The Judaization of Jerusalem - Introduction

Since it illegally occupied Jerusalem in the 1967 war, Israel has gone to great lengths to destroy any vestiges of other faiths in attempts to rewrite history and “Judaize” the holy city of Jerusalem. 
In addition to changing street and other signage to Hebrew and English – erasing the Arabic language – demolishing mosques and churches, Israeli authorities are intent on transferring the indigenous Palestinian population out of Jerusalem. Israel also continues to expand illegal settlements in Arab East Jerusalem, in many cases building Jewish-only apartment buildings in the center of Arab neighborhoods.

On March 19, 2010, the Bureau of Palestinian Rights Committee issued a statement that details some of Israel’s abuses in Jerusalem. One such abuse was the Ministry of Interior’s approval of 1,600 new Israeli housing units.  The United Nations has called on Israel to halt its illegal settlement building and reiterated that occupier Israel continued its policy of displacing Palestinians through illegal house demolitions, evictions and by revoking their residency rights.

The United Nations came out with a harsh statement in response to the ministry’s housing construction announcement.

“By unlawfully creating such facts on the ground, the government of Israel is pre-determining the outcome of the permanent status negotiations and, therefore, will render negotiations on the status of Jerusalem meaningless. Israel’s actions and policy on the issue of settlements also seriously threaten the prospects of ever achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of the Two-State solution. These illegal and provocative actions of the Israeli leadership are also directly undermining current efforts at resuming the political process between the parties.”

Israel also has been systematically transforming the Silwan neighborhood from a Palestinian area to a recreation and business area meant only for Jews. In 2009, Israel demolished 88 houses in the Silwan neighborhood of Al-Bustan to build parks, and hotel and business areas.  Unfortunately, Silwan was not an isolated case. The Jerusalem municipality has been issuing demolition orders to tens of Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem, on the pretext that the homes were built without the required zoning and construction permits, according to media reports.    

The United Nations released figures in 2009 that show nearly 3,000 Palestinian buildings in portions of the West Bank, many of which are in East Jerusalem, face pending demolition orders because these homes were built outside of the crowded 13 percent of East Jerusalem allotted for Palestinian construction. Yet illegal Jewish settlements occupy nearly 35 percent of that land, in violation of International law, reported by the Haaretz.

The problem is that Israel almost always denies Palestinian construction permit requests, forcing them to build without official approval. In fact, in Area C of the West Bank, the portion that includes Jerusalem, Israel denied 94 percent of Palestinian building permit requests between 2000 and 2007, according to the UN.

Nearly 60,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are at risk of having their homes demolished, according to the UN.

Demolishing homes and expelling Palestinians from Jerusalem are not the only tactics Israel is employing to change the face of Jerusalem. Since 1967, authorities, under the auspices of the Israel Antiquities Authority, have been digging tunnels under the Al Aqsa mosque compound, causing structural cracks and weaknesses. Israel purports the tunnels are part of needed archaeological studies, while the unstated purpose is to destroy Al Aqsa and all Muslim claims to that holy site in order to build the Third Temple.

The tunnels not only have weakened the mosque compound but have caused streets in East Jerusalem neighborhoods to collapse, according to media reports. The Al Aqsa Foundation has confirmed cracks and damage to the foundation.

The Al Aqsa Foundation has reported “that while some of the related excavations are known, some parts of it are being done under wrap, and by the same token some experts refer to cases of sinking down in the land, and that is why cracks are expanding in the area of Hutta Gate.”

Jacky Rowland of Aljazeera wrote that “Archaeologists are digging at several sites around the Old City with a clear agenda: to uncover evidence that would strengthen Israel's claim to Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish people.” Rowland quoted Raphael Greenberg, an archaeologist from Tel Aviv University saying, "This present stage of archaeology here in Silwan…is archaeology behind fences and it seems they want to keep things under wraps, to prevent people from peering in." Greenberg adds that “I can't get into any of these sites. I'm barred from visiting them. It seems that the Antiquities Authority doesn't want criticism of their work."

The International community has condemned the building of illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and many have condemned the continued excavation that is threatening the holy sites in the Old City. Yet, even with the United Nations calling on Israel to halt its illegal activity activities and policies, Israel has continued to implement its Judaization of Jerusalem by evicting Palestinians, expanding Jewish Settlements and jeopardizing Muslim Holy Sites.

Marwan Bishara, AlJazeera's senior political analyst, said that for Palestinians, Jerusalem symbolises the future of the Palestinian cause. He goes on to say that "the most open and embarrassing secret of the Middle East international affairs is something that everyone whispers: 'The Israelis are taking over East Jerusalem for Jewish purposes'."

American Muslims for Palestine, 2010