Shutdown of Palestinian events in occupied East Jerusalem after the Trump Administration’s illegal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

2020-05-09

Al-Quds, Jerusalem has always been the political, administrative and spiritual heart of Palestine. Occupied East Jerusalem is the natural socio-economic, cultural and political center for the State of Palestine given its history, geographic centrality, commercial vitality and wealth of religious and cultural heritage sites.

Over the centuries, several institutions have been created in Jerusalem ، after Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem in 1967, several institutions were forced to immediately close. Only weeks later after the occupation, Israel unilaterally expanded the municipal borders of Jerusalem from 6.5km2 to 72km2 , enlarging East Jerusalem by more than ten times. Israel then applied its own laws, administration and jurisdiction over the newly expanded area of municipal Jerusalem. Since that time, Israel has imposed a number of policies and practices aimed at Judaizing the city and annexing it to become the unified Jerusalem East and West and eternal capital of Israel . These actions are contrary to international law, which states clearly that all policies undertaken by Israel, the occupying power, to alter the status quo of the city are illegal causing irreparable damage to the historical identity of Jerusalem as an Arab-Palestinian city and the home of the three major monotheistic faiths.

During the Oslo negotiation, the PLO requested a written commitment from the Israeli side regarding the specific status of the Jerusalem institutions. This came on October 11, 1993, when Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres sent a letter of assurances on the issue of Palestinian institutions in Occupied East Jerusalem to Minister Johan Jorgen Holst of Norway, after making a statement to the same effect in the Knesset on September 9, 1993. The letter reads: 

“I wish to confirm that the Palestinian institutions of East Jerusalem and the interests and well-being of the Palestinians of East Jerusalem are of great importance and will be preserved. Therefore, all the Palestinian institutions of East Jerusalem, including the economic, social, educational, cultural, and the holy Christian and Moslem places, are performing an essential task for the Palestinian population. Needless to say, we will not hamper their activity; on the contrary, the fulfilment of this important mission is to be encouraged . 

1 Furthermore, Article XXXI (5) of the Interim Agreement (“Oslo”) makes it clear that the question of Jerusalem is one of the remaining questions reserved for the negotiations on permanent status. Furthermore, Article XXXI (6) provides that the legal position on Jerusalem has in no way been affected: “Nothing in this Agreement shall prejudice or preempt the outcome of the negotiations on permanent status to be conducted pursuant to the DOP. Neither Party shall be deemed, by virtue of having entered into this Agreement, to have renounced or waived any of its existing rights, claims or positions.

 On 21 December 2017, the United Nations General Assembly approved by an overwhelming majority of 128 to 9 against with 21 absentees and 35 abstentions declaring the status of Jerusalem as Israel's capital as "null and void", resolution ES‑10/L. 22 of the United Nations General Assembly. In its preamble the resolution states: bearing in mind the specific status of the Holy City of Jerusalem and, in particular, the need for the protection and preservation of the unique spiritual, religious and cultural dimensions of the city, as foreseen in relevant United Nations resolutions. Stressing that Jerusalem is a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations in line with relevant United Nations resolutions, and expressing, in this regard, its deep regret at recent US decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.

Since 1967 more than 120 Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem have been closed by Israeli authorities.4 Over the past decade, Israeli authority has issued over 80 orders shutting down Palestinian events in East Jerusalem, including cultural, educational, employment related events, press conferences, book launches and even a children’s festival leading to the near total elimination of organized Palestinian activity in Jerusalem. About 88 were closed down completely, while the others had to transfer their operations from occupied East Jerusalem to other areas in the West Bank, mainly Ramallah, after the creation of the Palestinian interim government. The most prominent institution that have been closed by Israeli authorities was the Orient House in August 2001, the de facto headquarters of the PLO in East Jerusalem, the institution was the focal point of Palestinian cultural and political life, followed by the closure of more than 22 economic and social institutions

 

Israel continues to shut down and bar Palestinian events in East Jerusalem under several pretexts which violate and are in contradiction with Israel’s commitments, obligations and assurances to the international community regarding Palestinian presence and activities in East Jerusalem. Israel utilizes the "Closure of Businesses and Events" Law (Restriction of Activities), 5755-1994, preventing activities that are contrary to the Implementation of the Interim Agreement concerning the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The purpose of the orders signed by the internal security minister is to prevent the holding of events under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority (PA) contrary to the Oslo agreement.

East Jerusalem has continued to maintain some stability during this period by sustaining diverse ties with its Palestinian surroundings; still, the disconnection of East Jerusalem from the West Bank and its closure to West Bank residents had a major blow to East Jerusalem’s economic, social, and cultural life.

For example, one of the main Israeli obligations according to the Road Map, endorsed by UNSC Resolution 15156 In fact, no agreement signed by the PLO limits Palestinian political, social, cultural, economic or any other kind of activity in East Jerusalem. On the contrary, the Interim Agreement reaffirms that the PLO is mandated to conduct foreign relations for the Palestinian people. Under the Interim Agreement, PLO officials, as opposed to PA officials, are not banned from working in East , establishes that the Government of Israel “reopens Palestinian Chamber of Commerce and other closed Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem based on a commitment that these institutions operate strictly in accordance with prior agreements between the parties.” To date , these organizations remain closed.

In fact, no agreement signed by the PLO limits Palestinian political, social, cultural, economic or any other kind of activity in East Jerusalem. On the contrary, the Interim Agreement reaffirms that the PLO is mandated to conduct foreign relations for the Palestinian people. Under the Interim Agreement, PLO officials, as opposed to PA officials, are not banned from working in East  Jerusalem. In compliance with the Interim Agreement, the PA did not open any branch in Jerusalem. Palestinian diplomatic and political activities in occupied East Jerusalem were in full compliance with the PLO’s obligations under the Interim Agreement.

Since 1967, US policy toward the two-state solution has been unchanged, two states, Palestine and Israel, the borders being the 1967 lines, and East Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine – while West Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel. After the Trump Administration’s illegal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on 6 December 2017, the Israeli Government has escalated its aggression against the Palestinian people, as well as, its denial of Palestinian human rights, including in and around the occupied Palestinian capital. This includes forcible transfer of civilian population out of their city, home demolitions, colonial-settlement expansion and persecution of Palestinian civil society and political leaders. 

Since November 2018, Governor of Jerusalem, Adnan Gheith (arrested 17 times) and Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Mr. Fadi Al-Hidmi (arrested 4 times). Each time they have been released without any charges. The threats and detentions against Palestinian officials, activists, and community leaders, should only be taken as part of Israel’s plan to eliminate any foundations for a political solution based on two-states on the 1967 border.

The detention and harassment of Palestinian officials are not only a further Israeli violation and aggression against the Palestinian people but a reminder to the international community of the need to take concrete measures to save East Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Palestine.

Furthermore and for many years, Israel has periodically dispersed cultural and other events in occupied East Jerusalem claiming that they were connected to the PA. But since Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, this phenomenon has intensified. The cumulative effect of Israel’s policy of depriving Palestinians of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly by closing down their institutions is a process of gradual and progressive forcible removal of Palestinian institutions from the city that is induced deliberately and systematically by Israel for the purpose of preventing Palestinian self-determination, and with the aim of permanently annexing the occupied city.

Israel’s escalating violations against Palestinians in East Jerusalem post the Trump recognition

As part of Israel’s escalating violations against Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Israeli authority continues to bar Palestinians in East Jerusalem from conducting any social activities. The below capture such violations post the Trump recognition:

May 5 2020, Major General. Bilal Al-Natsheh, Secretary-General of the National Popular Congress was taken to hospital after he was subjected to harsh interrogation following his arrest by Israeli occupation forces, he was arrested among 13 Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, Israeli police claimed the detainees were confronting the coronavirus outbreak in the occupied city on behalf of the PA and seized their computers, cellular phones, along with other materials found in their homes.

April 22 2020, Israel ordered Palestinian police intending to enforce coronavirus regulations not to enter Kufr Aqaba,a Palestinian neighborhood that is within the Israeli defined municipality, but on the Palestinian side of the Wall.

April 15 2020, Israeli police raided and Shuts down a Coronavirus Testing Clinic in the East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan and arrested its organizers. The clinic was operated  United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and Israel prevented them from providing health services related to the coronavirus for Palestinians in Silwan.

April 5 2020, Israeli occupation forces arrested Palestinian Governor of occupied East Jerusalem, Adnan Gheith, after storming his home in Silwan neighborhood in Jerusalem. This is the seventeenth time the soldiers abduct and detain Gheith since he became the governor of Jerusalem in August 2018.

April 3 2020, Israeli occupation forces arrested Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, Fadi alHidmi, from his home in the Suwwana neighborhood in Jerusalem, This is the fourth time in less than one year. March 16 2020, Israeli occupation forces arrested 12 Palestinians who sterilized mosques, churches and other institutions in the Old City of Jerusalem, in response to the Coronavirus.

February 26 2020, Israeli occupation forces arrested the director of the cartography department at the Arab Studies Association, Khalil Tafakji, after breaking into his house. Also arrested Head of the Chamber of Commerce Kamal Obeidat from his house in Beit Hanina.

February 17 2020, Israeli security service raided Volunteer for Hope, an organization located in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, under the pretext of holding “prohibited activities,” and gave its director, Silvia Abu Laban, a summon to appear before Israeli intelligence for interrogation. Israeli forces seized four computers and other office belongings as they searched the building.

December 6 2019, Israeli occupation forces arrested Palestine TV crew and confiscated their cameras and broadcast equipment while they were broadcasting the program 'Good Morning Jerusalem’ at the Mount of Olives in Occupied East Jerusalem. Meanwhile, another filming crew of Palestine TV based in Damascus Gate was also harassed by Israeli occupation forces who detained the Palestine TV correspondent and barred them from broadcasting from Jerusalem.

November 20 2019, Israeli occupation forces raided the Jerusalem offices of Palestine TV and AlArz Media Services Company, seized broadcasting equipment and ordered them to remain closed for six months. The Israeli forces arrested Palestinian TV correspondents in Jerusalem who were released later on after several hours of investigation.

August 31, 2019 Israeli authority barred conducting a soccer tournament among 183 Palestinian families in Jerusalem’s Old City at the order of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, claiming that the event was linked to the PA.

August 5 2019, Israeli forces prevented a memorial service for the Palestinian writer Subhi Ghosheh from taking place at the Yabous Cultural Centre, assaulting participants and summoning a number for interrogation.

June 18 2019, Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan “proposed a new bill that would impose a maximum sentence of up to three years in prison for those who sponsor, finance, support or organize activities for the PA in occupied East Jerusalem. Today, Israeli law “prohibits organization of activities in favor of the PA in Jerusalem, but does not penalize those who organize such activities.

March 21, 2019, Israeli authority forces banned a Mother’s Day ceremony, organized by the Jerusalem Girls Association in the Institute Francais in Jerusalem, from taking place in the occupied city of Jerusalem.

March 8 2019, Israeli occupation forces shut down a ceremony on the occasion of International Women’s Day organized by (women for democracy) in Rivoli hotel in Salah Eddin Street in occupied East Jerusalem. Israeli forces raided the hotel and handed to its owner a closure order of the event.

January 21 2019, raided and barred an event marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Al-Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem.

November 1 2018, Israeli occupation forces banned a seminar organized by Roya Institution in Silwan Sport Club in Occupied East Jerusalem and forced the participants to leave the club and closed it. The Israeli forces briefly detained the governor of Jerusalem and the director of Roya institutions who were released later under the condition of not organizing any PA activities in Jerusalem.

October 3 2018, Israeli occupation forced banned a ceremony honoring teachers organized in Dar Al Tifel school in occupied East Jerusalem on the 20th anniversary of the departure of Husni Al Ashhab, the founder of Jerusalem schools. Israeli forces forced the participants to leave the school and hanged on its wall banning order calming that the event was organized by the PA.

June 9 2018, Israeli occupation forces banned Palestinian Chamber of Commerce in Jerusalem from holding Ramadan Eftar for Journalists in an East Jerusalem hotel. The Israeli forces raided the hotel and kicked out the journalists and closed its doors claiming that the event is sponsored by the PA.

February 26 2018, Israeli occupation authorities banned, through an order issued by Israeli interior minister, the Palestinian ministers of Education and Tourism from accessing the old city of occupied Jerusalem to participate in ceremony for renovating Terra Sancta School.

February 10 2018, Israeli occupation forces barred a ceremony honoring the retired principals and teachers of Jerusalem school, organized by Palestinian directorate of education in the Islamic Girls School in the city, attended by Palestinian minister of Education Dr. Sabri Saidam in addition to other officials. Israeli forces prevented Dr. Saidam from accessing the ceremony and handed an order to the principle of school to close down the event.

January 9 2018, Israeli occupation forces raided Addar Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Occupied East Jerusalem and banned a joint Press Conference for Sheikh Ekrima Sabri and Archbishop Hanna Atallah titled 'It is time for the World to hear the voice of Jerusalem.

These violations of the international humanitarian law are part of Israel’s unilateral policy to consolidate its control over East Jerusalem and irrevocably ensure its exclusive control over the holy city. Urgent action by the international community must be taken to suppress Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law with regard to Occupied East Jerusalem. Convention parties must demand that Israel cease its policies involving the closing of Palestinian institutions, shutting down Palestinian events, detentions of Palestinian officials, activists, and community leaders. Convention parties and the entire international community must provide protection to the Palestinian population, demand that Israel refrain from further unilateral actions aimed at changing the character of East Jerusalem and stop the culture of impunity granted to Israel.