homes, businesses, and streets to understand this.
Removal and Denial of Residency
In a systematic effort aimed at reducing the number of Palestinian residents of Al Quds, Israeli authorities seize any opportunity to rescind the residency permits of individuals, even those who are born and have lived their entire lives in the city. If Palestinian residents are known to have lived in the West Bank or abroad, even temporarily, they risk the withdrawal of their residency rights and may never be allowed into Al Quds again, even to visit family.
Fadi, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, is a Palestinian who resided in Jordan for example, has retained his Jerusalem IDs. Yet his children who were born in Jordan and whose mother is a Palestinian refugee, have been unable to attain their Jerusalem IDs. “My family’s history is in this city,” said Faid. “The lack of jobs, and the bleak future of Palestinians here forced me to seek these elsewhere. Now that I have returned and have brought my children with me, my children are unable to maneuver throughout the city as they are undocumented in their own father’s hometown. Israel refuses to recognize them as the children of a Jerusalemite, but we will remain here, even if that means that my children and wife live without an ID or any rights.” Fadi continued after a long silence and the evident hurt in his eyes. “This is our resistance to Zionism.”
This policy has the effect over time of reducing the Palestinian population in Al Quds and preventing residents from traveling or living elsewhere for fear of losing residency.
Pressure on existing residents
Fadwa Khader noted another component of Israel’s campaign for the complete colonization and ethnic cleansing of Al Quds: the application of pressure to Palestinian residents in order to drive them out of the city. One way this is manifested is in the denial of municipal services in the eastern parts of the city inhabited by Palestinians.
The residents here pay the same taxes as the Jewish residents of West Al Quds. Despite this, the municipality of Jerusalem does not provide adequate services to the Palestinian neighborhoods of the city. Ninety percent of the municipality’s sewer lines and paved roads and sidewalks are in West Al Quds (B’tselem). In some neighborhoods, cleaning services come only once every three days as opposed to three times a day in West Al Quds. n February the Wadi Hilweh Information Center reported the Jerusalem Municipality created a dump at the door of Palestinian neighborhoods.
Khader notes the dual nature of this denial of services: First, to make life in Al Quds miserable and untenable in an effort to convince existing residents to leave. Second, to demonstrate to the internationals that visit Al Quds that the Palestinian residents “don’t care about their neighborhoods” and live in filth.
Pressure is also applied to Palestinian resident through settlement of East Al Quds neighborhoods by extremist Israelis, evictions of Palestinian families, and demolitions of Palestinian homes. The neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan have been particularly affected by this strategy. The goal of the Israeli authorities and Zionist activists is to forcibly settle Jews in East Al Quds through the seizure of land and homes and settlement of Israelis in these areas. In addition, home demolitions make life increasingly untenable for affected residents.
The Global March this Land Day will seek to highlight these issues and call for an end to Israeli Zionist settlement policy, access restrictions, occupation, and ethnic cleansing in Al Quds and throughout occupied Palestine.
Khader has a message for the international Palestine solidarity movement:
“We want to live in peace and liberty and to feel free. Can you imagine how we suffer and sacrifice for this dream?”
She noted that there can never be a real Palestinian state as long as the Israelis continue to steal land and water, to control borders, and to separate cities and villages of Palestine from each other.
Still, she is hopeful.
“We won’t give up hope. We believe in you (international solidarity activists). You are our voice outside of Palestine, calling for dignity, liberation, and an end to the occupation.”
Johnny is a volunteer with International Solidarity Movement (name has been changed).