Israel ‘guilty of war crimes’ for Jerusalem deportations

A Palestinian woman sits next to the remains of her home after it was demolished by Israeli bulldozers in Musafir Jenbah, West Bank, in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 09 August 2017
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Israel ‘guilty of war crimes’ for Jerusalem deportations

AMMAN: Israel may be guilty of war crimes under international law by revoking Palestinians’ rights to live in Jerusalem and forcing them to move, a leading human rights organization said on Tuesday.
Revoking residency status is used by Israel to punish Palestinians accused of attacking Israelis, and as collective punishment against the families of suspected attackers. Nearly 15,000 Palestinians had their residency revoked between the start of the Israeli occupation in 1967 and the end of last year.
“Israel has revoked residency based on the claim that Palestinians violated an obligation of loyalty to the state of Israel, but international humanitarian law expressly forbids an occupying power from compelling people under occupation to pledge allegiance to it,” Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director of Human Rights Watch, told Arab News.
Revoking residency means Palestinians have to leave Jerusalem, which is also illegal. Deportation or forced transfer from an occupied territory may be a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Human Rights Watch said.
The prohibition extends beyond cases in which a military force directly moves a population under its control, to cases in which the military force makes life so difficult that people are essentially forced to leave.
For its report, published on Tuesday, the New York-based group investigated eight cases in which Palestinians had their right to live in Jerusalem revoked. They interviewed the families and their lawyers and reviewed letters revoking their status, court rulings and other official documents.
One man who had his residency revoked had to scale Israel’s separation barrier to attend a family wedding in another part of the West Bank. Another said Israeli authorities refused to issue birth certificates to his five children, all born in Jerusalem. Other Jerusalem residents without residency status described being unable to legally work, obtain social welfare benefits, attend weddings and funerals or visit gravely ill relatives abroad for fear Israeli authorities would refuse to allow them to return home, the report says.
It is the first time the issue of the rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem has been subject to wide-ranging international legal analysis. The report also examines the wider issue of Israel’s takeover of all of Jerusalem.
It says: “Residency revocations, alongside decades of unlawful settlement expansion, home demolitions and restrictions on building in the city, have increased unlawful settlement by Israeli Jewish citizens in occupied East Jerusalem while restricting growth of the occupied Palestinian population.
“This reality reflects the Israeli government’s goal of ‘maintaining a solid Jewish majority in the city,’ as stated in the Jerusalem municipality’s master plan, and limiting the number of Palestinian residents.”
Planners originally set a target of 70 percent Jews and 30 percent Arab, but later acknowledged that this was not attainable and adjusted it to 60-40. Palestinians constituted 37 percent of Jerusalem’s population in 2015, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.
“As part of its quest to solidify a Jewish majority in Jerusalem, Israeli authorities force Palestinians to live as foreigners in their own homes,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the rights group’s Middle East director.
“The status of Palestinians only remains secure so long as they do not exercise their right to travel abroad to study or work, move to the wrong neighborhood or obtain status in another country.”
Sani Khoury, a Palestinian lawyer who specializes in Jerusalem citizenship issues, told Arab News that the issue of revoking residency had been going on since 1967, and often reflected the politics of the day or the ideologies of the Israeli government and judiciary.
“Israel’s right-wing Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked appointed four new justices last February. One of the recent judges appointed to the Israeli high court is a settler,” Khoury said.
To avoid being deported, some Palestinians have resorted to applying for Israeli citizenship. A path to citizenship exists, but the vast majority choose not to pursue it as it involves pledging allegiance to Israel, the occupying power. And not all of those who apply are granted citizenship. Since 2003, only about 15,000 of Jerusalem’s 330,000 Palestinians have applied; Israeli authorities have approved fewer than 6,000, the report says.


In Bahrain, US to launch economic part of Mideast peace plan amid skepticism

Updated 15 min 4 sec ago
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In Bahrain, US to launch economic part of Mideast peace plan amid skepticism

  • Two-day meeting billed as the first part of Washington’s long-delayed blueprint to revive the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process
  • But neither the Israeli nor Palestinian governments will attend the curtain-raising event

MANAMA/JERUSALEM: The first stage of President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan will be launched on Tuesday at a conference the White House touts as a bid to begin drumming up $50 billion in investment but which Palestinians deride as an “economy first” approach doomed to fail.
The two-day international meeting in Bahrain, led by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been billed as the first part of Washington’s long-delayed broader political blueprint to revive the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which will be unveiled at a later date.
But neither the Israeli nor Palestinian governments will attend the curtain-raising event in the Bahraini capital, Manama.
There will be close scrutiny as to whether attendees such as Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Gulf Arab states show any interest in making actual donations to a US plan that has already elicited bitter criticism from Palestinians and many others in the Arab world.
Bahrain, a close American ally and home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has been making preparations for weeks.
Although the conference is supposed to focus on economics, Gulf Arab states hope their presence will also show their solidarity with the Trump administration over its hard-line against Iran, a senior Gulf diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
Under the plan, donor nations and investors would contribute about $50 billion over 10 years, with $28 billion going to the Palestinian territories — the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip — as well as $7.5 billion to Jordan, $9 billion to Egypt and $6 billion for Lebanon.
Among 179 proposed infrastructure and business projects is a $5 billion transport corridor to connect the West Bank and Gaza.
“I laugh when they attack this as the ‘deal of the century,’” Kushner told Reuters, referring to the lofty nickname that Trump’s peace plan has assumed over the past two years.
“This is going to be the ‘opportunity of the century’ if they have the courage to pursue it.”
Kushner, a senior Trump adviser who like his father-in-law comes from the world of New York real estate, is presenting his plan in a pair of pamphlets filled with graphs and statistics that resemble an investment prospectus.
But pushing back against critics who accuse Kushner of trying to forge a strictly “economic peace,” he told Reuters last week: “A lot of past attempts have failed. Calm down ... and keep an open mind.”
Even so, expectations for success are low. The Trump team concedes that the economic plan — billed “Peace to Prosperity” — will be implemented only if a political solution to one of the world’s most intractable conflicts is reached.
Any such solution would have to settle long-standing issues such as the status of Jerusalem, mutually agreed borders, satisfying Israel’s security concerns and Palestinian demands for statehood, and the fate of Israel’s settlements and military presence in territory Palestinians want to build that state.
The Arab Peace Initiative offers Israel normal ties with the Arab world in exchange for a Palestinian state drawn along borders that predate Israel’s capture of territory in a 1967 war and a fair solution for Palestinian refugees. Israel has rejected some of the initiative’s main provisions.
Hanging over the entire initiative are persistent questions about whether the Trump team plans to abandon the “two-state solution,” a long-standing principle of Middle East peacemaking that involves creation of an independent Palestinian state.
But the Trump team has consistently refused to commit to it.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close Trump ally, has his own domestic problems, facing an election, and possible corruption charges after a long-running police investigation. He denies any wrongdoing.
“We’ll hear the American proposition, hear it fairly and with openness,” Netanyahu said on Sunday. Although no Israeli government ministers will attend, an Israeli business delegation is expected.
Palestinian leaders have boycotted the workshop, and are refusing to engage with the White House — accusing it of pro-Israel bias after a series of recent Trump decisions. Kushner told Reuters that “some” Palestinian businessmen would be present.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was scathing about its prospects of success.
“Money is important. The economy is important. But politics are more important. The political solution is more important,” he said.
Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, has found itself in rare agreement with its arch-rival Abbas. “The Palestinian people only and no one else can represent the Palestinian cause,” Hamas official Mushir Al-Masri said.
Kushner insists, however, that the economic plan is intended to help draw Palestinians back to the negotiating table by showcasing the benefits a peace deal could bring.
Kushner said that even without the Israeli and Palestinian governments represented, the presence of Israeli business executives and journalists with their Arab counterparts would be significant at a time of rising tensions with Iran.
“People realize that the real threat to that region is Iran and their aggression, and Israel and a lot of the other Arab states have a lot more in common today than they did before,” he said.
David Makovsky, a Washington-based Middle East expert, agreed that although the principal focus of the event was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “Iran is higher on the chain of interest right now.”
However, Makovsky, whom the White House has invited as an observer, said of the Trump-Kushner plan: “No one believes you can solve this thing economically without addressing the political issues.”