Israel builds museum on Palestinian graveyard, snags land in West Bank
Published Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Updated at 4:39 pm (GMT +2): Israel has resumed excavations in a Muslim graveyard in West Jerusalem as part of the "Museum of Tolerance" project, a local committee said Tuesday, as authorities seek to confiscate Palestinian land in Jordan Valley and Ramallah.
The head of the Islamic cemeteries preservation committee, Mustafa Abu Zahra, said large machinery was pouring reinforced concrete in the Mamilla cemetery in preparation for building the museum.
Abu Zahra said the museum was a grave assault on Muslim heritage and history in Jerusalem as it is being built over the "remains of icons, martyrs, grandparents and parents."
According to Abu Zahra, the project was initiated by the California-based Simon Wiesenthal Center in 2001 in cooperation with the Jerusalem municipality and other Israeli departments. At the time, 12 dunams (3 acres) of the cemetery ground were confiscated.
So far in 2014, Israel has demolished more than 543 Palestinian structures and displaced at least 1,266 people, according to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions estimates that Israeli authorities have demolished about 27,000 Palestinian structures in the West Bank since 1967.
Jerusalem Palestinians face discrimination in all aspects of life including housing, employment, and services, and although they live within territory Israel has unilaterally annexed, they lack citizenship rights and are instead classified only as "residents" whose permits can be revoked if they move away from the city for more than a few years.
Besides demolishing Palestinian properties, Israeli authorities have allowed Zionist settlers to take over Palestinian homes, confiscated Palestinian lands, and announced plans to build thousands of settlements strictly for Israeli settlers.
Israel to confiscate 10,000 dunams in Jordan Valley, 321.3 dunams of land in Ramallah
Israeli authorities on Wednesday declared a vast area of private Palestinian land in the northern Jordan Valley a closed military zone in preparation to confiscate the land, an official said.
Ribhi al-Khandaqji, the governor of the Tubas district, said in a statement that the land was located in the Ein al-Sakut area and measured about 10,000 dunams (2,500 acres).
The statement said al-Khandaqji went to the area along with landowners, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, and human rights organizations, but Israeli authorities declared the area a closed military zone, preventing tractors from plowing the land.
"We launched a campaign to plow and plant in the lands slated for confiscation," the governor said in the statement.
Similarly on Tuesday, Israeli forces distributed orders to confiscate 321.3 dunams of land from the villages of Beit Ur At-Tahta, Ein Arek, and Beituniya west of Ramallah.
The head of the local council of Beit Ur al-Fouqa, Rami Alawi, said Israeli authorities claimed the confiscation of Palestinian land was crucial for “security reasons,” an excuse Alawi slammed as “false,” accusing the Israelis of “stealing” a land that has “tens of thousands of planted olive trees.”
The confiscation order also threatens to close a vital street created by Israelis in lieu of road 433 to connect the villages west Ramallah with the city.
Road 433 was built over thousands of dunams of Ramallah lands, and Palestinians were banned from using it after the Second Intifada started. An alternative route was established to connect them to Ramallah.
Alawi said the “ambiguous” decision extends the siege of the villages which are surrounded by a military camp on one side and an illegal Israeli settlement on the other.
The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-famous "Balfour Declaration," called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."
Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state – a move never recognized by the international community.
In November 1988, Palestinian leaders led by Arafat declared the existence of a State of Palestine inside the 1967 borders and the State's belief "in the settlement of international and regional disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the charter and resolutions of the United Nations."
Heralded as a "historic compromise," the move implied that Palestinians would agree to accept only 22 percent, believed to have become 17 percent after massive Israeli settlement building, of historic Palestine in exchange for peace with Israel.
On the 26th anniversary of the treaty's signing, the PLO said in a statement last month that despite the 1988 ‘“compromise,” Israel had since failed to be “a partner in peace,” adding that the Israeli expansion and colonization of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has dimmed the prospect of a two-state solution.
"Israel responded by colonizing more of our land and entrenching its control over the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. The possibility of a two-state solution is quickly fading away," the statement read.
According to the PLO, between 1989 and 2014, the number of Israeli settlers on Palestinian land soared from 189,900 to nearly 600,000. These settlements, meanwhile, are located between and around Palestinians towns and villages, making a contiguous state next to impossible.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Palestinian leaders sought to create the institutions of statehood despite the lack of an actual state, leading to the development of a security apparatus under US tutelage and a Palestinian bureaucracy.
While major Palestinian cities have boomed in the 26 years since "independence," Israeli confiscation of land in border regions has continued unabated.
According to a UN report published last week, the PA lost at least $310 million in customs and sales tax in 2011 as a result of importing from or through Israeli-occupied territories.
Last year, the World Bank estimated that Israeli control over Area C – the 61 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control – costs the Palestinian economy around $3.4 billion annually, or more than one-third of the Palestinian Authority's GDP.
Palestine seeks UN resolution on Israeli withdrawal
Palestine is seeking a UN resolution that would set a timetable to end post-1967 occupation by year-end, chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said Tuesday.
Erakat's remarks came after several European parliaments pressed their governments to recognize full Palestinian statehood, and as prospects for a resumption of peace talks with Israel looked bleak.
"We are at the (UN) Security Council now, today. We are continuing our consultation. We want a Security Council resolution that will preserve the two-state solution," Erakat told foreign journalists gathered near the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
"We want a specific time frame to end the occupation."
"We're being helped a great deal in the Security Council by many nations," he added, referring to recent votes of British, French and Spanish MPs in favor of symbolically recognizing Palestine as a state.
"We are hoping to achieve this resolution before the end of the month, before Christmas as a matter of fact."
The Palestinian Authority this year set November 2016 as the deadline for ending the Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967 and establishing a two-state solution.
Erekat said Palestinian leaders had been discussing the process with other Arab countries.
The United States has reiterated its opposition to what it sees as unilateral Palestinian measures that bypass peace talks with Israel.
But talks do not look set to resume, having collapsed in a round of recriminations in April despite a concerted diplomatic drive by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Erakat said Palestine hoped the US would not veto the resolution, but that if it did, Palestinian Authority "President (Mahmoud) Abbas will be signing immediately 22 conventions," ensuring Palestinian membership of the International Criminal Court, through which it has threatened to sue Israel for war crimes.
It is worth noting that numerous pro-Palestine activists argue in favor of a one-state solution giving equal rights to all citizens, stating that the creation of a Palestinian state beside Israel would not be sustainable. They add that the two-state solution, which is the only option considered by international actors, won't solve existing discrimination, nor erase economic and military tensions.
(Al-Akhbar, Ma'an, AFP)