Dear Friends:  

The ramifications of the recent US elections are already vibrating here in Jerusalem. Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party spoke for many in his camp when publicly exulting that “the era of a Palestinian state is over”; and while too early to know if the incoming administration will change course on Israel-Palestine policy, there is a palpable aura of celebration over what some expect will be a reversal of deep-rooted US policy on settlement building.

No more than two days after announcement of Trump’s victory, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman vowed to advance some 7,000 housing units over the Green Line.  Mayor Nir Barkat leapt to congratulate the president-elect and revive calls to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem.  We closed out last week with the Local Planning and Building Committee advancing 500 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo

Each newly constructed settlement, road or settler-run national park is like a hand over the mouth of a wheezing two state solution.  Every “new fact on the ground” is designed to amass as much Israeli control over contested areas as possible before getting to the negotiation table.  That leaves increasingly less over which to negotiate a political resolution on the city; in the meantime, dispossessing Palestinians of their land and homes, deepening despair, making hope unsustainable, and escalating ever simmering tensions in Jerusalem.

Ir Amim’s role is to vigorously challenge developments that violate our mission to create the conditions for a more viable, equitable city for both its national groups – both now and toward an agreed-upon political resolution on the city.  While that shouldn’t be a goal outside the mainstream consensus, the environment here in Israel is becoming increasingly inhospitable to any work deemed critical of the government or its expansionist policies.  In fact, we are an Israeli NGO critical of actions that diminish prospects for an end to this conflict and a just peace with the Palestinian people.

In the coming months we will have a clearer sense of how the new US administration will either complement or frustrate those goals.  What we already know is that given the fallout of inflammatory rhetoric and the appointment of those associated with the “alt-right” on the Jewish community, along with perceived threats to the two-state solution, there are increasing opportunities for US and Israeli groups to align around shared interests in preserving openings to resolve the Middle East conflict and bolster human rights for all. Current trends in the US and Israel sharply remind us of the need to defend the principle that questioning authority is in no way unpatriotic but rather a birthright of democracy.  That attempts to quash free speech and civil society are deadly to the health and progress of democracy.  That actions to subvert the rights and dignity of one group inevitably degrade all of us. 

As we jointly resist efforts aimed at retarding generations of work to realize peace and justice, there are new opportunities to mutually reinforce our common agendas.  We invite you to reach out, learn more about Ir Amim’s work, explore the points of intersection between our respective goals.  Now is the time to create new bridges between your home and Jerusalem.  Current events prove we are not so far away.

With thanks and belief in what we can accomplish together,

Betty Herschman

Director of International Relations & Advocacy 

 

IR AMIM UPDATES

 

Ir Amim in New York 

Sunday, December 4, 1:00 PM
JCC Manhattan

If you plan to check out this year’s Other Israel Film Festival, please join us for a screening of “Holy Zoo.”  Ir Amim’s Director of International Relations and Advocacy, Betty Herschman, will be on hand to moderate a panel with the film’s director and raise key questions about its portrayal of life in Jerusalem. See here for details, including IR AMIM discount code to all general festival screenings.

 

Municipality Ramps up East Jerusalem Demolition Drive

In response to the recent High Court of Justice ruling on dismantlement of the Amona settlement in the West Bank, Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat vowed to take action against hundreds of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, declaring, “There is not one law for Jews and another law for Arabs.” The mayor’s comparison is specious at best: the Amona case involves Israeli settlement on private Palestinian land; in Jerusalem, discriminatory laws have been applied since 1967 to expropriate Palestinian land while enabling Jews to claim pre-1948 land in East Jerusalem. 

Nonetheless, using dubious legal means, the mayor quickly took action to revive 14 demolition cases in Beit Hanina, threatening the displacement of 40 Palestinian families.  Evictions and demolitions hardly constitute a shift in policy for the mayor. In the past year, a wholesale demolition campaign has been waged against Palestinian residents, with a total of 194 residential, commercial and other units demolished in East Jerusalem. The current total is nearly triple the 2015 annual total of 74 demolitions.

Palestinian residents of have begun to mobilize to protest the wave of house demolitions, holding several actions with the participation of Israeli activists. Click here to view an interview with a Silwan resident. 

New Report on Settlement Activity in Batan al-Hawa, Silwan

Last month Ir Amim released a major report with Peace Now, “Broken Trust: State Involvement in Private Settlement in Batan al-Hawa, Silwanexposing another key lever in Palestinian displacement: settler advanced evictions of Palestinians from their neighborhoods.

Batan al-Hawa, situated in the heart of Silwan just outside the Old City, is now the site of the largest attempted settler takeover in East Jerusalem, threatening to displace 100 families – roughly 600 Palestinian men, women and children – from their homes, and making refugees of some for the second time.

By the end of 2015, the Ateret Cohanim settler organization had quadrupled the number of housing units in its possession, taking over a total of some 27 units in six buildings. In addition, pending eviction claims threaten approximately 60 additional families. In November alone, Ateret Cohanim filed claims seeking the eviction of nine Palestinian families from Batan al-Hawa.  This well-organized Ateret Cohanim campaign represents not only the displacement of an entire community but also the direct involvement of the Israeli government – including the General Custodian and Registrar of Trusts, which have facilitated the settlers’ acquisition of the parcels in question – in furthering private settlement in the Historic Basin.

Statistics released on settlement activity in the Historic Basin as a whole show that since 2009 – under Prime Minister Netanyahu – the number of settlers has risen by 70% and the number of settlement sites has increased by 60%. During this period, 60 Palestinian families have been evicted from their homes, of which 55 were evicted in the past two years. Click here for more details on heightened settlement activity in East Jerusalem since 2009.

Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif: High Holiday Trends

The recent High Holiday period was one of the quietest on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in recent years. Despite the relative calm, the holidays were also marked by record numbers of Jewish Temple Movement activists ascending the Mount. Adherents of the Temple Movements seek to challenge the vulnerable status quo on the Mount and fulfill a vision of Jewish sovereignty over the holy site.  

Over 2,800 Jewish visitors ascended during the High Holidays, including 1,611 during Sukkot (versus 950 last Sukkot) – part of a trend that is likely to test the limits of sustainability.   

Ir Amim has conducted strenuous advocacy over the last several years against the use of collective restrictions on Muslim access.  The recent calm clearly demonstrated the payoff: when the police exercise restraint in employing collective restrictions, tensions decrease. At the same time, this progress cannot be exploited as a pretext for policy changes that undermine the fragile situation at the compound – including, for instance, recent calls by the Israel Police to lift the prohibition on visits by Israeli lawmakers.  Nor should the Israeli Knesset be used as a forum for hosting radical Temple activists mission driven to overturn the status quo.  Earlier this month,  ministers and MKs gave their support to a forum hosted by notorious Temple activist and MK Yehuda Glick, in which participants called to build the Third Temple and permit Jewish prayer on the Mount 

For a full review of Ir Amim’s recommendations for averting escalations at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and preserving the status quo, see Ir Amim’s recent policy paper, “Keeping the Peace on the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif During the Jewish High Holiday Period.”

 

 

IR AMIM IN THE MEDIA

Ir Amim’s Betty Herschman: The Israeli right is already celebrating Trump’s election, as shown in the announcement of 500 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo. 

New York Times, November 28

Yudith Oppenheimer, Executive Director of Ir Amim on Mayor Barkat’s threats to demolish Palestinian homes: “These are outrageous remarks by someone trying to promote his political career on the backs of the people of Jerusalem.”

Times of Israel, November 8

 

Ir Amim’s Aviv Tatarsky: As the Jerusalem municipality is gradually forced to acknowledge a catastrophic shortage of classrooms in the city’s Palestinian districts, it also finds brave new ways to avoid tackling it.

+972, September 2

 

ADDITIONAL MEDIA MENTIONS 

Jerusalem Mayor Threatens to Demolish ‘Hundreds’ of Palestinian Homes if Illegal Settlement Evacuated

Suspended Due to U.S. Pressure, East Jerusalem Construction Plan May Be Revived

Israel to build 500 new settler homes in east Jerusalem in 'politically significant' move after Donald Trump win

With Help From Israeli Justice Minister, Road Cleared for Settler Group to Expand East Jerusalem Enclave

 

UPCOMING STUDY TOURS            

Ir Amim invites you to join one of our public tours – an opportunity to learn about the political, economic and social issues associated with Jerusalem’s role as the epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to engage in dialogue about the future of the city. The tours provide an incisive and candid look at Jerusalem and how developments – from settlement building to revocations of Palestinians’ permanent residency status – impact our ability to negotiate a resolution to the Conflict.

Participation requires registration in advance.

Please follow our web page for announcement of upcoming tours in English.

  

SUPPORT IR AMIM

Ir Amim works to inspire an informed public discourse on political issues related to Jerusalem, and to promote conditions for a more equitable Jerusalem today and towards a future, agreed-upon political resolution. In addition to our internationally recognized monitoring and advocacy, we help raise the level of discourse on Jerusalem by reaching out to the general public in Israel and to our friends abroad through tours, lectures, press reports, social media activity, media campaigns and more.

Please consider making a contribution to Ir Amim as we work to monitor all of the current developments in our city, and conduct legal and policy advocacy to fight developments that undermine hope for a political resolution on the city. To donate, please click here.

 

Follow us on Twitter: @IrAmimAlerts and Facebook (tinyurl.com/IrAmimEngto keep current on Ir Amim’s positions on unfolding events in Jerusalem and be the first to access our latest resources. Stay tuned for updates on Ir Amim’s growing English language social media presence. For more in-depth information, check out the Ir Amim website.

 

With thanks for your continued interest and support,

The Ir Amim team

  

Ir Amim on the Web