[The following report was issued by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) on 17 November 2013.]
The Israeli Government Insists on Challenging the International Will and Approves (The National Park) Settlement Plan in Jerusalem
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the decision of the Israeli government to approve the “National Park” plan, which would confiscate 740 dunums of Palestinian lands in the villages of al-Tur and al-Issawiya in East Jerusalem. While stressing the legal status of East Jerusalem as an occupied a city, PCHR emphasizes that the plan is part of the Israeli government’s plans to create a Jewish demographic majority in the occupied city. PCHR calls upon the international community to immediately intervene in order to stop the implementation of this dangerous plan and all other settlement activities in Occupied Jerusalem.
Following a long session that lasted for nearly 9 hours on Thursday, 14 November 2013, the Israeli district planning and construction committee approved “The National Park” plan to be located on part of the lands of al-Tur and al-Issawiya villages in East Jerusalem. According to information available at PCHR, this plan will confiscate 740 dunums of the Palestinian lands in the two aforementioned villages resulting in depriving their residents of the urban expansion towards these lands.
The Jerusalem Civic Coalition noted that on 18 November 2012, the local committee for planning and building filed plan no. (11092) to object the establishment of “the national park”, whose official plan extends over an area of 738 dunums confiscated from the territory of al-Issawiya and al-Tur. The initial plan was created in 2005 suggesting the establishment of a park on an area of 738 dunums that extends from the south of al-Issawiya village to the north of al-Tur village. However, in 2009, this plan was cancelled and the 11092 plan was formulated. In July 2009 and with a joint initiative between the Israeli Municipality in Jerusalem, Jerusalem Development Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the “National Park” plan, which was submitted to the planning committee, was completed. It was decided in the final copy of the plan that lands owned by the Hebrew University would not be used for “the national park” meaning that more lands owned by Palestinians would be subject to confiscation in order to implement the plan. On 05 April 2011, the local committee for planning and building approved the project.
The Civic Coalition said that the purpose of implementing the 11092 plan is that the eastern slope of “the French Hill” will be known as “a national park” under the 1988 Law of Parks, Reserves and the National Archives and Souvenirs. Moreover, according to the 2030 Master Plan, the 11092 plan aims to link this park with the “Holy Basin”. According to the declaration of the Israeli planning organization, “The National Park” is of great importance to the Israeli authorities because it represents the eastern gate of Jerusalem. Furthermore, according to the plan, the site must appear as an open area due to its strategic and archaeological significance in addition to the need for maintenance of the nature. On the other hand, the Israeli authorities argue that the area, where “the National Park” will be established, constitutes an integral part of “the Israeli cultural heritage”. They claim that establishing this park “constitutes a way to maintain the religious and cultural significance of the site”. In addition, the site as a whole represents an archaeological area, and the construction work requires coordination with the Antiquities Authority, which works under the Israeli Antiquities Law.
According to the plan, the legal status of the land was changed from lands designated for public building into “national parks”. Thus, building or planning for the public interest is prevented in order to pave the way for “the national park”. Moreover, the park aims to link the Hebrew University from the west with the main street of “Ma`aleh Adomim” settlement in the east, and al-Tur village in the south to al-Issawiya in the north. On the other hand, future tourism projects will be established in the area under the plan.
“The National Park” plan is a strategic part of the implementation of the Master Plan as the park will surround Palestinian neighborhoods. In the same context, Israeli authorities do not work on putting plans that meet the Palestinians’ growing need to live in these neighborhoods. Thus, establishing that park will deepen the housing crisis of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, which suffers from a lack of around 46,000 housing units. The Israeli authorities’ attempt to increase the shortage of Palestinian housing units in Jerusalem, and routine refusal to grant building permits creates social, psychological and economical problems in the affected communities.
According to a position paper prepared by Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre on this plan on 18 November 2011, the Israel Municipality of Jerusalem announced the filing of a plan to establish a national park on the territory of al-Issawiya and al-Tur that aims to surround the Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem with illegal settlement blocs seeking to impose new facts on the ground in order to change the demographic situation of Jerusalem and reduce the lands that could be used for urban sprawl in the city. The Centre also pointed out that “ratification of this plan will lead to confirmation of confiscation of 740 dunums of the territory of al-Issawiya and al-Tur, which have been both subject to different waves of confiscation of more than 12,000 dunums since 1967, including parts of “Ma`aleh Adomim” settlement, Hebrew University, Hadassa Hospital, lands of the two camps in al-Masharef Mountain and west of al-Issawiya, and tracts of the eastern side’s lands, which was separated from Jerusalem due to the establishment of the annexation wall. The centre also said that this plan is in harmony with a larger settlement plan to create geographical contiguity between Jerusalem and each of “Ma`aleh Adumim” settlement and the northeastern settlements of Jerusalem taking into consideration that the area is the gate of Jerusalem in the area of (E1) settlement plan. The position paper also notes that this plan will directly link the northeastern settlements of Jerusalem, “’Anatout”, “Yamin Adam”, “Jev’a Ben”; “Besaghot”, “ Kokhaf Ya’aqoub” and others, with Jerusalem within a plan, through which these settlement blocs will be maintained under the Israeli control. This will be achieved through establishing a safe security network for settlers only and another network for Palestinians, so both parties will not meet.
PCHR hereby strongly condemns the approval of this new settlement plan and all Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), especially in East Jerusalem, and:
- Calls upon the international community to intervene to force Israel to stop its settlement activities in the oPt, especially in East Jerusalem;
- Stresses that East Jerusalem is an occupied city, and all measures taken by Israeli authorities following its occupation in 1967 do not change its legal status as an occupied area;
- Emphasizes that all Israeli settlement activities in East Jerusalem constitute a war crime according to the international humanitarian law;
- Calls for the implantation of Advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 08 July 2004 that considers the annexation wall built by Israel in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, illegal and calls for dismantling it;
- PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligation under common Article (1) to respect and ensure respect for the Conventions in all circumstances. PCHR believes that the international silence encourages Israel to perpetrate more violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law, including efforts to create a Jewish demographic majority in Jerusalem.